A powerful vision story about Dan O’Brien, US Olympian

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

One of the biggest areas I see brands struggling is on the crafting an inspiring Vision Statement. Many don’t have one, and those that do have these long convoluted statements that don’t really say anything. After every stakeholder adds their own two cents and it’s no longer a vision. Pretty soon, your attempt at a vision looks more like a local bi-law explaining where you can fish, land your airplane and display real estate signs all in one statement. A smart vision statement should inspire and focus your team. Let me tell you the story about Dan O’Brien and a little piece of paper that steered him to achieving everything he wanted.

The story of Olympian, Dan O’Brien

He was a U.S. track and field superstar back in the 1990s.  He competed in the Decathlon and won pretty much everything: World Champion, Olympic Champion, US Champion and World Record Holder that would stand for 10 years–a lifetime in the track and field world.  

Dan Obrien’s backstory

Even though he met tremendous success in his track career, it didn’t really get off to a great start. O’Brien went to the University of Idaho on a track scholarship. He struggled with classes, excelled at partying, lost the scholarship and flunked out. “I was just not prepared for what it took academically,” he recalls. “I’d get so far behind, I’d just give up.”  

O’Brien went to work as a cabinetmaker in Moscow, Idaho. He fell into debt, kited checks and wound up in jail wearing a blue jumpsuit and flip-flops. Later, there was a DUI arrest. He was clearly at rock bottom and needed some inspiration to get himself out.  

At his lowest point, O’Brien attended a decathlon clinic run by MILT CAMPBELL, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist, who asked each decathlete whether he had written his goals on a piece of paper and placed it his wallets. O’Brien said he immediately went to his room and wrote “9,000 points” on one side of a small piece of paper and “world’s greatest athlete” on the other.

The piece of paper steered him to achieve.

“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have if I hadn’t set those goals,” he said. “I was a floater and as soon as I set solid goals, I could achieve what I wanted.”

With 9,000 points that would be the clear world record holder for decades to come. World’s Greatest Athlete was always given to the reigning world champion of the Decathlon. He kept that paper with him as inspiration and direction. Dan O’Brien didn’t know, but he had written a vision statement.

As he climbed out of his struggles, he went to a Junior College, starting to compete again. He then started to compete on the world stage, keeping that note in his pocket. By 1991, he won the World Championships Decathlon completing half of his Vision Statement. His career was moving full steam ahead.  

Qualifying for the Olympics

In 1992, he was now at the US Qualifying event to get into the Barcelona Olympics. As the current reigning world champion, it was natural that the US Olympic team was relying on O’Brien to make the team and bring home Gold for the Americans. Same with TV networks, sponsors and event organizers.

At the Qualifying meet for the US Team, O’Brien was in first place after 7 of the 10 events, looking as a shoe-in for the team. But then came the high jump. O’Brien made what seemed like an odd choice of going for a higher height than he needed to and he never cleared the bar after the required number of attempts. He went from 1st place to 15th and missed qualifying for the Games.

People were stunned and confused. Why would he go for the higher height, instead of settling for something that would keep him in contention to qualify? Well, it comes back to the second part of his vision statement: 9,000 points. Based on where he stood after 7 events, Dan’s calculations showed that he could only get to 9,000 points if he made the higher jump. Yes, high risk, high reward. But it was in line with his vision.

Afterall, Dan didn’t have “Olympic Champion” on his little piece of paper.  

Not qualifying for the games was a bit of a disaster for Reebok who had put all their money into O’Brien. The US Olympic team was mad, fans were upset and NBC was furious. But Dan kept pushing towards that dream of 9,000 points. Only 3 months after the Barcelona Olympics, O’Brien set a world record of 8,860 points, a record that would stand for a decade. And in 1996, he would go on and win Olympic Gold for his country.  

Why I love this story so much?

First, if you put everything in your vision statement it gets so watered down. He could have put a laundry list, including Olympic Champion, Millions in endorsements, make tons of money and win every event. But then it would just be he achieved 3 out of 5 things on his list.  

But he decided to focus on what motivated him. While you might wish he won the 1992 Olympic Gold, it wasn’t on his piece of paper. He left off what wasn’t important and stuck to it. You should do the same and you’ll find your vision statement offers you both focus and inspiration.  

A good vision should scare you a little bit and it should excite you a lot.  

A vision should open your mind up. It should challenge your thinking. Stretch you to think of things not immediately within reach.  

When Dan O’Brien looks back on his career, we can see how that little piece of paper drove him. The fact that he’ll never reach his dream score of 9,000 points in decathlon rubs like a blister: “I came up short because I set the goal too low,” O’Brien says, grinning. “If I had tried to make 9,200, I might have got the 9,000.”

So how can you use this story to challenge yourself and your team to ask: what’s would be on your piece of paper?

How to find your brand vision

A well-written brand vision should be the ultimate end-in-mind achievement, which answers, “Where could we be?” Think about significant accomplishments that would make you feel completely fulfilled. Put a stake in the ground to describe an ideal state for your future. Every smart brand plan must start with a brand vision statement. When I see brand teams who struggle, they usually lack a brand vision.

Some organizations get so fixated on achieving short-term goals; they chase every tactic in front of them just to make their numbers. Your vision should steer your entire brand plan. Choose the language and phrases within your vision that will inspire, lead, and steer your team.

Examples of best-in-class brand vision statements

Use these statements to inspire you as you write your own vision statement. Maybe you will see something that feels familiar to what is in your mind or at least a structure for how you would write your own vision statement.

Your vision should scare you a little and excite you a lot. You should wonder if you can achieve it and then think of how it would feel if you did. While we do not always accomplish every vision, we rarely achieve more than we thought was possible.

Once you establish your vision, it sets up the key issues of your plan, including obstacles in the way of achieving your vision, which then sets up the strategies for how to reach the vision. As mentioned earlier, a brand plan has to flow like an orchestra, with each element directly related to the others.

Imagine the perfect picture

To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize your future. You should be able to imagine the perfect picture of your brand in the future, to helps answer, “Where could we be?” Imagine it is five or ten years from now. You wake up in the most fantastic mood. Think about where you are in your personal life and your business life. Start to imagine an ideal state of what you want. Visualize a perfect future of what has you in such a good mood and write down the most important things you want to achieve. 

  1. What is your future revenue or market share?
  2. Describe the future culture of your company.
  3. What do you want people to say about your brand? 
  4. What do your own to people find motivating about working on your brand?
  5. How do you want customers to describe their experience with your brand?
  6. Name some of the future accomplishments that would make you proud.
  7. What do you do better than anyone else on the planet?
  8. Name something out-of-the-box that would make people talk about your brand.

Checklist for what makes a vision great:

  • Your vision should last 5-10 years.
  • It should help you imagine the ideal picture of “where could we be.”
  • Describe your dream, describing what you see, feel, hear, think, say and wish for your brand.
  • It should be emotional to motivate all employees and partners to rally behind it.
  • It must be easy to understand, in plain words, which may already be a familiar phrase within the company.
  • A great vision is a balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement).
  • Consider adding a financial (sales or profit) or share leadership position (#1) number.

Cautions and caveats when writing your brand vision statements:

  1. A vision should not be a positioning statement.
  2. Make sure you have not already achieved it.
  3. Do not make strategic statements. It is not the “how.”
  4. Try to be single-minded. Keep tightening it. Do not include everything!
  5. Focus on how to build a purpose-driven beloved brand

What’s on your piece of paper you’d put in your pocket?  

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

 Graham Robertson bio
 

If you approve a 6 out of 10, then maybe you are the one to blame.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

I remember when one of my brand managers came into see me to try to get my approval on a small tactical print ad. I didn’t know much about the ad, because it was a small ad, on a small budget. But here I was, ready to approve. I looked down and saw something so boring. It was likely on strategy, but it would never capture anyone’s attention, it would never drive anyone’s desire, and most importantly no one would love the brand. It was just awful. But I’ve always prided myself at being a believer in the bottom up approach to management. I couldn’t crap all over it. So we both sat in silence as I stared down at the ad in front of me. I didn’t know what to say, I wasn’t sure I could really even give feedback on how to making it better.  So I asked one of the best questions I’ve ever asked in my life.

I said “do you love it?”

The brand manager shrugged his shoulder said “no, not really. It’s ok”

And that was one of the worst answers I had ever heard.

I slid it back across the table and said “bring me back something you love”.

If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?

If you don’t love it, you won’t fight for its life.  Having executed many great marketing programs over the years, I can safely say I can remember the fight like it was yesterday. Somewhere along the way, there would be a fight.  That might be with your boss, your boss’ boss all the way up through the organization.  It might be with the agency, whether it’s the creative director of VP of Accounts.  Or it could be with director on set.

Will you work hard enough to make it perfect? Greatness takes passion, precision and dedication.  While most of my marketing life was 8-6 pm, I knew that about 10 times a year I’d work till 1am. But I went to bed proud. If you don’t love it will make sure everything is just perfect.

Approving OK is the slippery slope to OK.  You start to think “good enough”, you start to lose pride, Yes, there always constraints:  deadlines, budgets alignment. But if there becomes a culture where OK is accepted than that becomes the goal. I talked to one potential client who was #5 in the category. They were buying into everything I was saying. Looked like i would be helping them out. Then they phoned and said “we know we are #5, but we’ve decided #5 is good enough, because even we improve our brand we’ll just be a stronger #5”   Wow.  

Explaining what a Marketer does to non-Marketers is odd because we don’t really do anything.  We don’t make the product, we don’t make the ads or public relations and we don’t even sell it. Yet the Brand Leader is held responsible for sales, share and profits. And they should be. While we don’t do anything, we do have a say in everything that goes on about the brand and we sit in the seat that can inspire everyone around you, or it can be the one that inhibits creativity and suck the life out of everyone around you.  As you sit in the Brand Leader role, the worst thing you can ever do is say “Yes” to OK ideas.

If you’ve ever said “Yes” to an OK idea, you know that you lost a bit of who you wanted to be.  And you know the work can only get worse.

Execution is half the battle and OK is the enemy

As a Brand Consultant, I can tell you that strategy is only half the battle. Execution is the other half.  That execution could show up in print ad like above, or even a new product, or a waiter serving table 16. Never settle for OK. 

Rejecting OK work is not easy, especially if you have a reputation for playing it safe and approving OK.   It is always tempting to look at all the work that’s been presented to you and figure out which one is the best.  So you pick the 6 out of 10, and make some recommendations that might it up to a 6.5.

Because you don’t really do any of the work, not only do you need to REJECT OK, but you have to inspire the greatness to come from others.

Execution does matter. While we want great execution against great strategy, I’d say that great execution against an OK strategy is better off than OK execution against a great strategy.  In today’s crowded marketing world, where consumers see 6,000 ads a day, standing out is more important than it ever has been.

If you are up for the change, you should start at the beginning of the process. Sit with your lead account person and lay out your deepest thoughts on how you want your passion for the work to come shining through.  Find the language that translates your passion accurately at the outset and then be consistent to that passion throughout. Here’s what I have said in the past: “I know we need an Ad that delivers the strategy, sells more product and drives share. But I also need an Ad that I love, that I’m proud of and something I can hold up and say I DID THIS”. I always felt “I have to love it” is the highest bar you can set.  It also gives you the out by saying “I just don’t love it”.  Tell your account person, you are building in extra time in the process just so we can see if we can really push to get to great.

But saying is one thing, doing is another. Be consistent at every stage because people follow how you say it as much as what you say. Write an inspiring brief that is open on creativity, and isn’t filled with support points or mandatory requirements. Ask to meet the creative people before the first creative meeting so you can talk about your expectations that you want to create work we all love. At the creative meeting, you need to stay open, positive and push for different because that is usually where greatness lays.  Follow your instincts first. Absorb the work in the same way your consumer might. Reach for words that describe your instincts and how you feel about the work. Stay open and inspiring. Do not get into all the details or the changes you want–save those for a post meeting email. Talk only about the work you love–don’t even talk about the ones you don’t like. You want your positive energy to come through.

It’s one thing to inspire but it’s another thing to actually go for it.    I find it strange that Brand Leaders always push for a strategic point of difference no matter how small–but when it comes to execution many of us fear sticking our neck out and looking different.  When it comes down to making the choice, you need to show everyone how serious you are by taking a chance on greatness and not just picking the safe options.  You have to be wiling to fight for it, because you can imagine that there will be push back.  This is your opportunity to shine, your opportunity to inspire everyone on your team and your opportunity to push for true greatness for your brand.   And you’ll bring back those feelings of excitement that you had the day you decided to get into marketing.

You can only Reject OK, if you are willing to inspire greatness.

 

To read more about Beloved Brands and how to turn love into more power and profits:

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Positioning 2016.112

The best of emotional advertising

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

emotional advertisingWhen clients say they want emotional advertising, I usually say “I can’t wait to see this emotional brief you wrote”.  Without understanding the emotional space you wish to own in your consumer’s heart, asking for an emotional ad, feels like a random game of chance.

Here are five ads that do a fantastic job going into the emotional space, whether it’s a mass retailer, a utility or a shoe company.

As you move from a functional to an emotional consumer benefit, from logic to passion, emotional advertising begins to stick in the hearts of consumers.

Google “Paris”

For all the romantics, this is one of the best ads. They tell the complete story through google searches, with a few surprises like the airline ticket, wedding bells and of course the baby. Extremely creative.

 

Nike’s “If You Let Me Play”

Nike released this inspiration way back in 1995, outlining the benefits of having girls play sports. Brands such as Always “throw like a girl” were inspired by this type of message.

 

P&G “Thank you mom”

Back in the 2012 London Olympics, P&G was making an attempt at a Master Brand strategy. This is a beautiful ad, that is a nice salute to moms around the world, whether your child is an Olympian, or not.

 

Ram “Farmer’s”

Aired during the Super Bowl, it’s one of the best spots I have ever seen. Using Paul Harvey’s story telling hit a positive vibe with Farmers, and Americans in general. Simplicity of idea, yet story telling at it’s best.  They didn’t over-do the branding, but consumers were so engaged in the ad, they were dying to know who is it that’s telling this story. While everyone else is being loud, maybe being so quiet stands out. 

 

 Canadian Tire “Bike Ad”

This ad makes me cry every time. We can all remember our first bike and how special it is. In Canada, Canadian Tire was that store, prior to Wal-Mart entering the market. Now, Canadian Tire can’t deliver on this promise, because it now resembles Wal-Mart. No longer is it where you go for your first bike, but rather where you go buy Tide when it’s cheap.

 

Bell “Dieppe”

Wow, a utility delivering an ad that gives you goosebumps. I have been to that beach in Dieppe and it does command such intense feelings. As you can tell from the phone at the end, this was in the early days of Cell phones, trying to link the idea of connecting anywhere. While this is just an ad, I do wish that utilities would try harder to connect with consumers at every stage of the consumer’s buying journey.  

 

John Lewis “Christmas 2011”

Every Christmas, British retailer John Lewis has been releasing campaigns around Christmas.  To me, this one is the best, especially the ending. John Lewis is an employee-owned retailer, with a very unique culture that delivers on the brand.  

 

Budweiser “9/11”

Aired only once, only a few months after 9/11 the context of this ad is paramount to the emotion. An amazing salute, by the brand, to the heroes of 9/11.

 

Pfizer “More than Medication”

A nice twist. The ad appears to be a typical rebellious teenager, but he turns into an angel, with a big message for his sister.

 

Nike “Find your Greatness”:

Aired during the 2012 Olympics, this ad was very high risk, but also ran counter to all the athlete ads. There are many types of motivation, for some of us, Michael Jordan is the inspiration. But not all of us are Michael Jordan. This kid running is the average person that gets out there and makes it happen.My hope is that it inspires you do get out there and “just do it”, on your own terms.

 

To see a training presentation on getting Better Marketing Execution, click on the link below

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

Nike set to ambush the Olympics

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

 

I am not the biggest fan of sponsoring the Olympics. When I was at Johnson and Johnson, we paid $100 Million to sponsor the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, just for the right to pay double the price of TV ads.  You get some good slots, but many bad slots as well. I get the idea of Super Bowl ads, with the hype and excitement and even now consumers look for the ads. But the Olympics has great viewer fatigue. We will all find ourselves watching Poland versus Brazil in Fencing at some point around day 9, with our eyes in a slight fog, before we ask ourselves “What am I doing?”. At J&J, I had Band Aid and Listerine. Trying to link those to the games or athletes always felt like a real stretch.  Good luck to P&G now. I kept thinking:  unless you are a sponsor closely connected to the sporting events, is it really worth the price? 

It should make sense for Adidas, right? What Nike did in 2008 was brilliant.  Instead of paying the huge fees to the Olympics and the insane extra cost of TV ads, they decided to ambush the Olympics. With soaring heat, they knew that consumers would seek shelter in air-conditioned malls, where Nike dominated with massive signage and murals. Adidas was nowhere to be found. Nike also sponsored Liu Xiang, one of China’s most popular Olympic athletes. Respondents said that they wanted to buy Nike because they associated Liu’s success with the type of athletic gear he uses and they want to be like him.  Sounds like the impact of Air Jordan’s in America. The ambush was so successful that in a survey of who the main sponsor for sports equipment, 50% named Adidas and 40% named Nike. On top of that, the Olympics created a rule change for Vancouver that no one but Olympic sponsors could have any ads within 150 miles of Vancouver.

This Nike TV ad, which never mentions the Olympics, sure walks that fine line of feeling like an Olympic sponsorship ad.

So fast forward to 2012 and Nike has a new plan to ambush the London Games via Twitter.  When the Team USA men’s basketball team is playing, Nike’s Jordan brand will include spontaneous real-time comments about the game in its promoted tweets. These Twitter ads will also contain pre-planned brand content and links. Twitter use is extremely popular during sporting events. Check out the feed during any big game and you will see a continuous string of comments about what has been happening, plus many comments from various fans offering their opinion about their team, their favorite players and plays that occurred during the game. Nike is hoping this trend continues during the upcoming Summer Olympics in London with the Nike brand front and centre. “When people who are simultaneously watching sports and tweeting, see a promoted tweet about the real-time game or score, then it’s not an ad anymore, but an information tool. To identify our target, we focus on what accounts people follow on Twitter, rather than what they post. That’s because a lot more people read content on Twitter than post content.”

It will be interesting to see whether Nike will have success with this program. Or is there just such advertising clutter and confusion over sponsors that Nike would be granted relative sponsorship status without doing anything. What’s your view?

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Positioning 2016.112

10 reasons why you might fail as an Assistant Brand Manager

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Every year, CPG companies hire thousands of the best and brightest to become Assistant Brand Managers. Usually, there are big recruiting events that generate hundreds of resumes or companies use recruiters to send the best resumes they have. The process for screening can be intense with 5+ interviews, including senior people, sometimes a test or a presentation to a group. Yet, about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers won’t even make it to Brand Manager within the 2-3 years and out they go. It’s a tough up-or-out process.

ABM

Here are the 10 reasons why you might fail as an Assistant Brand Manager:

  1. You can’t do the analytical story telling. The Assistant Brand Managers who fail to turn monthly share reports into stories that can travel up the organization. Their deep-dive analysis is either too complicated that no one can follow the story or too shallow that they only do the “surface cleaning” type analysis that never really finds the real insight, just what we already know.
  2. You struggle to deal with the ambiguity of marketing. The ambiguity boxes them in where they can’t think differently about a problem or it causes them personal stress. These Assistant Brand Managers come up with solutions to get out of ambiguity rather than reveling in the ambiguity to find the best solution. I once asked a candidate “how do you deal with ambiguity”. Her answer was “I try to organize it because no one likes ambiguity”. She asked me how I deal with ambiguity and I said “I revel in it. I love it. I struggle with it. Let the ambiguity eat away at me until I find that great answer, not just settling for an answer because it gets me out of the ambiguity faster.”
  3. You are slow at moving projects through. When Assistant Brand Managers struggle to make it happen: it could be that they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others. They are frustratingly slow for others. They keep missing the small milestones causing the team to miss the deadlines. In some cases, it’s not whether you are slow or fast, but really are you slower than your peers?
  4. You selfishly think about yourself. This becomes a blind spot and leadership de-railer. It’s about ego, gossip, over-stepping their role, going above heads politically. When ABMs are highly political, but not really politically astute. When they are not a team player with peers or cross-functional players. The system has a way of isolating these people. Your boss’s boss might love you. But all your peers and subject matter experts might destroy you. This raises a red flag for future leadership roles.
  5. You don’t work well through others. Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. The odd thing about an ABM is you must work through a group of subject matter experts (SME’s) who know what they are doing, and you’re relying on these same people to teach you how to be a good Assistant Brand Manager. Your supply manager will teach you about forecasting, packaging approvals, and even design tricks. Your finance manager can teach you about accounting and the key indicators management looks for. Your promo manager or trade marketers will teach you about customers, salespeople etc. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career.
  6. You miss answers by not being flexible. They fail to find the balance between what the head thinks, what your heart feels or even what the gut tells you. When an Assistant Brand Managers is questioned, a senior manager can tell if they have struggled enough with a problem to get to the rich solution or whether they just did the adequate thinking to get to an “ok” solution. The style of a good senior manager’s questions is not always information gathering but rather designed to poke holes in the story to see that the deep rich thinking and even the appropriate struggling have gone on.
  7. You fall for tactical programs that are off strategy. This becomes a tell-tale sign that they won’t make it to Brand Manager, where you will own the strategy. They deviate from the strategy to choose the coolest tactic that has nothing to do with the goals or strategy. You become a great executor, but not the thinker needed. Marketing is a balance of strategy and execution.
  8. You hold back from making contributions to the team strategy. Just a do-er. They don’t proactively provide a point of view on strategy. They don’t show the ownership needed to become a brand manager and people start to wonder if it’s in there or not.
  9. You settle for “good” rather than pushing for “great”. While a lot of Assistant Brand Manager jobs are executional, if there becomes a pattern where they just take the “ok” ideas, it begins to look as they don’t care enough. If they aren’t passionate enough to push back, will they be able to do so later in their career?
  10. You are poor communicators, with the manager, senior management or partners. The Assistant Brand Managers who fail to adequately warn when there are potential problems. They leave their manager in the dark. They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on.

Everyone brings weaknesses to the job. The question is what will you do to fix those weaknesses.

On day 1 as an Assistant Brand Manager, everyone has a few of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others will take the full two to three years to really fix. What really separates “great” from the “ok” is what you’re willing to do with these. 

Those who seek out feedback, welcome it and act on it will be the successful ones. I hope that your company has a process of giving feedback or that you get lucky to have a manager that cares about your career and is willing to give you the tough feedback. But if not, seek it. Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter. And grow into the role of Brand Manager before you get promoted.  

Best of luck to you. I do hope you get promoted to Brand Manager.

This type of thinking can be found in our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  • For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for marketing analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

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

GAP Clothing: The fall from BELOVED all the way to INDIFFERENT

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

GAP Clothing was once a BELOVED Brand, back in the middle of the 1990s. It was loved by consumers, envied by marketers and revered in the retailing world.  In 1990, it celebrated it’s 1000th store opening and was the place to go for stylish trendy clothing at a reasonable price. At one point, GAP had an Inventory Rotation of “8 seasons” per year, just to keep up with the consumer’s desire to see new products as they walked through the GAP stores for the umpteenth time. Consumers couldn’t get enough of GAP.

Fast forward to 2011, GAP Clothing sales are down 19% this year and down over 25% since the peak of 2005. And they’ve just announced the closing of 200 stores–which will continue the downward spiral.   Who cares about inventory turns when people aren’t even walking into the stores?

This year, GAP filed a lawsuit against GAP Adventures saying they felt having the co-existance of the two brand names “caused confusion in the marketplace”.   Considering that GAP Adventures is having a record year and is one of the most BELOVED brands in the adventure travel business, you would think GAP Clothing would think that confusion was a good thing.   For GAP Clothing to be complaining about being mixed up with GAP Adventures feels like George Castanza complaining about being mixed up with George Clooney.

Brands ride THE LOVE CURVE, going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and then it becomes a Brand For Life–at each stage gaining a more emotional consumer connection with the brand. GAP Clothing rode this curve all through the 70s and 80s and by 1995, it had achieved the enviable “Brand For Life” status, which very few brands achieve.

But GAP got greedy and forgot what made them great: trendy fashion for a stylish generation at a reasonable price. And who is the spokesperson for fashion:  the coolest people on earth…TEENAGERS of course. Every generation of Teens believes they are the most important people on earth and they want products that speak out for their generation. It’s all about them. They influence Music, Movies, TV Shows and Clothing and believe each has to speak directly to them and for them. Imagine being 15 in the late 90s, you’re walking in your favourite mall, trying to be as cool as can be, heading for your favourite clothing store. All of a sudden, you look up and your favourite clothing brand is now flanked by BABY GAP on one side and GAP MATERNITY on the other side. How could this brand speak for the teen generation, when your 2 year old nephews or your pregnant Aunt are wearing the same clothes you’re wearing?  GAP also forgot about feeding that desire for leading edge, trendy clothing–the whole reason for that “8 seasons” rotation of inventory.  Go into a GAP store this year, and you’ll realize how boring and drab the products have become.  In terms of the LOVE CURVE, GAP Clothing has slid from the BELOVED status to Like It all the way down to INDIFFERENT. No teenager today likes GAP. They don’t even care. Are you kidding me? Duh.

GAP is so confused as to what to do next. So what do brands do when they are confused? Well, they should look themselves right in the mirror, challenge themselves at the executive leadership team to address the issues directly with an honest assessment and a high willingness to change. That’s the ideal. Instead GAP did what a lot of brands do:  they changed their logo. Oh god!!! The logo change only lasted one week–such uproar that they pulled it so fast, no one really saw it.  So what did they do next? They closed 200 stores. Very strategic. Bu-bye GAP. Say hello to Benneton, Wranglers and Doc Martins  when you get to the obsolete stage.