How to be a great Brand Leader: Do absolutely nothing

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

To inspire greatness from your experts, give them your problems to solve. Never your solutions.

Article that we wrote for Advertising Age.

Very early on in my brand management career, I was at a dinner party with my in-laws, who began to grill me on what I did for a living. Brand management has never been easy to explain to those outside the industry. “So, are you the guy who comes up with the funny ads? No. Ad-AgeAre you the guy who designs the cool new products? No.” After about 10 failed questions, they finally said, “So what do you do?” And I said “Nothing. I don’t really do anything. But I’m good at it.” They laughed, but they were likely scared that their daughter was marrying someone doomed to fail.

Remember when George from Seinfeld said, “Jerry, this show is about nothing.” That’s how I felt as a brand manager. Like George, I think what made me really good at my job is that I did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Over my 20 years of brand management, whenever I walked into a meeting, I used to whisper to myself, “You are the least knowledgeable person in the room. Use that to your advantage.”

The power was in the ability to ask clarification questions. When I was in with the scientists — following my C+ in tenth-grade chemistry — I was about as smart as the consumers I represented. I needed to make sure all the science was easy to explain. With my ad agencies, I finally figured out that I never had to solve problems. I just gave them my problems to solve. It became like therapy. Plus, with six years of business school — without one art class — what do I know about art? I was smart enough to know that I needed to make the most out of the experts I was paying.

While we don’t make the product, we don’t sell the product or create the ads, we do touch everything that goes into the marketplace and we make every decision. All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a brand leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it to our brand. Brand management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist brand leader.

BBI Creds Deck 2016.002When I see brand managers of today doing stuff, I feel sorry for them. They are lost. I just saw that the CEO of Uber designed his own logo. Doesn’t he have better things to do? Brand leaders are not designed to be experts in marketing communications, experts in product innovation, or experts in selling the product. They are trained to be generalists — knowing enough to make decisions, but not enough to actually do the work.

Fifteen years ago, ad agencies broke apart the creative and the media departments into separate agencies, forcing the brand leader to step in and be the referee on key decisions. Right after that, the explosion of new digital media options that mainstream agencies were not ready to handle forced the brand leader to take another step in.

With the increasing speed of social media, brand leaders have taken one more step in. Three steps in, and brand leaders can’t find a way to step back again. Some brand leaders love stepping in too far so they can control the outcome of the creative process. However, if you are now doing all the work, then who is critiquing the work to make sure it fits the strategy? Pretty hard to think and do at the same time.

Brand leaders need to take a step back and let the creativity of execution unfold. I always say that it is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. As the client, I like to think of marketing execution as the perfect gift that you never thought to buy yourself. How we engage our experts can either inspire greatness or crush the spirit of creativity. From my experience, experts would prefer to be pushed than held back. The last thing experts want is to be asked for their expertise, and then told exactly what to do. There is a fine line between rolling up your sleeves to work alongside the experts and pushing the experts out of the way.

It is time to step back and assume your true role as a brand leader. Trust me, it is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all.

After all, I am an expert in doing nothing.

To read the original article that we wrote for Advertising Age, click on this link

Ad Age Article: How to Be a Great Brand Leader: Do Absolutely Nothing

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops on everything connected to Brand Management, including Click on the Powerpoint file below to 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

 

Brand Careers 2016.107

How to be successful in the Brand Manager role

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

Brand Careers 2016.031Most new brand managers mistakenly think this role is about managing because they finally get a chance to manage a direct report. However, the bigger part of this role is the transition you need to make as you move from do-er to owner. Yes, you’ll get your first change to manage a direct report, but many times that effort can be a distraction from your chance to continue to learn and grow. Many brand managers are disheartened to find out they are a disaster with their first direct report, but I always remind them that they’ll finally get better by the fifth direct report.

Here are the five success factors for Brand Managers:

1. Ownership

A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand. Many BMs struggle with the transition from being the helper to being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away the idea of having someone hand you a project list. Not only should you have to make the project list, you should come up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of. Brand Careers 2016.049A great Brand Manager talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather then an asking sense. It is great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most people are going to be looking to you for decisions. They will be recommending you will be deciding. When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions. You just gave up your ownership. Your director wants you to tell them what to do, and debate from there.

2. Strategic direction

A great Brand Manager provides a vision & strategies to match up to. Bring a vision to the brand. Push yourself to a well-articulated 5-10 year brand vision great. But a vision can be as simple as a rallying cry for the team. But you have to let everyone know where you want to go. The strategy that matches up to the vision becomes the road map for how to get there. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy. Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected. Communication of strategy is a key skill. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, with 3 different areas to help achieve your overall strategy. Having pillars constantly grounds you strategically, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions. Each function may only have 1 strategic pillar but seeing how it all fits in is motivating.

3. Managing others
A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their ABM as good as can be. Most BMs struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each report. Most BMs struggle to shift from “do-er” to “coach. They think they can do it faster, so they may as well do it. They just become the “super ABM”. Many BMs fail to share the spot light, so it becomes hard to showcase the ABM. But the work of your ABM reflects 100% of how good of a manager you are. ABMs need feedback to get better—both the good and bad. I see to many BMs not giving enough feedback. And so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left thinking they are doing a good job. Great BMs take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then give hands-on feedback in real time. BBI Creds Deck 2016.002Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps. Brand Mangers should do QUARTERLY sit down performance reviews with their ABMs, who have the capacity to learn faster than annual reviews allows for.

4. Working the system
A great Brand Manager gets what they want and need. The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. You can see how the organization works and appreciating what are are the motivations of various key stakeholders. You then use that knowledge to begin to work the system.You are starting to see key subject matter experts giving you their best. You understand their personal motivations and find a way to tap into those motivations as a way to ask people for their best. It might be an odd step, but from my experience a really motivating step. Very few people ask for “your best”.

5. Dealing with Pressure
A great Brand Manager can handle pressure: ambiguity, results, relationship time. Ambiguity is one of the hardest pressures. As a leader, patience and composure help you sort through the issues. The consequences of not remaining composed are a scared team and choosing quick decisions with bad results. Another big pressure is when the results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. BBI ads for 2015.010Reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather then continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Challenge team to “this is when we are needed” You will see pressure in relationships. Be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out what motivates and what annoys the person. Understand and reach for common ground, which most times is not that far away. At every level there is time pressure. It is similar to the ambiguity. Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way. Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. Use time to your advantage.

The ten reasons that Brand Managers fail:

  1. Struggle to make decisions
  2. Not analytical enough
  3. Can’t get along
  4. Not good with ambiguity
  5. Too slow and stiff
  6. Bad people Manager
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners
  8. Never follow their Instincts
  9. Can’t think strategically or write strategically
  10. They don’t run the brand, they let the brand run them.

The reality is everyone will have 1 or 2 of these potential points, just naturally. You have to use your time as a Brand Manager to work on closing them.  Especially if they come up in your performance review. At the Brand Manager stage, I hope you love the magic of marketing. Let it breathe and let it come to life. It is easy to lose your passion and try to do what your boss wants or do things to make short term numbers so you can get promoted. Those don not really work long term. My advice is do not just do the job, do it with all your passion. If you don’t love the work you do, then what consumer would ever love your brand.

Brand Manager role should be an amazing experience for you. Make the most of it.

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops on everything connected to Brand Management, including Click on the Powerpoint file below to 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

Brand Careers 2016.107

How to build a smart brand plan everyone can follow

Posted on 25 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

A smart brand plan gets everyone in your organization on the same page. Everyone drives against the same vision, key issues, strategies, and tactics.brand plans In this article, I will show you all the brand plan definitions and provide brand plan examples and brand plan templates. 

Allocation of your limited resources

A smart brand plan makes choices in how to allocate your brand’s limited resources to drive the biggest return. The plan gains approval from senior management around spending, strategies, tactics, goals, and projects. The plan aligns, steers and inspires all functional areas of the organization including marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, product development, human resources and any outside agencies. And lastly, the Brand Plan even helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, to stay focused on delivering on what they said they would deliver.

An effective Brand Plan answers where are we, why are we here, where could we be, how can we get there and what do we need to do. Once you answer these 5 strategic questions, you will see that you have your analysis, key issues, vision, goals strategies, execution, and measurement.

brand plans

While there is a lot of work with our planning process, you will end up with a Brand Plan on ONE PAGE. Here is a brand plan example

brand plans

Brand Plan Rough Outline

Before you start in on working on the brand plan, I recommend that you write 2-3 bullet points for each of the five strategic questions. This provides an outline to ensure the overall flow of the plan. Below is our recommended strategic worksheet with a brand plan example using Gray’s Cookies to help:

How to write a smart Brand Plan Marketing Coach Consultant Workshops

Elements of the brand plan

Following our Brand Plan we recommend building your plan around the following elements of the plan:

  • Situation Analysis
  • Key Issues
  • Vision/Purpose/Goals
  • Strategies
  • Execute
  • Measure

Situational Analysis

Start the planning process with a deep-dive business review that answers “where are we”, by looking at everything connected to the business including the category, consumer, competitors, channels and the brand.

Here’s a link to our story on How to lead a deep-dive business review:

How to lead a deep-dive Business Review

From the deep-dive business review, summarize what is driving the business, what’s holding it back and then lay out the risks and untapped opportunities. Try to focus on the top 3-4 points for each box below:

How to write a smart Brand Plan Marketing SWOT

The simplicity of this analysis sets up a starting point of the Key Issues as the issues as you will want to continue/enhance the growth drivers, minimize or reverse the inhibitors, avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities.

Brand Vision

When I see brand teams struggling, they usually lack a vision. As Yogi Berra once said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”. The vision answers “where could we be” and becomes a beacon for everyone working on the brand. It is the one that defines your success. If you achieved it, everyone would feel proud.

We like to ask brand leaders: “if you woke up ten years from now and you were in a great mood because of what was happening on your business, what are the 2-3 things you would have achieved”. This gives you a straw dog vision, framed as a very large goal. We then provide some examples of the best-in-class vision statements to see if sparks some creativity in writing a final vision statement.

brand plan examples

A good vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot.

It should be motivating and enticing to stretch your mind while getting everyone focused. Ideally, it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable). It is perfectly fine to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it is important for framing the vision. The vision should easy for everyone to understand and rally around. It should stand at least 5-10 years or more. It should be a balance of aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)

A brand vision is not a positioning statement or strategic statement. These both come later in the plan. Try to be single-minded in the statement. You do not need to include everything. Make sure you haven’t achieved it already.

Key Issues

One tool we recommend with finding the key issues is to ask 4 questions that determine “why are you here”:

  1. What is your current COMPETITIVE position?
  2. What is the CORE STRENGTH your brand can win on?
  3. How tightly CONNECTED is your consumer to your brand?
  4. What is the current business SITUATION your brand faces?

Combine the deep dive analysis with the answers to these 4 questions and you will have a good start on your competitive, brand, consumer and situational issues.

How to write a smart Brand Plan Marketing Coach Consultant Workshops

Take the vision statement and ask “what are all the things getting in the way of achieving the vision?” Brainstorm every possible answer and then narrow down the list to the top 3-5 key issues. Once you have your top issues, write the key issues as questions, that sets up options for the strategy as the possible answers.

Strategies

The strategy is always about the “how to get there”. At the strategic level, you have to make choices. When Marketers come to a decision point that requires focus, too many try to justify a way to do both. You have to decide. The best strategic marketers never divide and conquer. They make the choices that help to focus and conquer. Marketers always face limited resources in terms of dollars, time, people and partnerships. They have to apply those limited resources against unlimited choices in a target market, brand positioning, strategic options, and activities. The best Marketers are able to limit the options through decision-making helps to match up to the limited resources.

The Love Curve can help pick your strategy

The Brand Love Curve guides your strategy. We have created a hypothetical “Brand Love Curve” to assess how tightly connected brands are with their consumers. Brands move along the curve from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved with consumers becoming outspoken fans, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings and thinking is replaced with feelings. Brands use their connection with consumers to become more powerful against the very consumers who love them, against the channels who carry them and against the competitors trying to beat them. With that added power, brands gain more profit through price, cost, share and market size.

How to write a smart Brand Plan Brand Love Curve Strategy

Where you sit on the Brand Love Curve influences your next major strategic move.

At the Indifferent stage, focus on establishing your brand in the consumer’s mind. You have to create an opinion. At the Like It stage, consumers see you as a rational choice. There needs to be strategic work to separate your brand from the pack to generate a following. For the Love It stage, the focus should be on tugging at the heart-strings of your consumers to drive a deeper connection with those who love you. And, at the Beloved stage, the strategy has to continue the magic of the brand and get your loyalists to speak on the brand’s behalf. Mobilize the brand fans as advocates.

Use the Brand Love Curve to focus your strategy. While you will come up with your own unique strategies, we have used the Brand Love Curve to map out 20 core brand strategies to begin playing with.

How to write a smart Brand Plan Brand Love Curve Strategy

Don’t try to do two things at once

The biggest strategic flaw of most brand plans is trying to drive penetration and usage frequency at the same time. This is a classic case of trying to get away with doing two things instead of picking just one. Look at how different these two options really are and you will see the drain on the resources you will experience by trying to do both.

A penetration strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like it. A usage frequency strategy gets someone who knows your brand to change their behavior in relation to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of the occasions. By doing both, you will be targeting two types of consumers at the same time, you will have two main messages and you will divide your resources against two groups of activities that have very little synergy. If you are really strategic, pick one, not two.

As we wrote our key issues in question format, then the strategy becomes the answer. Look how they match up. This brand plan example uses Gray’s Cookies, and this type of brand plan format can make a great brand plan template for you to lay out your strategies.  

How to write a smart Brand Plan How to write a Brand Strategy

Tactics and Execution

“What do we need to do to get there” matches up marketing execution activity to the brand strategy, looking at communicating the brand story, managing the consumer towards the purchase moment, launching new product innovation and delivering the brand experience. We use our Big Idea to drive each of these key areas of the brand. To read more, click on this link:

How to use a brand Idea to capture the consumer’s mind and heart

Marketing Execution has to make your brand stronger. It has to create a bond with consumers who connect with the soul of the brand, it establishes your brand’s reputation based on a distinct positioning and it influences consumers to alter their behavior to think, feel or act, making the brand more powerfully connected, eventually leading to higher sales, share, and profit.

Start with a Consumer Buying System that can match your brand’s Marketing execution to where your consumer stands with your brand.

How to write a smart Brand Plan Marketing Execution

Focus your marketing activities by prioritizing on return on investment and effort (ROI and ROE). For each strategy, you want to find the “Big Easy”. Start by putting all your ideas on to post it notes, then map each idea onto the grid as to whether they will have a BIG versus SMALL impact on the business, and whether they are EASY versus DIFFICULT. The top ideas will be in the BIG EASY top right corner. The goal of this activity is to narrow your focus to the best 3 activities.

How to write a smart Brand Plan Marketing Execution

Turn your plan into projects

A good marketing execution plan should have:

  • Brand budget
  • Goals
  • Calendar of activity
  • Project work plans

A brand plan is not complete without project plans that include the project owner, project budget, goals, milestones, and hurdles.

How to write a smart Brand Plan Project Plans

Bringing the Plan together

The power of 3’s: As we said earlier, the plan is about making decisions. We recommend that you narrow your effort down to 3 strategies and then 3 tactics for each strategy. That means 9 core projects for each brand to focus their resources on during the year. Compare the subtle difference that 5 strategies with 5 tactics for each strategy explodes into 25 projects that might cripple your brand’s resources. By doing less number, you will be focusing your limited resources on making each project has a big impact. When your team lacks time to do everything with full passion, they run the risk of turning out OK work that fails to connect with your consumers.

How to write a smart Brand Plan

Brand plan definitions of key terms

  • Vision: What do you want your brand to be in the next 5-10 years? Vision gives everyone on the brand a clear direction, it should be measurable (quantitative) and motivating (qualitative). It should push you so much that it scares you a little, but excites you a lot.
  • Goals: What do you need to achieve? Specific measures of brand health and wealth, related to consumer/customer behavioral changes, metrics of key programs, performance targets or milestones on the pathway to the vision. It’s the brand scoreboard.
  • Key Issues: What is getting the way of achieving your vision/goals? The deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked in a question format to provide the problem to which strategies become the solution.
  • Strategies: How can we get there? Strategies are the “How” you will win the market. Choices based on market opportunities, using consumers, competitors or situational. Strategies should have a pinpointed focus providing a breakthrough on the pathway to the brand vision.
  • Tactics: What do we need to do to execute the strategy? Framed completely by strategy, tactical choices deploy your limited resources against brand projects, the most efficient way to drive a high ROI.

This is our training workshop we run on how to write better brand plans:

These slides are from our brand management training program. With our Brand Plan training, we will show you how to come up with the vision, purpose, goals, analysis, key issues, strategies, execution plans and measurements. We will show you plenty of brand plan examples and brand plan templates.

You will find this type of thinking in my book, Beloved Brands.

Beloved Brands Book

I wrote my book, Beloved Brands, as the playbook for how to build a brand your consumers will love.

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

  • How to think strategically
  • Write a brand positioning statement
  • Come up with a brand idea
  • Write a brand plan everyone can follow
  • Write an inspiring creative brief
  • Make decisions on marketing execution
  • Conduct a deep-dive business review
  • Learn finance 101 for marketers

Available on Amazon, Apple Books or Kobo

We have the paperback and e-book version on Amazon. Click here to order: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe  

We are also on Apple Books, which you can click here to order: https://lnkd.in/e6UFisF

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

At Beloved Brands, we help build brands that consumers love and we make brand leaders smarter.

🎈Help create a brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives your brand an ownable competitive advantage.

🎈 Build a marketing plan that forces smart focused decisions to help organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth

🎈Align your marketing execution behind a brand idea that tightens our bond with consumers and moves them through their buying journey

🎈Use a deep-dive 360-degree assessment of your brand’s performance to trigger richer thinking before you write your brand plan

🎈Our brand training program will help realize the full potential of your brand leaders, so they are ready to grow your brand.

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

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

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

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