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Monday, May 11, 2015



We seem to hear, more and more, from a number of senior managers that their junior and middle marketing managers just aren’t providing their creative agencies with consistently sound, productive direction. Too often, when reacting to ideas being presented, their marketers base their comments purely on what they personally like or don’t like (or, more likely, what they believe their bosses will like or not like); or they simply make the wrong comments at the wrong time…such as questioning the casting for a video when seeing a first round of creative concepts.


If you have been a regular reader of DISPATCHES for awhile, you know that we are proponents of disciplined coaching—adding value to creative work by pinpointing the strategic aspects of the Creative Brief that are working well and those that need to work harder or better. Additionally, disciplined coaching makes value-added suggestions about idea “camps” that may have been overlooked by the creative teams—by specifically identifying other angles that the brand team would like to see developed. The key to coaching is always based upon adding value. And we like to make a conscious contrast between the old school method of commenting called E-valuating (saying what’s wrong with something or what you personally don’t like) versus Add-valuating (building upon something that has some potential).


Getting a marketing organization to consistently coach with discipline requires senior management making a commitment to it; it also takes setting coaching standards for the organization and then practicing and reinforcing those standards day in and day out. Honestly, not many companies are doing these things…which got us to thinking about why not. Here’s our take:


The Top 10 Reasons Why Marketing Organizations Don’t Coach


10. Coaching isn’t widely recognized as a productivity-driver or as a competitive advantage. The tacit assumption behind this is that, somehow, the experience of the total client-agency team will win out in the end. The best ideas will rise to the top, regardless of incidental comments along the way. But this is a big and usually misguided assumption because in all the incidental comments along the way, time and money gets spent—a lot of time and money, often requiring “start-over” work.


9. Core competency studies overlook or minimize coaching skills. This goes hand-in-hand with #10. Sure, most competency studies driven by HR include a bevy of “leadership” skills; but these rarely spell out the expected precision demanded when marketers are providing direction (equivalent to spending more of the Company’s money!) to outside agencies and suppliers. By the way, whatever happens to core competency studies once they’re completed?


8. Evaluating is a behavior that’s too entrenched. From childhood we learn how easy it is to tear something down, to identify what doesn't fit, to separate “right form wrong.” Unfortunately, most of us carry the negative side of these things forward throughout our lives. It becomes second nature to us to say what’s wrong with something; but we find it much, much more challenging to say what would make something better. Then, too, we find that many of the people we work for tell us “what’s wrong,” with the work we do, so breaking the habit becomes all the harder.


7. Marketers with some experience under their belts tend to believe they’ve “earned the right” to say whatever, whenever. Call it the “I’m the Brand Manager syndrome” that means I have at least 2-3 years of working experience and the title that says I’m in charge. Having Brand Managers feel accountably in charge of their businesses is a good thing. But, honestly, whose experience at anything in a mere 2-3 years qualifies them to shoot from the hip? Actually, the Brand Managers to admire are the ones who are ever-aware that their direction-setting is being carefully studied by their more junior brand folks; they therefore always want, by example, to set a high standard.


6.  Companies rarely provide training in coaching. Because many have not consciously thought about the value of coaching and have not set any standards for providing consistent, quality direction to company resources, it follows that there would be no need to train anyone in these skill-sets. There may be occasional training programs dealing with fundamentals of communication (elements of a good Creative Brief or a technically sound Communication Strategy or a complete Campaign Idea), but rarely are there opportunities to practice providing direction on these things. And the thing about coaching is that, no matter how many times you do it, you never reach perfection.


5. At some level, marketers assume they are “beyond training.” It’s really hard to understand where this thinking comes from.  After all, surgeons and engineers all know the value of continuing education in their fields—many are required to participate in order to keep their practices going. Why, then, would marketers—even senior management marketers—be exempt from this? It does the Marketing Function a disservice to imply that, since all of marketing is “gut feel” anyway, once you reach a certain number of years at it you have the instincts, the “feel’ for it. It’s a disservice because winning marketing is as analytical as it is creative.


4. Too many companies involve too many people in their commenting/ direction-providing process. When a creative idea for new communication effort is “fair game” for comments from a host of key influencers, interested bystanders, and important check-offs, no wonder maintaining a disciplined coaching approach is near impossible. Even when a brand team is doing a decent job of providing productive direction, in comes a “left field” comment that can sidetrack everything…and, let's be honest, rarely do these left-fielders add much value. More often than not they act as policemen, pointing out something you cannot say or do.


3. Senior marketing managers don’t coach. Again, likely related to both #7 and #5, too many in senior management see themselves as approvers rather than as value-adders. If you think of yourself as THE final decision-maker, it’s only natural to take on the attitude of what I like, what appeals to me. For highly experienced marketing managers, this attitude can, of course, be helpful; long years of experience teache us many good lessons. But how much better might the work be with some precise, disciplined value-added coaching? Even more helpful, taking every opportunity to “model” for more junior marketers how effective coaching works.


2. Chief Marketing Officers spend their time overseeing projects, not overseeing people and process development. We believe that the first responsibility of today’s CMO is to build a productive, winning culture. This entails devoting considerable time and strategic thought to what kinds of talent makes for the strongest team and how more things get done more productively on a consistent basis. To quote a senior marketing manager at one of our most admired companies (when addressing her Marketing Directors), “I see what plans you have for building the business 15%; now, what are your plans for building your people 15%?” Coaching as a marketing discipline will not happen without the CMO making it happen.


1. You can’t coach what you can’t assess. Training marketers to coach is one thing. But it’s not very helpful if the organization is not also training marketers on what to look for—the principles of communication development, such as a robust Target Definition, a SMART Marketing or Communication Behavior Objective, and the articulation of a Legitimate and Productive Insight. It’s pretty hard to imagine someone in sports trying to coach a game he doesn’t know how to play. Ditto for a Marketing Coach.


Taken as a laundry list, these 10 reasons might be darned discouraging. But, really, any organization that solves for numbers 2 & 1 will be surprised how quickly the coaching discipline can get going.

Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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