There’s no point in denying the obvious, being a brand manager is difficult. You’re either trying to convince people why your initiatives are working or defending the very existence of your job — and, over time, it can become hard to deal with the negative feedback.
Of course, every role has its fair share of negative feedback to work through. However, brand managers do seem to get a bit more than their colleagues. When’s the last time someone told the Head of Finance their job was useless?
For this first edition of our #WorkAdvice series, we'll take a look at how brand managers can constructively and proactively deal with negative feedback — whether it’s from closed-minded colleagues or supervisors who won’t allow you to grow.
Plus, we’ll provide some tips on how you can turn negative feedback into positive outcomes for everyone. Let’s dive in!
The Different Kinds of Negative Feedback You’ll Encounter
When it comes to getting negative feedback as a brand manager, there are three distinct types you’ll usually have to deal with.
Usually, you’ll encounter:
1. The Colleague Who “Just Doesn’t Get It”
Every brand manager has at least one colleague who will openly tell them they don’t understand the importance of branding — or, even worse, they think branding is a waste of time and money.
Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, when their opinion starts to erode confidence in your job and campaigns, you need to do something about it. We’ll cover how to deal with this kind of colleague later on.
2. The Boss Who Only Wants to See Conversions
As a brand manager, it’s basically your number one job to explain brand awareness to others — what it is, why it matters, and how difficult it can be to measure.
For many people, it can be a hard concept to fully grasp — especially if they come from a conversion-focused background. It’s then your duty to educate them on why branding (in all its forms) matters.
Pro Tip: Dealing with this type of negative feedback can usually be solved with some good, ol’ brand tracking data.
3. The Colleague Who Won’t Stick to Brand Guidelines
Creating brand guidelines is a labor of love — you put so much time, effort, and creativity into making your guidelines perfect, it can be quite upsetting when someone continuously disregards them.
Be it via social media, chats with customers, or outreach emails — sticking to brand guidelines is vital. One of the most important aspects of maintaining a strong brand is to provide consistency at all touchpoints.
Therefore, you’ll need to find a way to express the importance of this concept to your colleagues and make sure they’re on board.
You will, of course, deal with other kinds of colleagues and types of negative feedback. However, as the three most common, we’ll discuss below how to deal with each one in a mature, professional manner.
Methods for Dealing With Each Type of Negative Feedback
It’s no secret that dealing with negative feedback isn’t a walk in the park. It stings — often on a professional and personal level. But you can’t let it get the best of you.
Here, we’ll discuss some situations where, as a brand manager, you’ve received negative feedback from one of the above personas. We’ll then cover how to deal with it and turn it into a positive.
Situation 1: “Branding Is A Waste of Time”
Let’s consider the following scenario: You’re the brand manager of a mid-sized start-up that sells pre-potted plants, called “Botanica”.
Your position is relatively new, as Botanica only recently became big enough to hire you as a full-time brand manager. Therefore, you’re at a bit of a disadvantage, as no one has yet focused solely on branding and brand campaigns.
Because of this, you’ve already had a few colleagues express their skepticism about whether or not branding is even important. After all, they’ve made it this far without “worrying about all that fluff”.
While you could and should sit down individually with any colleague who needs to learn more about the importance of branding, another great idea to combat any future issues and turn this experience into a positive for everyone would be to set up a company-wide “Branding Workshop”.
In this workshop, you can educate your coworkers on the basics of branding, why it’s necessary to grow a company, and the ways in which it will benefit every department.
You can also take the negative feedback that you’ve already received and address it directly. While you may not have the stats you need to prove your role’s importance from this job yet, feel free to use examples from previous jobs.
At the end of the day, people don’t value what they don’t understand. By educating your coworkers on why branding matters, you open the door to more people becoming invested in promoting your brand. After all, when people feel heard and that their opinions matter, they’re far more likely to be on board.
Situation 2: “Show Me the Conversions”
While many would think that those in positions of power would understand how branding works, it’s not always the case.
Some supervisors come from more old-school backgrounds or have only ever worked in performance marketing. If that’s the case, it may be difficult for them to pivot their focus.
Let’s consider the following scenario: You’re the brand manager at a company that sells high-end light fixtures, called “Refract”.
Last month, your boss of two years left and was replaced by an old-school performance marketing-focused type. In an effort to familiarize himself with each team member and their role, he has asked everyone to prepare a presentation about their channel’s performance over the last four quarters.
After you finish up your presentation, where you highlight some impressively successful brand awareness campaigns and social media growth, your new boss says: “That’s all well and good, but where are the conversions?”
In this situation, it can be difficult not to get too frustrated — as you spent the last 30 minutes explaining why your latest campaigns were geared toward important KPIs like brand awareness and not brand usage. However, all you can do is remain calm and provide data.
And, as brand managers often struggle to show the effectiveness of their methods, here’s where your brand tracking data will come in very handy.
With the ability to show your new boss the data he needs to see — from stats on brand performance to brand associations — you can prove that while you may not be raking in conversions, you’re doing important work for the overall brand funnel.
After all, before you can become a high-converting machine, you have to become a trusted household name. That’s where branding comes in.
And the positive spin you can take? Whether they end up supporting you or not, you’ve shared important, cutting-edge methods with your supervisor — and for that, you should feel good.
Situation Three: “That’s Now How I Talk”
To illustrate how this issue might play out, let’s pretend you’re the brand manager of a company that sells custom-made cabinets, called “MyCabinet”.
In an effort to improve your brand image and bring consistency to your brand perception, you’ve undergone the hard work of creating detailed brand guidelines. Most everyone who you’ve spoken to has been excited to use them — however, after a few weeks, you get a message from the Head of Customer Success.
She has noticed that one of her Customer Success Representatives hasn’t been sticking to the guidelines. While the rep is a good employee and a hard worker, she’s been using the wrong tone and diction in her communications — generally, giving the wrong impression to customers.
When asked why this is, the rep responded: “These guidelines suppress my creativity and make it hard to connect with customers. I just want to talk like me.”
While you understand her situation and you are willing to take this negative feedback on board, you have to make it known that — whether or not your brand guidelines feel “natural” to them — they need to give them a real chance.
Of course, there may be aspects of your guidelines that could use refinement, and you’ll keep their feedback in mind when the time comes. But that doesn’t mean colleagues can disregard the brand guidelines because they don’t like them.
Still — it’s good to try and find the positive in all this. Because of this negative feedback, you were able to foster a closer relationship with the Head of Customer Success and had the chance to explain why your brand guidelines will make a positive change.
Our Top Tips for Brand Managers
As you can see, dealing with situations that involve negative feedback are often quite tricky. While you want to make sure everyone feels comfortable and heard, you need to know where the line is — after all, you were hired for a reason: you know your stuff.
So, when dealing with similar situations as previously discussed, keep these tips in mind.
1. Be Open-Minded, Yet Confident
Of course, you don’t want to be so confident that you’re unwilling to listen to anyone else’s opinion. Oftentimes, great ideas come from unexpected places.
However, you do want to maintain a certain level of confidence in your role and your plan. If you took every bit of negative feedback on board, your brand strategy would become unrecognizable quite quickly.
Therefore, you need to strike the right balance between being open to new ideas and feeling steadfast in your own.
2. Use Data Wisely
As a brand manager, data is your best friend. For so long, tracking KPIs like brand awareness and consideration was nearly impossible — meaning proving campaign success was a giant headache.
But with the age of advanced brand tracking software upon us, brand managers can now turn to data to refute negative feedback. A colleague says you’re wasting money on a brand awareness campaign? Show them the uplift in brand awareness and consideration over the last few months.
At the end of the day, having accurate data on how consumers are responding to your brand will provide you with the fuel you need to keep growing.
3. Collaborate Whenever Possible
Though it may not be second nature or easy for a brand manager to collaborate with a coworker from, say, the Product or Finance team, it’s always a good idea to build relationships with different departments.
Plus, the more you work with your colleagues and they become privy to what you do, the more support and buy-in you’ll receive across the company. People want to feel included, and when you take the time to speak with them one-on-one, you can do a lot for branding relations.
While dealing with negative feedback is never fun or easy, it does help us to become better at our jobs. By searching for the positive takeaways in every situation, we can use what once brought us down to lift us up.
And if you want to make your job a whole lot easier, we recommend using advanced brand tracking software to back you up. With heaps of data and insights at your fingertips, you’ll be far more prepared to deal with any negative feedback that comes your way.