Are you a true brand leader?

Latest one of my monthly posts on The Marketing Society blog.

What’s the biggest factor behind most successful marketing
initiatives ? A great product? Brilliant communication? Retailer
backing? All of these are of course important. But research for our
latest book
highlighted one other essential  and over-arching
ingredient: brand leadership. Digging into the successful growth of over
100 brands we found that in most cases a human story emerged about a
leader who aligned, engaged and inspired the whole business.

Three key attributes seemed to separate these brand leaders from the
rest of the pack: passion, pragmatism and persistence.

Screen shot 2010-06-07 at 20.07.23 Passion:

Brand leaders are passionate about the brand and the category they work
on. And their set of talents is aligned with the needs of
the business. To coin the term used by Ken Robinson in his
book of the same name, they are in their “element”. Or as I call it,
they've found their "adventure
playground". They bring a zeal and a determination to
their work that goes beyond the norm. Julian Metcalfe of Pret still
clearly has a passion for his brand, as shown by his personal
involvement in the business. One example is his personal note he
recently had printed on soup cartons, thanking the thanking the lady whose complaint
led to a re-vamp of the product. 

Pragmatism: one key thing that sets brand leaders apart from your average
marketing director is their bottom line focus. They understand
the drivers of value in their chosen business, and how to use marketing
to influence these. We call this “following the money”. And they focus
on driving growth of the brand’s core business, which makes the most
money and gives the brand authority, avoiding the temptation of too many brand
extensions. A good example of this is Steve Langan at
Hiscox insurance. He led the creation of a highly impactful marketing
campaign based on the simple but powerful idea of “Extraordinary cover”,
dramatizing a premium but superior product and executed with a
distinctive black and red identity. This enabled Hiscox to drive a
sustained period of policy growth whilst also driving down cost per

Persistence: The final quality of brand leaders is
recognizing the need for ongoing renovation and revitalization of the
brand, and knowing that success doesn’t come overnight. Rather, creating
growth takes years not months. This is why most brand leaders who have
achieved success have avoided the revolving door syndrome of many
marketing directors. For example, David Arkwright led the creation and
global roll-out of the “Dirt is Good” positioning and campaign on
Persil/Omo. It was a five year journey to transform a patchwork of local
brands and products into a well positioned global business.

In conclusion, its one thing to be a marketing director. Its another to be a true brand leader. Perhaps look at your current role, and see if you're bringing passion to the party. If not, perhaps its time to change brand, category or even company?