During a job interview, the chairman asked for my opinion on the company’s website. I answered honestly — it needed major work.
I got the job.
Company leaders, ask yourself this simple question: Do you want to risk a mediocre market position, or worse, a major brand crisis (especially in the age of social media), or do you want to listen when your marketing leader tells you a simple “no”?
It should be the latter and here’s why.
Hiring a marketing “yes” person may seem like an easy decision, but it won’t protect the brand’s image. An experienced marketer will know their target audience inside and out — likes, preferences, dislikes, associations, social media habits and more. A marketing director should know even the exact words to use with your target audience(s), based on extensive buyer persona research.
Marketers are trained to know what methods work well and how to appropriately test new campaign ideas with key performance indicators (KPIs) for tracking. In other words, the right person managing your company’s brand knows what they’re doing.
Maintaining brand consistency and relevance is how your company will stay top of mind to your consumers over competitors. And your chief marketing officer is responsible for that, even if it means telling you “no” or giving an honest answer about the current state of the company’s digital, social media or traditional communication efforts. Your marketing director is the ultimate gatekeeper of your brand and should be trusted. Not every idea or project gets through.
Sometimes it’s best to say ‘no.’
An information technology company that sells cybersecurity services and cloud management for small businesses decides to purchase gifts for clients. A sales director selects a journal with a logo and a retractable pen. Does a company positioning itself as a leader in emerging technological advancements need to give away a paper-filled journal and a pen for handwritten notes? No. This idea is off-brand and diminishes its position of knowledge of the industry’s trends. The IT company’s marketer should say “no,” and for good reason, followed up with ideas for digital or computer accessories.
A CEO comes back from a vacation with his family, smitten by the popular social app Snapchat, as recently explained by his teenager, and he asks the marketing department to place the company on the platform immediately. However, the company’s target market is baby boomers, and a strategy for Snapchat will fall short since the app is most popular among teenagers. A strategic marketer should communicate the complications of this initiative, as difficult as it may be coming directly from the CEO.
But company leaders must be ready to accept it.
Business leaders must acknowledge when the lead marketer is saying “no” for good reason, not due to operational or budgetary barriers. If a company’s president asks the marketing department to change up the business’s branded colors from sky blue to deep maroon on a whim, the marketing leader should have the platform to educate the president on the dramatic effects of changing brand color in relation to consumer recognition. Saying “No, we will lose awareness among our clients” is more powerful than “No, I don’t like maroon.” And an employee that willingly changes a brand’s color without proper research or a well-planned rebranding campaign is pleasing the boss for risk of consumer disassociation.
Marketing is not always an exact science. Creative teams get the pleasure of testing concepts, designs, copy, subject lines and more, all to see which magical combination rewards with more shares, clicks, leads and sales. A company’s marketing team should be stacked with references to what type of campaigns resonate with audiences the most. While a business owner may not prefer emojis in subject lines, the company’s largest audience segment may open them significantly more often. Therefore, emojis it is.
Test a marketing candidate’s ability to say ‘no.’
How do you know if your marketer is a “yes” person or not? Easy — ask them. If your company is interviewing for a new marketing leader, bring in old or current campaign visuals and ask for their opinion. Questioning a skilled marketer to proofread a future blog post drafted by the president, littered with a variety of edits needed, also gives insight to the editorial approach a branding professional will take.
Most importantly, create a culture of open and honest dialog. Your company needs a marketing leader for a reason. Give them space to easily express concerns or discuss changes in critical branding, positioning and go-to-market strategy decisions to ensure the best approach is being processed.
If a creative professional can clearly explain why an off-brand marketing suggestion from the boss won’t perform well, they will be protecting your image to the fullest. Establishing open and honest communications will foster trust, collaboration and teamwork with your senior marketing leader, resulting in creative freedom to design compelling campaigns.