Do you want to become a Brand Leader? 8 steps to success…

8 simple ways to be a better Brand Leader


Graham Robertson

As we push to be great Brand Leaders, hare are 8 ways to push yourself to be better. This is from the 20 years of hiring, training, encouraging and even firing Brand Leaders.  Here are 8 things that separate amazing from OK.

A great Brand Leader takes ownership of the brand.  I’ve seen many Brand Leaders struggle with the transition from being a 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 do you have to make the project list, you have to come  up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.  A good owner talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather then an asking sense.  It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most are going to be looking to you for the answers.  They’ll be recommending you’ll be deciding.  When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions.  “I think we should build a big bridge” instead of “any ideas for how we can get over the water”.  You just gave up your ownership.  I’d rather have you tell me what you want to do, and we debate from there, rather then you ask me what we should do.  I’ll be better able to judge your logic, your passion and your vision.

A great Brand Leader provides the vision & strategies to drive results. Vision is sometimes a hard thing to articulate. It’s sometimes easy to see times when there is a lack of vision.  You have to let everyone know where you want to go.  The strategy that matches 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 and your role is to find ways to steer them back on track.  It’s easy to get side-tracked by exciting programs or cool ideas, but if they are off-strategy the excitement has.  The communication of strategy is a key skill.  Learn to talk in strategic stories that can frame your direction.  Learn to think in terms of pillars—which forces your hand around 3 different areas to help achieve your strategy.  Having pillars constantly grounds you back in your strategy, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions—they may only have 1 strategic pillar that matters to them personally, but seeing the other parts makes them feel as though their work is worth it.

A great Brand Leader gets what they need.   The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations.  Working the system entails taking what you have learned about ownership one step further.  You understand the organizational components, and then you go get what you need.  Again communication becomes key—you can’t let missed communications cause angst or concerns.  Also, its crucial that you get the best from everyone.  I have found it useful upfront to ask people for their best.  It’s a strange step, but I have found it useful.   If you really have someone that’s good, you know they’ll respond to this.  The good news is that only 0.1% of people ask them, so it’s not like they’ve heard it that many times.

A great Brand Leader can handle pressure.  There are Four Types of Pressure that Brand Leaders Face

  1. Ambiguity is one of the hardest.  This is where patience and composure come into play as you sort through the issues.  The consequences of not remaining composed is likely a bad decision.
  2. If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating.  Reach for your logic as you re-group.  Force yourself to course correct, rather then continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.
  3. Relationships.  Be pro-active in making the first move.  Try to figure out what motivates as well as what annoys them.   Most times, the common ground is not that far away.
  4. Time Pressure.  It’s 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.

A great Brand Leader can Hold your team to a Consistently high standard of work:  Rather than being the leader by example, I’d rather see you establish a standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard.  .  For a new Brand Leader, this is one of the harder areas—how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand.    You need to organize the team and build in processes in a way that produces consistent output, your team hits all deadlines, stays focused and keeps things moving.  But it can also show up in the quality of brand plans, execution and interactions with everyone specifically sales.  Be the control point of the team, and not let slips, errors or delays show beyond the team.  Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your team shows up.

A great Brand Leader is an outstanding leader of people by leveraging Consistent People Leadership and Management.   Newly appointed Brand Leaders have take on more leadership roles.  You have to let your team breathe and grow.   There are likely future super stars within the ranks.   We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make snap decisions on creative.  But can you inspire your team to do the same?  Junior marketers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better.  Brand Managers are still learning to be brand owners, many times younger than they should be.  It becomes the director’s role to manage the talent–giving equal praise and challenges for how to get better.  A great  Brand Leader should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review.   Waiting for year-end is just not enough.  Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they’ll see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling.

A Great Brand Leader shows up Consistently to the Sales Team:   As a Brand Leader, you have to be seen as one who is willing to listen.  Great sales people challenge marketers to make sure their account wins.   I’ve seen many sales teams destroy the Brand Leader because they don’t listen, and they stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input.   Great Brand Leaders should informally meet with all key senior sales people on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and let them know you are listening to their problems.  With this forum, you’ll get more of the bubbling up of problems–not just waiting for problems to explode.   If a sales people feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the directors vision and direction.   Many times, the debate can be healthy and help the sales people frame the story they need to tell with their accounts.  Be the one Brand Leader that consistently reaches out and listens.  They’ll be in shock, and stand behind your business.

A Great Brand Leader Delivers Consistent Results:  A great Brand Leader hits the numbers and yet when they don’t hit them, they are the first to own it and put forward a recovery plan before being asked.  They have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, rather than just being a corporate pencil pusher.   Proactive communication upwards and with your own team.  Reach out for help across the organization.  Know your business and let everyone know what you know.  Be the leader that makes everything perfectly transparent–everyone will follow you.

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