At every level of your marketing career, you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers and VPs fail when they don’t know what to do. On a classic marketing team, the four key roles are Assistant Brand Manager up to Brand Manager then up to Marketing Director and on to the VP/CMO role.
“At what job level will my brand job finally be 100% strategy?”
That’s a question I had from someone who was going into their first marketing role. I thought about it for a minute, and said: “Well, never.”
On a classic brand management team, there are four key levels:
- Assistant Brand Manager
- Brand Manager
- Marketing Director
- VP Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
In this post, I will go through what it takes to be successful at each level. And, we provide link to a game plan for how to move up through each level of marketing, starting at the entry-level Assistant Brand Manager up to the Brand Manager who delivers all activities on behalf the brand. The Marketing Director level looks after a core business unit team, and the Vice President or CMO oversees the entire marketing team.
For each role, our game plan has five factors of success, which your boss will need to see in the person before they are willing to promote them to the next level. The list is cumulative, in that once you can demonstrate one of the success factors, you will need to keep improving on that skill at every level. Early on, it is all about trying and repeating every new task. As you move up, you need to keep working on tweaking, improving, and perfecting.
Breaking down the marketing career by level
Assistant Brand Manager
In simple terms, the entry-level Assistant Brand Manager (ABM) role is about doing, analyzing, and sending signals that you have leadership skills for the future. What you learn in the ABM role provides a foundation and discipline you will use throughout your career, as you learn to turn data into analytical stories, take action before being asked, learn to make it happen through others, speak out to challenge the strategy and be accountable for your work. The role can feel frustrating, as the amount of learning may diminish your creative instincts, but you must fight through the struggle.
Success at the assistant brand manager level:
- Turn data into analytical stories
- Take action before being asked
- Make it happen through others
- Speak out to challenge the strategy
- Be accountable for your work
To read our game plan for how to be successful as an Assistant Brand Manager, click:
With the Brand Manager level, you still have to execute, but with your first direct report, you now take on your first opportunity as a manager. The success factors for brand managers include learning to take ownership of your brand, provide the strategic direction, continue to work the system, learn to handle pressure, and get the most out of your direct report.
Success at the brand manager level:
- Take ownership of your brand
- Provide the strategic direction
- Work the system
- Handle the pressure
- Get the most of your direct report
To read our game plan for how to be successful at the Brand Manager level, click:
Beloved Brands is the playbook to keep at your fingertips
Our readers tell us they reach for Beloved Brands a few times each week as a reference toolkit to help them with the day-to-day management of their brand. Over 90% of our Amazon reviews receive five-star ratings, and Beloved Brands has spent numerous weeks as a #1 bestseller in brand management
When you get to the Marketing Director role, it becomes more about managing and leading than it does about doing. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness of your team and let your best players do their absolute best. Let your team execute. Your role is to oversee and challenge but to let them run their brand. The priorities shift from marketing skills into becoming a consistent leader. Your consistency starts with learning how to set a consistently high standard for your team. You need to become predictable and consistent, a consistent people leader, a consistent voice to your sales team, and you consistently deliver great work and strong results.
Success at the marketing director level:
- Set a consistently high standard for your team
- Behave predictably and consistently
- Be a consistent people leader
- Show up as the consistent voice to your sales team
- Consistently deliver great work and strong results
To read our game plan how to be successful at the Marketing Director level, click:
Explore our Brand Management Mini MBA certificate program
Our Brand Management Mini MBA is a virtual brand training certificate program designed for ambitious marketers in the real world. We provide 36 video lessons to help you learn about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, advertising decisions, and marketing analytics.
VP / CMO
As you move up to the Vice President of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), you will notice the shift you must make from marketing to people. You still manage your direct reports, but you will add the leadership of a larger marketing team. Essentially, you will be the spokesperson for marketing to every function and every agency. Most importantly, you need to realize the smarter your people, the better the work they produce—and the better results you all achieve. Challenge the marketing execution, with oversight, but let your team execute.
The best VPs and CMOs realize they never do it alone. Everything you do is through the greatness of other people. Your people come first. Bring a vision to the role, put the spotlight on your team, be an approachable leader, and run the process and the numbers to ensure your people can focus on delivering what needs to happen. Keep your team focused, challenged, and inspired. Invest in your people and you will see the difference.
Success at the VP / CMO level:
- Your people come first
- Bring a vision to the role
- Put the spotlight on your team
- Be an approachable leader
- Run the process and the numbers
To read our game plan for how to be a success at the VP/CMO level, click:
Your focus must change as you move up
I remember a new marketer once asked me, “At what point will my job be 100% strategy?” I thought about it for a second, and said, “Never!”
While the entry-level role is highly focused on execution, you will even learn elements of strategy and leadership while executing. The brand manager level adds in more management and increased leadership, but the still balanced with execution. At the director level, you begin to execute through others. And, at the VP and CMO level, the job shifts to becoming 60% about people, evenly split with management and leadership.
The best brand leaders know how to think, define, plan, execute, and analyze
To achieve your full potential in your career, the best brand leaders are able to think strategically, define their brand positioning, and build a brand plan that everyone can follow. The best brand leaders inspire creative marketing execution that drives the brand’s growth and be able to analyze the business’s performance.
At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to make smarter brand leaders so they will drive more growth on their brands
Learn to slow down by using our strategic thinking tools that force you to uncover the most challenging questions on your brand. Your brand strategy must be driven by the unique situation and circumstances related to your brand’s core strength, consumer relationship, competitive landscape, and business situation.
You need to find the winning space, that is motivating to consumers and ownable for your brand. Our brand positioning process starts with the consumer, layering in their needs, enemies and insights. Build your brand positioning through a cluster of functional and emotional consumer benefits. Summarize with a brand idea that sets up your brand to win.
We start by teaching how to take the most essential elements of the brand positioning and planning work into writing an inspiring brief. And, we show how to make smart and creative decisions that finds the outstanding marketing execution with your creative advertising and media choices. We demonstrate the best ways to give feedback and use a case study to simulate
We look at the analytical sources available with 60 analytical questions to dig in on your brand. Then, we demonstrate the logic of how to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. We show how to lay out the ideal analytical slide and ideal analytical presentation.
Beloved Brands is the playbook to keep at your fingertips
Our readers tell us they reach for Beloved Brands a few times each week as a reference toolkit to help them with the day-to-day management of their brand.
- To start, we will challenge you with questions that get you to think differently about your brand strategy.
- Then, we take you through our process for defining your brand positioning. We will open your mind to new possibilities for how you see you can differentiate your brand. And, we use examples of brand positioning statements to bring the learning to life.
- Next, we will show you how to write a brand plan that everyone can follow. Make sure all stakeholders know precisely how they can contribute to your brand’s success.
- Moreover, we will show you how to run the creative execution process, show you how to write an inspiring brief, and make decisions to find both smart and breakthrough work.
- Finally, you will learn new methods to analyze the performance of your brand with a deep-dive business review.
Above all, over 90% of our Amazon reviews receive five-star ratings, and Beloved Brands has spent numerous weeks as a #1 bestseller in brand management.
Our Brand Management Mini MBA is a virtual brand training certificate program designed for ambitious marketers in the real world. Upon completion, you will earn a certificate that will solidify your resume and LinkedIn profile.
- Learn about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, advertising decisions, and marketing analytics. We provide 36 training videos that allow you to learn at your own pace, whether you want to complete them in one week or one year.
- We provide reading from our bestselling Beloved Brands playbook, a Brand Management workbook to try out each of the exercises, and a download of our Brand Toolkit with all the PowerPoint slides you can use for your presentations.
- Learn from Graham Robertson, a former VP of Marketing, who brings a wealth of real-world brand management experience from Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Coke, and Pfizer. For over a decade, Graham has been a brand advisor to the NFL Players Association, Jack Links, Shell, Reebok, Honda, The Mayo Clinic, Miller beer, and Pfizer.