Don’t be one of these 10 worst types of advertising clients

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I come at this from the vantage of a fellow client. I’m not an advertising agency person, never having worked a day at an ad agency in my life. I spent 20 years in brand management. But, I have seen all these types of clients. I wrote this slightly tongue-in-cheek and would like you to laugh a little, but think, “Hey, I know that person.”
I’d also like you to see a little of yourself in a few of these and if you want to be better, challenge yourself to get better and stop being that type of client.
I get asked a lot: “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”
The answer I give is simple: “The best brand leaders consistently get good advertising on the air and consistently keep bad advertising off the air.”

The challenge for many marketers is that it takes a lot to get good advertising on the air. The best clients respect the process, the agency, and their judgment. And yet, most Brand Leaders under-estimate the role the client plays in getting to great creative. As a Brand Leader, if you knew that showing up better would get you better advertising, do you think you could? Or are you stuck being one of these types of clients?

Here are the 10 worst types of advertising clients

#1: Those who say, “You’re the expert!” 

While you might intend this to be a compliment to your agency, it is usually a total cop-out! You end up giving your agency enough rope to hang themselves. As a brand leader, you have to realize that you play the most significant role in the process. Your agency needs you to be engaged in every stage of the process and the work. Your agency requires you to inspire and motivate the team. I have seen a good agency make fantastic advertising for a great client, but I have seen lousy clients suck the life out of the world’s best agency. As the brand leader, bring your knowledge of the brand, show your passion for great work, make clear decisions, and inspire the work towards greatness. 

#2: Those who say, “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the script.”

Passive-aggressive clients are usually insecure about their abilities in the advertising space. They keep firing their agency instead of taking ownership over their role in the process. I guess it’s easier to fire the agency than fire yourself. A great brand leader never approves work they don’t love. If you don’t love the work you create, then how do you ever expect the consumer to love your brand?

#3: Jekyll & Hyde

When brand leaders bring significant mood swings to the ad process, it will be very hard on the agency. They try to read the room and adjust to your mood. The worst thing that can happen for you is when your mood swing alters the work, and the work moves into a direction you never intended to go. As a brand leader, you have to stay consistent, so everyone knows precisely what exactly you are thinking. Be completely transparent.

#4: Constant distrusting bad mood

Even worse than the mood swings, is when a client shows up mad all the time. I have seen clients bring a death stare to creative meetings. Hilarious scripts get presented to a room of fear and utter silence. A true brand leader must motivate and inspire all those who touch their brand. Your greatness will come from the greatness of those who work for you. Be a favorite client, so people want to work for you, never treating them like they have to work for you. Advertising should be fun. When you are having fun, so will your consumer.

#5: Speaks on behalf the mystery person who is not in the room

When the real decision-maker is not in the room, everyone second-guesses what might please that decision-maker. As a brand leader, you have to make decisions you think are right for your brand, not what your boss might say. Make the ad you want and then find a way to gain alignment and approval from your boss. The best brand leaders I know will fight anyone in the way of great work, including their boss.

#6: The dictator

When you TELL your agency what to do, it leaves your agency with only one answer: YES. When you ASK your agency a question, then there are three answers: YES, NO, MAYBE. When a brand leader comes in with the exact ad, then it is not a creative process, it just becomes an order taking process. Great ads have to make your brand feel different; different will always feel a little scary. To find greatness, revel in ambiguity and enjoy the unknown. The unknown should be what makes marketing such a great job.

#7: Driven by mandatories  

Don’t write a long list of mandatories that steers the type of advertising you want to see, and avoids the kind you don’t want to see. Give some freedom to allow the creative process to unfold. I believe the best ads are like the perfect birthday gift that surprises us, and we never thought to get it ourselves. Let go!!!  If you write an excellent brief, you don’t need a list of mandatories.

#8: The kitchen sink

Those clients who always have the “just in case” list. They want to speak to everyone, say everything possible, never focusing or making decisions. When you put everything in your brief, you force the creative team to decide on what’s most important. Brands that try to be everything to anyone will end up nothing to everyone. When you try to jam in every message into the creative, you end up with a complete mess. With each new message you add, it lowers the potential for the consumer to digest what you’re trying to say. Focus on a tightly defined target, with one main message. Get rid of anything on your “just in case” list.

#9: Keeps changing their mind

The best advertising people are in-the-box thinkers who like to solve problems. They are not necessarily blue-sky thinkers. The creative strategy is the starting point of the box for your creative team to solve. Every time you give feedback is a new box, for them to answer. At any stage, if the box keeps changing, you will baffle your agency and will never see the best creative work. The best brand leaders stay confident enough to stand by their decisions.

#10: The scientist

Some clients believe there is ONE answer. Digital advertising is creating a belief that an A/B test can make the decision. What is the role of creative instincts? Marketers are not actuaries where we can punch in the data, and the answer comes out. As a brand leader, you can’t always get THE answer. When you try to eliminate risk, rather than learning to deal with risk-taking. Certainty might help you sleep better, but you will dream less.

Other stories you might like

 

  • How to write a creative brief. The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan. To read how to write a creative brief, click on this link: How to write a creative brief
  • How to write a brand positioning statement. Before you even get into the creative brief, you should be looking at target, benefits and reason to believe. To read how to write a brand positioning statement, click on this link: How to write a brand positioning statement  
  • How to write a brand plan: The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about. However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise. Follow this link to read more on writing a brand plan: How to write a brand plan

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Now, you can get our ideal brand plan format

  • Get our ideal Brand Plan in a downloadable PowerPoint file that includes formatted blank slides with key marketing definitions where you can insert your own brand plan.
  • We include slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, brand positioning statement, and execution plans.
  • You will get the one-page brand plan and brand strategy roadmap. 

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans, make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

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How to land your first marketing job

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

To land your first marketing job, you have to want it more than anyone else. There are more people who want to be the entry-level Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. So how bad do you want this job? Do you want it more than everyone else? Will you do what it takes to get that job? 

Years ago, I interviewed so many times before I got the job. And, I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed a position. I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said: “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work.” That one still stings after 25 years but made me want it even more. 

Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have minimal sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through and land your first marketing job.

Landing a Marketing job

How to set yourself up for success

MBA:

MBAs are one of the biggest sources for recruiting the Asistant Brand Manager (ABMs) which is the first marketing job in most companies. When I was recuriting, going after MBAs gave us the chance to have a consistency in our recruiting efforts, allowed us to have a focused timing for the hiring and even a consistency in starting dates so we could measure and compare ABMs.  One of the silent secrets no one can say is that an MBA ensures that ABMs are the late 20s, rather than 22–which makes it easier for them to work with the sales teams. Now, people always ask me: “Do I need an MBA?” My answer is “No, but it sure helps.” It allows you to be part of the formal recruiting process, get in the front door and be judged by that very process, rather than just a one-off hiring manager who is in a panic and doesn’t know what they want. My question to you is “Can you do an MBA?” because if you can, I’d recommend it.

 

Headhunters and Recruiters:

 

Recruiters were our second source for ABMs, especially when we needed ABMs outside of the formal recruiting process. Some Headhunters specifically fill ABM roles, and you should make sure you connect with them. If you are lucky, you can get a headhunter who gives you tips on your resume or feedback on your interview. Ask for the input. And stay in touch regularly.

 

Networking with your marketing peers:

 

As the economy has gotten worse, some companies have cut back on the use of Head Hunters and opted for using a “finder’s fee” to employees that recommend someone. So if you can connect with ABMs that already work at the company, they have an incentive to get you hired. The advantages to networking are they’ll tell you the hiring manager, process and interview tips. They’ll also alert you to when someone quits. Keep in mind, the ABMs in the roles have also landed their first marketing job recently and will have real-time tips for you. 

I would recommend you write down the 10-20 companies you want to work for and get networking with other ABMs, BMs or the HR manager.

 

Gain experience in the company:

 

A generation ago, many started in sales and then moved over to marketing. It still can happen, but it’s becoming less common. Many today are starting their first marketing job in subject matter roles, whether as a digital or social media specialist. They might also take on a project manager role or customer marketing role.  If you try this route, push to get over the marketing quickly, so you don’t get stuck in a role you don’t want.

 

Job posting:

Don’t wait for the postings, or you’ll be missing out on most of the jobs. The HR department puts up the job posting, either because the company has exhausted all other methods. The posting doesn’t always mean there is a job, but HR using it to fill the résumé bank. The new process of hiring is to go on to Linked In and put “We are Hiring” in job groups.

The marketing interview process

On average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level. If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews. If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence. In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there were the interviews themselves.

Many interviews are moving to the behavioral style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…” You need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area. Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths.  Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.

You will still get asked, “what’s your weakness?” It’s such a cliché question now, but it still gets asked. I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail. Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard.” You sound annoying. The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not that important for marketing. 

Here are the marketing interview questions that I used to ask:

Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea?

You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you know your stuff. Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.

What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?

It doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.  Your passion for your idea should come through.

What’s the one thing that makes you proud?

When I read your résumé, I want to see significant accomplishments beyond your work experience or school. Football, chess, traveling the world or charity work. I want to hear your story and your pride come through. Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments. Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!

Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work.

I want to see if you can make it happen. This answer should show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push. A great Marketer can get what they want..

If you were Justin Bieber’s agent, how would you maximize his value as a spokesperson?

I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could make something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This answer lets me see your thinking. Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.

If you were on a team that solved a severe healthcare problem for society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?

This answer is a very complicated question with many issues, especially adding in the global problem. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs. R&D vs. compassion? Moreover, how would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity, and there is a lot within this case.

From your previous interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that?

Great marketers are continually pushing themselves to improve. That starts with your assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to know how you handle that.

What questions do you have for me?

To me, this is one of the most critical sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions. Turn each answer into a conversation starter.

Act like you want that first marketing job

You can find Beloved Brands and B2B Brands on Amazon, Rakuten Kobo or Apple Books

To purchase Beloved Brands or B2B Brands, click on the icon where you buy your books 

Beyond the MBA is our virtual brand management training program designed for the real world

You will learn how to think strategically, figure out brand positioning, write brand plans, make decisions on marketing execution and analytical skills.

This is your opportunity to gain access to world-class brand management training

marketing training
Play Video

Click on the arrow above to view a quick video outlining our brand management training program