We’ve all heard it in all-hands meetings or annual speeches from the top heads of medium-large enterprises.
“Our vision is to be known as the go-to brand for this [topic] in just eight years.”—says the VP of Marketing while they already know he’s leaving for another brand in 6 months.
It’s one of the reasons why companies and brands have trouble being consistent throughout the years. A few can be proud to have followed a path of consistency for a long time.
One solution, shared by Chris Walker of Refine Labs in a comment a few months ago, is to make the CEO the bearer of that long-term marketing vision.
It makes sense; the CEO is either one of the founders or someone who isn’t jumping chairs soon.
The problem resides when the CEO doesn’t understand or have knowledge of marketing.
In a famous quote from Dave Gerhardt: “Life’s too short to work for a CEO who doesn’t get marketing.”
The vision is there, but to get where you want, you need a plan—aka Strategy.
That’s where I see many brands struggle. Why? Because any top marketing professional isn’t joining a brand just to sit tight and follow what others have planned when they’re not even there anymore.
Some brands are already so big and powerful that you can’t help to follow the line your predecessors already paved—for instance, Nike, Coca-Cola, etc.
Yet, there’s always room to place your individual contribution and innovate just a bit.
Most of the other brands don’t have this power.
In fact, how many brands do you know that have suffered a rebrand right after a new CMO or VP of Marketing gets appointed?
A rebranding isn’t a bad thing.
I’ve done that for both my brands out of necessity to caveat my ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and our new positioning.
Yet, a rebranding represents a break from the past—a new direction for both the company and the brand.
Do you think there’s space for long-lasting brand consistency?
A few days ago, a post by Jordie van Rijn mentioned a study by Stacey Barr where only 6% of companies have meaningful KPIs for their strategy.
I’ll say that again: 6%.
I’ve not studied this, but my experience working with hundreds of companies worldwide…
… auditing their email marketing and marketing automation activities through sendXmail;
… building and nurturing brands’ online presence through ZOPPLY;
… being aware of the difficulties found by marketing professionals and Portuguese companies through APPM;
—I can tell you this: it’s true and sometimes even worse.
Here’s what I found to be the reasons behind this result
Again, this is in no way a formal or careful research study on my part. This is a conscious reflection after so many years of working with hundreds of brands, from SMEs to big corporations.
➜ Lack of medium/long-term vision for marketing;
The moving chairs game in marketing today is almost ridiculous. I almost can’t find a marketing head in the same company managing the marketing department for more than 3 years, let alone 5 years.
Fortunately, some brands have recognised this issue and are not only trying to keep their marketing pros there but promoting them to CEOs.
A friend was recently promoted from CMO to CEO after almost hitting the two-year mark.
➜ “Sailing at the Wind” without a clear destiny;
When doing careful research of each brand, like an audit of their marketing activities, how many do you think to have a clear pathway?
The vast majority of the brands that have passed through my scope are sailing depending on the trends and the next shiny object.
I compare this with the critics of Warren Buffet’s portfolio for not investing in tech until recently with a considerable purchase of Apple’s stocks.
The thing is, we should jump on the wagon of every new trend and channel or strategy without a clear sight of where and how to get there.
➜ Terribly busy but not moving the needle;
Take a look at your team or yourself and tell me that sometimes, you’re not just a hamster in a spinning wheel and terribly busy but reaching nowhere.
Most of the marketing teams I see today are overworked, trying to do everything in their marketing plan, but at the end of the day, they’re just trying to stay afloat.
Again, this happens because everyone concentrates on tasks and tactics but does not follow a strategic plan.
➜ No time to think and come up with ideas;
One of the previous points’ repercussions is that you have no time to think strategically and come up with ideas to innovate or do something that can quantum leap your growth in some stages.
When auditing and suggesting marketing automation, marketing teams open their eyes 👀 in awe at how much time they can save on mundane tasks.
One of our clients had 50% of their team spending at least 3 days each week producing reports for the management. 🤦♂️
➜ Not being able to say no;
One of the things that made Apple what they’re today was the ruthless ability to say no to most of the things coming on its way.
There’s an anecdote of someone who worked with Steve Jobs that one of the things he asked him every time they met was how many things he said no that day.
This is where most companies drive away from long-term consistency and strategy.
To achieve the goal defined at first, we need to be ruthless and say no to things that don’t move the needle for the brand’s purpose.
Sometimes this means saying NO to the management. Diplomatically and kindly explain why that would affect the medium-long term goals set from the start.
➜ Not having a seat at the table;
Marketing leaders rarely have a seat on the board or carry any weight when making decisions.
It means that others are making decisions that impact their long-term strategy and have no say in the matter.
See the problem here?
One example is when there’s a scent of a potential crisis coming up, what’s the first thing that gets cut? Marketing budget. 🤷♂️
Yet, they expect to follow the path.
It means one of two things:
1️⃣ They don’t trust that you’re using your budget to make revenue;
2️⃣ They don’t trust that you’re using your budget to make revenue;
Fine, what can you do about it?
Here are a few things that I feel it makes a difference.
Again, this doesn’t represent professional advice and all the other legal jargon… 😂 It’s what more than 20 years of working in this industry tells me it works.
✅ Find a board and CEO that gets marketing;— Really.
✅ Prove yourself and show that you’re generating revenue;—Builds your reputation inside to agree with your future suggestions.
✅ Create or follow a medium/long-term vision for your marketing and where you want to go;—follow it ruthlessly.
✅ As Stacey mentions in her study, “Goals written in clear and measurable language instead of weasel words”;—will help the next point.
✅ Define meaningful KPIs for your medium/long-term strategy; —it will prove you’re on the right path.
✅ Create the conditions for your and your team to feel accomplished with what you’re building and being well compensated;—that will improve the talent retention to stick to the plan.
✅ Regularly show your progress towards the medium/long-term goal to all stakeholders;—it will make it real and show you’re committed.
✅ Each semester, show the impact of the vision path on the business and overall brand value;—the pot of gold leaves some gold coins along the way.
✅ Each year, make a retrospective and show your current state and where you want to be;—it will prove it works and keep everyone in the same boat.
Do you have additional thoughts and suggestions on how to accomplish this? Share it for everyone to learn from each other’s experiences.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy your rest.