Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Curiosity - do you hire for it?

In our modern hierarchical structures, we've boiled our entry and mid-level positions into a discreet set of tasks. The temptation is to believe that our primary job as hiring managers is to find someone competent at checking the boxes of an open job description, making sure they're a good cultural fit and rushing as fast as possible in order to fix the leak on your team with a warm body.

Of course, simplifying the task of hiring in this way overlooks a crucial skill: curiosity. I would argue that it's the most important skill for a brand manager. You can compensate for numerous gaps on a brand manager's resume with training and mentorship. Financials, project management and even data analysis can all be taught, but curiosity seems innate. If a person doesn't have a lust for information, learning and adventure, how do you create it? It's not an easy thing to do.

Even worse, once your entry or mid-level marketer rises through the ranks to management, a lack of curiosity will cripple your organization's ability to innovate and think outside of the traditional box. It's obvious that organizations don't become successful with restrained, unimaginative thinkers.

The next time you have a vacancy on your team, give yourself permission to breathe and find someone with curiosity. When you interview, ask them about what they're reading and probe into how they stay in-the-know with the latest trends and culture. It's worth the extra emotional investment, for sure.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pick yourself

I run Seth Godin's pick yourself blog post through my head every once in awhile. It's a good reminder for any brand marketer working her way up the ladder.

It's easy to get caught up in the 'it's not fair' mentality of career. If we don't guard ourselves, we start comparing our paths to our colleagues' paths. We spend too much time thinking about timelines and 'who's next' for promotion when we could actually be doing the hard work of setting ourselves apart from the pack.

Though it's easy to convince yourself that there is a management team that holds all of the power to pick you and pin you as a success, it's not really true any more. 'The management' is constantly scrambling for good people they can trust to get the job done.

The people who always seem to be picked are the people who have decided to pick themselves.

That's the first choice we have to make. The next is to decide how, when and where we are going to set ourselves up to be 'picked' again.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

keep your head out of the sand

Anyone who works in the business of building brands knows that the sexy marketing stuff is just a slice in the pie of our daily obligations. Most of the time, we're general managers - making sure we don't run out of stock, finding ways to optimize our financials, keeping an eye on the category trends, writing issue sheets for projected gaps to plan. You have to find a way to love the day-to-day general manager work because it makes up the majority of your brand manager function. If you suffer through that and live for the sexy marketing stuff, you're going to spend a lot of your work life suffering. 

That said, you have to make sure that you're not using the general manager stuff as a crutch to avoid doing the real, difficult work of building brands. It's scary how easy it is to bury yourself in approving invoices and debating packaging colors while your entire category passes you by. 

Our job is to be relentless in looking for ways to stay at least two steps ahead of the category. No matter the size of your brand, there's always real, fearless work to be done. Avoid the temptation to bury your head in the sand. Push yourself to do the hard work and pat yourself on the back when you do. 

Then, go back to approving invoices. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

You are not the target

Unfortunately, most brand marketers do not have nearly enough information about our target consumers. We can pull Spectra data all day, but it won't give us true insight. How do we truly get to know our consumer when all of the information we have about her is that she's 45-55, lives in the suburbs, is married and makes $100k per year? It's impossible to know her dreams, her true interests, her motivations based off of simple demographics.

Without a true insight, it's easy to substitute ourselves in as the target. I see it happen all of the time. We think 'well, I know how I like to hang out with my friends on the weekend', so we assign that attitude to our target consumers. We say 'everyone's drinking dry rose' when actually just your peer group in Manhattan is into rose.

The list goes on.

Sometimes I'm tempted to carry a big sign around with me that says 'YOU ARE NOT THE TARGET' to remind myself and my colleagues that we're so deeply mired in our own category and world that our own beliefs can never be substituted for our consumers' beliefs.

It's better to insist on doing the work to collect insightful research on our target consumer, even if our budget is small. It's hard to put a true price on knowing the details of your consumer intimately. It will be your road map, grounding your decisions in a reality not colored by your own world view.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Blow up the process

Processes are awesome. They allow our organizations to do things in organized, expected, repeatable ways. They take the mystery out of how we get from point A to point B. With a process, we can know how to fix a problem on the line, which trainings we have to take before we can get promoted, how to get an agency to give us a new idea.

The problem with processes, though, is that they force us to do things in organized, expected, repeatable ways. They produce the millionth line extension. They allow mediocre employees to rise through the ranks. They encourage agencies to recycle the same idea over and over because it delivers on the brief - whatever the brief may be.

A good brand marketer has a healthy respect for the process - heck, even acts as the champion of the process. But, she's also brave enough to go in guns a blazin' and blow a process up when the time arises.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

On Starbucks and leadership

Fast Company's July/August issue highlighted Starbucks' 'Race Together' campaign. The article surprised me with its inside look into Howard Schlutz's brain. I found myself nodding along and underlining prolifically.

He highlights how important it is to build an organization where people are working toward a common goal. How often do we do this in our organizations today? We're solely focused on timelines and product launches and - most importantly - the bottom line. Schultz's argument is that no employee is motivated my money. They just aren't.

"You can't attract and retain great people if your sole purpose is to make money, because people, especially young people, want a sense of belonging - to be part of an organization they really believe is doing great work. You can't create an emotional attachment if you stand for nothing"

I've worked with leaders who rallied their teams around big, lofty goals. I've also worked for leaders who only want to drive profit, setting a big dollar goal and hoping its enough to get people out of bed every day. I agree with Schlutz - it's just not.

Find a way to share a vision so exciting and compelling with your team that you can palpably feel the energy it gives them. Build and grow and nurture that energy every day. If Starbucks is any example, the dollars will follow that energy - beyond your wildest imagination.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Finding facebook virality: how a nonprofit's 800 fan page received 43k impressions in a week

You don't have to be a giant to make a big splash in social media. You don't need to have a huge advertising budget, a stellar digital team or a silly meme to make something go viral on facebook.

Actually, you don't need anything except a great concept.

Here's my proof:


If you love social marketing like I do, you'll gasp with delight when you see that graph. It's true: a nonprofit organization with 847 facebook fans launched a social media campaign that reached 43,000 impressions in a matter of hours without spending a penny on anything but the salary of its Online Marketing Manager (that's me!).

My goal was to bring online supporters into the fight for Child Abuse Prevention in April. I used the month's symbol of a pinwheel and asked people to "pass" it around social media to raise awareness of the signs of child abuse.

The final concept:



I used sparked.com for the graphic design because we had no digital budget for the project. In wordpress, I designed a complementary landing page.I also designed an email to our supporters and launched everything April 2nd.

When I shared the pinwheel on our facebook page....crickets.

I expected that.

I had ticked off everything that social marketers will tell you to do for a successful campaign. I had my landing page, my email, my great graphics and content.

But, social media is not a "build it and they will come" platform. It's a network.

I hunkered down and did good-old email outreach with facebook pages I'd built relationships with. For months, I'd spent about fifteen minutes every day liking, commenting, sharing the content of other nonprofits. When I emailed them, many were happy to share our pinwheel. Within 24 hours, our graphic had been shared on multiple pages having thousands of followers. We had hundreds of shares in a couple of days.

We spread our message in a viral way, creating a virtual facebook miracle.

Only, there wasn't anything miraculous about it.