This is Part-2 of our two-part series “On Becoming Brand President.” Part-1 addressed the advantages of Brand Management versus alternate titles/roles and systems, and the role of Brand President. This, Part-2, covers the importance of “thought leadership” and shares thought leadership practices essential to becoming Brand President and earning a seat at the table with senior decision makers.
A brief review
We believe that how you think about yourself changes how you will act. We are encouraging marketers to think like Brand Managers, which is general marketing management, and assume the role of President of the Brand. Basically, we’d like to see you convert your title from Marketing Manager or Product Manager/Director to Brand Manager and adopt the brand management model illustrated below, where you are at the center of the wheel. This will serve to help inspire you to assume the role of Brand President.
The mindset of the Brand President is very different than Marketing Managers and Product Managers/Directors. The mindset and focus of the Brand President is:
- Have the BIG picture and take the long view in managing brand development and growth;
- Seek to create impact in everything you (including your support team) do;
- Be a responsible steward for the brand in demanding a highly favorable ROI from all resources;
- Serve customers, better than the competition, and your support teams in helping them help you build the brand; and
- Build a winning team through collaboration, communication and orchestration.
A detailed account can be found by clicking here on Part-1.
Two Additional Thoughts Worth Noting
- Back in 1972 when I joined P&G it was the second leading developer of company presidents, trailing only the Harvard B-School. So, the general management training and role that we had was valued by industry. We believe it is just as important, if not more important, today given that we basically compete in an “age of abundance” and “sameness” when it comes to products and services; and
- The Brand Management Model is valuable irrespective of sector. It doesn’t matter the specific spokes. Substitute Congresses for Promotion or KOLs for media vehicles or digital for traditional media, whatever. The key point is that one manager has the responsibility for, and devotes her/his attention to, building the brand with the contributions from support team members.
Let’s face it. Even with the title of Brand Manager, no one in the organization is going to grant you the role of President of the Brand (or, to shorten it, Brand President). You have to earn it (the old-fashioned way) by exhibiting what we refer to as “thought leadership,” followed by delivering on target business objectives.
So, pulling it together, we define thought leadership “having a definitive POV (Point of View) resulting from experience, knowledge of the brand environment – its heritage, competition, customers, marketplace – testing and valid analysis, and choosing to champion those strategies and actions that will have impact in the marketplace in contributing to building brand equity and growth.”
Everyone has an opinion. But a POV is the conclusion flowing from the marriage of findings, deep-seated knowledge and insights to turn data into impact. If the marketer can’t back-up her/his POV s/he is not only not likely to be believed but will not be trusted to manage the brand. Leadership requires that one unhesitatingly share one’s POV. Not just express it but eagerly champion it in a way that is convincing and compelling.
Thought leadership earns you a place at the table with the BIG and IMPORTANT decision makers! As one of my former managers would tell me: “Senior management doesn’t buy your plans. What they buy is confidence in you.” The way we instill confidence is through thought leadership. This thought leadership could be the result of a solo effort but is likely to be more convincing and compelling if done collaboratively. In other words, one must gain the agreement of key support groups (that make-up the extended brand team) that what the Brand Manager is proposing is valid, and will advance brand development and growth. That is, the proposed strategies and actions makes sense to all team members. Pure and simple!
Getting to a Position of Thought Leadership and a Seat at the Table as Brand President
Reviewing the role of the Brand President, we can identify many of the things that will enable you to achieve a position of thought leadership required for assuming the role. Here’s what we identify:
- Change your title, change your thinking. Change your title on your business card from Marketing Manager, Product Manager or Director or whatever to Brand Manager (if you want to go all the way make it Brand President)
- Get competitive. It’s not competitive to merely participate in the marketplace but seek to gain a competitive advantage at all times and exceed the company’s expectations for your brand. You’ve been entrusted with this asset now it’s up to you to make the most of it.
- Get below the surface to get a deep understanding of the marketplace, competition, customers, your brand and company capabilities. Understanding is more than reciting facts!
- Get beyond the product you sell and think about the more satisfying customer experience you deliver to create and market “brands.” This will be the basis for developing a long-standing relationship with target-customers.
- Capture the intended, winning customer experience in the development of a distinctive brand idea and positioning strategy. This takes you beyond giving “stuff” to providing “meaning” to target-customers.
- While you need to achieve short-terms goals maintain a focus on the long term and speed its arrival through your strategies and actions (e.g., product development, new campaigns, etc.). This will give you a lead on competition.
- Creatively segment the market and make choices to pursue those where you want and can win. These choices include those customers you will seek to serve and invest against as well as those you will not.
- Encourage the development of BIG, juicy Ideas. Ideas make the world go around! They will motivate customers to specific behavior objectives (e.g., switching) and excite support teams as well as your senior managers.
- Seek impact! Identify the two or three major actions (like BIG Ideas) that you will take this year in order to accelerate brand growth above and beyond category growth.
- Discover legitimate and productive customer insights to better serve customers than your competition. Don’t settle for unsights – those Accepted Customer Beliefs (which at one time may have been legitimate insights), facts or generic needs. Make sure your brand, not product but brand, can pay-off legitimate insights.
- Understand the causal factors for brand performance versus target and understand those indicated actions to achieve target. If you don’t know the “what, why and how” then how can senior managers possibly view you as a “thought leader?”
- Test, TEST, TEST to ensure that you are investing in proven strategies and actions that will not only generate incremental sales but also deliver a highly favorable ROI.
- Inspect what you expect. In other words, measure results versus expectations to gain invaluable feedback that can lead to better decisions in the future. This is non-negotiable. It will advance you from gambling to investing.
- Collaborate, COLLABORATE, COLLABORATE with your support groups (internal and external) to capture the collective wisdom of your team.
- Communicate, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE to unify and keep everyone focused on the same page so that you achieve optimal execution. Repetition is good!
- Seek to serve others rather than yourself.
- Take time to celebrate the wins with the team and acknowledge their contributions to those wins!
- Then get back to finding new ways to win!! Success can breed inertia and inertia opens the door for competition.
Remember, the organization is not going to anoint you with the role of Brand President. You’ve got to earn it through “thought leadership” and practices. How do you stack-up as a candidate for the position of Brand President? Identify the top 2 – 3-things you need to do to make your role matter more and get started on them.
If you have a moment we’d appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this subject. Thank you.
Best wishes on becoming Brand President,
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney