Continuing our ongoing marketing organizational leadership series, we are pleased to share the expert marketing knowledge of Ed Burghard, CEO and Manager of The Burghard Group, where Ed currently focuses on applying consumer marketing insights to place marketing as a way to strengthen Brand America. Before founding The Burghard Group, Ed served most recently as Executive Director at the Ohio Business Development Coalition. A 33-year career marketer at Procter & Gamble, Ed holds the prestigious distinction of Harley Procter Marketer and is a recognized expert on the marketing craft. Here he shares his recommendations for helping marketers to become effective brand advocates by engaging all functional stakeholders in delivering the brand promise.
To discuss brand advocacy, it’s important to first define what a brand is. “In my mind, a brand is a promise you make to your customers, and it needs to be consistently communicated and delivered upon,” says Ed. “The brand promise must be 1) Relevant, 2) Competitive, and 3) Authentic.”
All functional groups are stakeholders in fulfilling the brand promise because the brand message – and delivery against it – need to be aligned in order for the brand experience to be consistent.
“The reality of branding is that not every company defines marketing the same way,” says Ed. “Marketing’s role in brand delivery is sometimes very narrow, and other times it’s very broad. But no matter what area of branding that the marketing department has final responsibility for, there is a need for all functional groups to understand 1) how the brand message is communicated 2) their unique role in upholding the brand promise.”
Branding stakeholders and roles
Competitive intelligence – Helps to make sure the brand is competitive
R&D / Product development – Helps to position and establish the brand as relevant, competitive and authentic over time
Manufacturing – Fulfills product demand (delivery within the brand promise)
Operations – Oversees cost management/competitiveness
Finance – Helps to ensure the brand operates as a profitable business unit
Sales & Service (any direct customer touch points) – Critical to delivery and authenticity of the brand promise
When viewed through the frame of brand promise delivery, the question of who is really responsible for brand advocacy prompts a broader view: Ultimately, all functional groups have an important role to play, and when marketers recognize cross-functional leaders as equal partners in fulfilling the brand promise, it is easier to gain buy-in and support for the brand.
Ed shared an example from his early P&G role as a Brand Manager: “Marketers are leaders in helping to articulate the brand positioning and communicating the vision for the brand promise. The most effective Brand Managers involve all functional groups as equal partners in delivering on the brand promise. When I was a Brand Manager leading a U.S. launch of a new pharmaceutical product, I viewed the Finance Manager as my direct counterpart and equal in overseeing the brand’s launch and in managing any product dissonance.”
So how can marketers lead the brand without undermining functional roles in brand delivery? An exceptional brand manager leads with enthusiasm, and Ed suggests Procter & Gamble’s 5 E Leadership Model to help rally the team.
The 5 E’s
Envision – Start with a vision of what delivery of the brand promise should look like
Energize – Get people excited about the vision
Enroll – Put skin in the game by creating committed partners for your brand
Enable – Enable achievement of the vision by removing any roadblocks (access to resources, clarifying priorities)
Execute – Determine and manage an action plan to deliver against the promise
Leading, explains Ed, is about more than influence. It’s important for marketers to get to know their cross-functional collaborators authentically, including understanding their views towards the brand and how to best fulfill the brand promise. Here are some important guidelines Ed offers for earning the respect of your cross-functional peers (and it must be earned!):
Be predictable – Business is messy, says Ed, and direction is generally right but sometimes wrong. If you do have to change course, you need to be able to explain the rationale behind the new direction.
Share credit – As the face of the cross-functional team, brand builders shouldn’t take all the credit. Sometimes marketing can cause organizational distrust because they have more access to senior leaders than other functions, and this access can be seen as “glory grabbing” by other groups. Instead, marketers should strive to give credit as much as possible to their cross-functional counterparts.
Define what good looks like – Define with the team what relevant measures and metrics will constitute good delivery against the brand promise and then empower cross-functional leaders to figure out how they are going to achieve those goals. Cross-functional leaders want to, and will, succeed if they have ownership of their role in delivering on the brand promise.
Be open and honest – Honesty is critical, says Ed, especially when the message is uncomfortable. Hidden agendas tend to breed distrust. If you have an agenda, let your team know, and ask your cross-functional counterparts to help you develop solutions.
Be transparent – Ed coaches that you’re not always going to get it right, and that’s ok. “Marketers gain so much credibility with their cross-functional counterparts when they stand up and say, ‘I thought I was right about this, but I was wrong. Can you help me get this project to the point where it needs to be?’”
Respect differences – “There’s a saying, ‘There are over 1,000 paths to success,’” says Ed. “And 999 of those paths are not yours.” Recognize and embrace the different personalities and diverse perspectives of your cross-functional team, and be open to their ideas. You might be surprised by the solutions they uncover.
Stay connected – Never let a problem with delivery on your team become a critical path item. Stay alert and attuned to any potential issues early in the game while maintaining focus on the big picture.
Support your team – This is key to keeping your cross-functional team motivated, engaged and passionate. “Always have your people’s back, and don’t ever criticize your people publicly,” says Ed. “Retrain and correct your team in private, not in front of other managers.”
Avoid the time trap: Plan ahead
Sometimes, marketers face time pressures and constraints that may push their timelines for engaging with other functional groups. In Ed’s experience, this may indicate a time management issue on the part of the brand manager or leader. “If you truly went to your stakeholders in the very early stages of a project, gaining support and buy-in wouldn’t be an issue.” Ed coaches building time into the schedule up front to solicit the knowledge and experience of cross-functional leaders. Early planning is an important opportunity to build trust, and a lack of planning does not constitute a crisis for the functional groups involved. Ed also suggests the Four Quadrants approach to time management, with a focus on Quadrant II activities (important, not urgent) to improve the team’s leadership effectiveness.
Some parting thoughts on alignment
“Because clarity on decision-making is a significant cause of cross-functional challenges,” says Ed, “a formal decision model is helpful because it forces clarity about the role. Most of the debates around a given decision are really centered around who’s responsible.” The RACI Model is useful in defining roles, especially who is responsible versus who is accountable.
The RACI Model (Responsibility Assignment Matrix)
Who is Responsible for executing the decision? (Who is responsible for doing the work?)
Who is Accountable for executing the decision? (Who is accountable for, oversees and approves the work?)
Who is Consulted in the decision? (Who are the subject matter experts who will be consulted with a two-way flow of communication?)
Who needs to be Informed about the decision? (Who is affected and needs to know about the decision?)
There are many departments who touch your brand in meaningful ways to support delivery of the brand promise. The above tools and guidelines, applied together, can help to earn the respect of the various functional players that translates into buy-in and support for your brand. It’s important to give cross-functional counterparts ownership of their roles in delivering the brand promise and to engage with them in the early planning phase of any project. Cross-functional counterparts – while not always responsible for various project tasks – are important project consultants who will provide valuable insights towards delivering the brand promise and should receive direct credit for their important contributions.
What is your experience in becoming an effective brand advocate? Submit a comment below or join the discussion in the LinkedIn group, “Marketing Organizational Leadership.”
Brand Advocacy DO’s
1. DO be authentic and get to know cross-functional leaders personally
2. DO use the 5 E’s to build enthusiasm for the brand
3. DO schedule time to consult with cross-functional leaders at the beginning of every project to build their trust and gain buy-in and support for the brand
4. DO “define what good looks like”, including relevant measures and metrics that will constitute good delivery against the brand promise
5. DO approach all functional groups as equal partners in delivery
6. DO share credit with cross-functional leaders
7. DO be transparent and admit when you’re wrong
8. DO strive for open and honest communication at all times
9. DO leverage the RACI Model for defining roles, especially for identifying who is responsible versus accountable on a project
Brand Advocacy DON’Ts
1. Don’t take all the credit for the team’s work
2. Don’t wait until the last minute to consult cross-functional counterparts for their feedback or support on a project
** To view more articles in this series, click on the “Marketing Organizational Leadership” tag below.