The Voice of the Underdog®
New Year’s resolutions are a long-standing tradition – especially for business leaders and CMOs looking to add inspiration and accountability to the coming 12 months. But while most of us make them, according to the time management experts at Franklin Covey, and the vast majority of us won’t make it much past that. It’s January 29th. How are you doing?
Yeah, me too.
But whether you’ve already blown past the resolutions you made on New Year’s Day, or haven’t quite gotten to them yet, it’s not too late. You still have 48 hours until you have to wait until next year and as they say, there’s no time like the present.
To get you started, here are five unbreakable CMO resolutions that could completely transform your brand and performance in the year ahead.
Resolution 1 – Stop Working With Ad Agencies That Don’t Light You Up
At the heart of this resolution lies a question every CMO needs to ask themselves honestly on a regular basis – does my ad agency inspire me with the work they do? I’m not suggesting a kneejerk, one-and-done scenario where one or two pieces came up short and you throw the brand into review. But overall, if you were looking at a trend line, does the work you’re consistently getting from your agency team excite you?
If it does, lean in and keep pushing for fantastic work. Thank your team for their efforts and make sure they know how much you appreciate their work. But if the answer is no, take an unflinching look at where the problem is and ask yourself, is it time to look for another partner? As I’m sure you are well aware, average CMO tenures only last a few years, which means there’s no real time to wait for great work. If your agency is coming up short time and time again, .
Resolution 2 – Seek First To Inspire, Then To Be Inspired
Inspiration is a two-way street. As a CMO, you can both inspire and be inspired by others. If the work around you – from your brand team, from your agency, from your vendors – is just okay, it’s time to figure out why so you can start getting better work. The thing is, that requires looking both inside and out.
The key to keeping this resolution is, first, taking an honest, introspective look at what role you play in the work around you being simply satisfactory. How well are you articulating your vision for the brand? Think about how you communicate to those around you and whether there’s alignment between the intent and the impact of your communication. If you’re doing everything you can to lead your team, motivating them to be great, and giving them clear direction for what you want, then start to look for inspiration coming from the other direction. When you are focused on giving your team purpose, and they are focused on delivering work that lives into that purpose, great things happen.
Resolution 3 – Start Thinking Of Your Brand As An Underdog
In September of last year, when Jeff Bezos became the richest person on the planet with a net worth north of $170 billion, there were dozens of articles written trying to dissect his success, understand his thinking, and identify Amazonian insights that other companies could apply to their efforts. But then in November, Bezos shocked everyone when he told his employees that
On its face, that seems like a ridiculous statement. But in truth, it’s the wisdom of a leader who understands the importance of thinking like the underdog, even when you’re anything but. Underdogs are scrappy. They dig deeper, they work smarter, and they’re resourceful in everything they do. There’s an addictive, driving energy that comes from fighting brands bigger than you and having to stand up and prove you deserve to be in the fight at all. As CMO, that mindset begins with you and it means giving your team the freedom to start each day asking, “What If?” and “Why Not?”
The fastest growing hospitality company in the world (Airbnb) doesn’t own a hotel. The world’s fastest growing transportation company (Uber) doesn’t own a car. The fastest growing exercise brand (Camp Gladiator) doesn’t own a gym. Challenger brands don’t think about how to win the game. They think about how to change it.
Resolution 4 – Look For Inspiration From Unexpected Places
While it’s somewhat cliché to say inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone, it’s also true. The key is looking at every facet of your world through the lens of your brand and being open to insights that can come at any time.
Everyone on your team, be it brand side or agency side, has a unique perspective on the work you do together. Challenge them to surprise you. Challenge them to think of the brand and how it is delivered in completely new ways. Then, challenge yourself to do the same.
When you’re flying on a plane, think — what would your brand look like as an airline and what can you learn from American, Southwest, and Virgin? When you’re walking through the grocery store, ask — what would your brand look like on an end cap, as a deli special, or a window cling in the frozen food section? What inspiration could you draw from the look and layout of a Kroger, or a Central Market, or a roadside fruit stand?
There’s greatness all around you. In what you watch, what you read, what you see, hear and discuss. As steel sharpens steel, use that greatness to make your brand better.
Resolution 5 – Focus On Building A Better Culture
If there’s only one resolution you keep this year, it should be this one: Simply put, the value of creating and cultivating a culture for growth – both for your brand and your people – cannot be overestimated.
Last year, Daniel Coyle tackled this topic in a fantastic book called “” that was easily our favorite business read of the year. In it, Coyle lays out what it takes for an organization to build an extraordinary culture and why it’s so important.
In the introduction, Coyle asks the question we all ask as leaders: “Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts, while others add up to be less?” According to Coyle, the answer is culture or, more specifically, “a set of living relationships working toward a common goal.” Getting that right is the key to unlocking the promise and potential of the team you’ve assembled.
In the book, Coyle lists three requisite skills that every leader must master to create a healthy and thriving culture. The first is “Building Safety” — creating a culture where people feel valued, heard, and able to deliver honesty and truth without fear. The second is “Sharing Vulnerability” — creating a culture with a clear sense of vulnerability from everyone involved, a selflessness that puts team before individual, and an after-the-fact process for discussing performance in an honest, transparent, and sometimes painful way (one driven by questions meant not to assign blame, but to uncover truth). The third skill is “Establishing Purpose” — the fuel that leads to transcendent growth and the realization of your full potential.
Culture is no longer a backdrop. It is a living, breathing element that affects everything you do and every talent you attract. Treat it as such and it will become a game changer for your company.
Here’s to a fantastic 2019! Want to make it the greatest year of your career? Surround yourself with great talent. Inspire them and, in turn, be inspired by them. Think like an underdog and focus on your culture. Keep those promises and you’ll be astounded at where you’re standing 12 months from now.
is the executive creative director at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile, and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog and catch up on any of our more than 300 posts.
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