Has your boss started asking you questions that make you feel uncomfortable? Like “What is a tweet?” and “Where does a brand come from?”

If so, it’s probably time to have “the talk.”

You’re ready for this. Yes, you were hired to manage marketing, but you know you need to build a brand.

To ratchet up the pressure, the marketing director is often suddenly seen in a whole new light — as responsible for saving the business! Minus one necessary element — the founders’ buy-in on what needs to be done to make this happen. We know firsthand how frustrating it is to be all tactics and no strategy, to be a marketing order taker for the latest shiny idea, and to feel the heat when a haphazard initiative goes sideways.

As modern-minded marketing directors, you do understand the importance of building a strong brand — not just extinguishing marketing fires. You just want the authority to be strategic not just tactical. You only need to be empowered by your bosses to do so, but may not know how to make a case for building a brand.


How to bridge this gap?

Here are 5 tips on how to have “the talk” with your boss about owning the brand:

  1. Make it about standards. A values-driven owner will have a set of standards about excellence, perception and reputation. We believe that a brand is a monument to what a leader believes. Rather than try to tell him what needs to be done, show him how elements of his current brand don’t live up to his standards.
  2. Attach to a business initiative. To be respected as strategic thinkers, marketing directors need to align all marketing activities with the overall business strategy. For example, if a strategic objective is to grow a new line of business with younger consumers, the marketing team should be researching data, providing messaging and leading all outbound activities related to this strategy. During the talk, be sure to make the connection between your activities and the bottom line result.
  3. Show them hard data. While she might find it mildly amusing to hear you wax philosophical about the latest marketing and branding trends, she’s going to react once she sees facts. One of the simplest ways to do this is a survey of customers and employees. In this survey, look for qualitative data about how they feel about the brand. For example, one great question to ask is, “What do you love about us?” This converts feelings and perceptions to data to make your case.
  4. Show them competitors. Careful with this one, friends. It can quickly turn from a pile of pine needles to a forest fire! The key is ask him what he likes about what a competitor is doing, then do your research on how you envision your brand executing a similar idea in a much better way. In particular, show how your competitors are bridging their past with their future, how other owners are using new tools to generate leads and how your industry peers are being empowered
  5. Appeal to their ego. A little psychological jujitsu comes in handy now and again. In this case, you are making an appeal to their sensitivity about sustaining their business, building their legacy as a leader and fulfilling their role in your development. It’s all about them. You want their brand to be bad-ass, because they are bad asses. They deserve to be famous. Ask that they anoint you the brand crusader and declare your readiness for battle.

Even with these tips, we know how hard these convos can be. So come prepared, take three deep breaths before entering and say a prayer. And know, when boss man says “yes,” the real work (and fun) begins. Now, you’ll have the freedom to build your own leadership and bad-ass marketing skills.

Written by Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster

Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster are cofounders of the intrinsic branding practice known as Root + River. Together with their defiantly different clients, they uncover then articulate the foundational elements of the brand. Then, they provide brand strategy and brand coaching as the brand is rolled out internally and externally. Obsessive about language and differentiation, Emily + Justin are also authors and speakers. Follow @rootandriver @fosterthinking and @emilyatlarge.

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