What makes a winning brand team?

Post by Diego Kerner, Managing Partner for Latin America.

After overcoming the frustration of witnessing Argentina to lose its 3rd football final in a row (2nd time against Chile!), I heard a journalist say that “Chile won the Copa America due to its winning attitude”, and that phrase made me think about how important is also for Brand Teams to develop a winning mindset to deliver and hence grow their brands and businesses.

Our job as brand coaches involves interacting closely with local, regional and global brand teams, helping them to develop strategies and ideas as well as focusing them behind these initiatives. But are good strategies and ideas enough for success? Well, in my perspective and after coaching hundreds of brand teams over more than 10 years I’d say “no”. Great ideas need to be accompanied by what good’ ol Rocky called the “eye of the tiger”: a winning mindset made of humble self confidence in the team, in the strategy, in the initiatives and in the ability to make them happen. This winning attitude will propel the team to persuade senior management to approve the strategy and its required investment, to enthuse the whole organization and to overcome the multiple roadblocks that occur in any brand strategy or innovation project.

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So, let me share with you some dimensions that make a “winning attitude” for brand teams:

  • Winning Teams demand Winning Leaders

Winning attitude has to come from the top, and it doesn’t require shouting or macho-style showing off with grandiloquent gestures. It requires leading by example, walking the talk, setting a clear agenda and direction, establishing priorities and making though calls when needed.

A winning leader has the rare ability to make team participants feel they have no limits, to align the team behind ambitious goals, to motivate them to be their possible best versions and to put the extra effort quota needed in challenging circumstances.

The famous re-launch of Johnnie Walker “Keep walking” is a clear example of how to align, motivate, motivate a global team behind a single and powerful idea and re-ignite a brand that went from losing business for years to doublé digit growth

  • Self confidence when facing adversity

As we all know s*&##t happens anytime, anywhere…it can be research that informs us our ideas were not attractive or relevant as we expected or a stakeholder not supporting our project, or issues with Operations which compromise the product we planned to launch.

The difference with winning teams is that when facing bumps they regroup, learn, adjust and keep going, fuelled by the belief in themselves as a team and their ability to be resilient and move forward.

An example of this resilience in action comes from one of my favourite brand heroes Andrés Gonzalez Cuevas founder of Virtual Markets. Andrés and his team are turning traditional channels in Mexico upside down, having to persuade investors, mom & pop store owners, Government officials and FMCG companies about the benefits of the project. It has taken years and getting round many roadblocks, but not the team are achieving success.

  • Ruthless focus

To win you need focus, as resources, time and energy are always limited. Although it may sound obvious, this is one of the dimensions on which many Brand Teams fail, by not identifying what is most important and/or for overestimating what can be achieved. You can see this in the film “Jobs”, where Steve Jobs is shown dumping initiatives he considered to be out of scope. Winning teams know how to focus like this on what is critical and let go what is not.

  • Sense of Purpose

Every team has better chances to win if its participants have a clear “why?”, a purpose which provide meaning for what they are doing. Purpose inspires humans to get the best out of us, to go the extra mile.

Brands’ purpose can be a fantastic source of inspiration to align and ignite Teams. Jim Stengel –ex P&G CMO- tells in “Grow” how he led Pampers successful re-launch in the lat 90’s guided by a new brand purpose around becoming “moms partner in every stage of their babies´and toddlers´healthy, happy development”. Similarly, if you work at Natura, you will definitely get a real sense you are helping people to look more beautiful while at the same time looking after the planet

  • Hunger to grow

Winning teams are hungry to grow and to leave their mark in what they do. We have a nice exercise to test a team’s” hunger” in brandgym workshops, which is asking them about the legacy they would like to leave in the brand/business. This helps show whether we need to further feed self confidence and ambition in a brand team, or if we can move on to growth strategies and plans.

In summary, winning ideas/strategies are not enough for a Brand Team to deliver. A winning attitude is also crucial to achieve brand/business goals. A winning attitude is usually made out of winning leaders, resilience and self confidence to overcome roadblocks, ruthless focus an inspiring purpose and tons of hunger to grow.

If in doubt, go and see again the last 45mins of Rocky IV!

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