I always wanted to work in Brand Management. I was lucky to have a great career.
On my application for business school over 20 years ago, I outlined my dreams for a career in Brand Management. I was lucky to have fulfilled a career in brand management, going from Assistant Brand Manager all the way up to VP Marketing–leading some the most beloved brands in the world at companies like Johnson and Johnson, General Mills and Coke. Back then, Brand Management was the be-all-and-end-all job every marketer wanted. And it still should be. But lately, there are a lot of strange things happening to brand management the past decade. Companies are re-structuring their marketing teams around do-er type roles, rather than ownership roles. Brand Management is supposed to be about ownership. Those outside of the profession who have no experience in brand management (consultants, strategists, agencies) keep telling those in the brand management profession how it should be done. I find myself in a rare position when I now look at my new peer group of Brand Coaches and rarely do I see people with brand management experience. I’m getting tired of people trashing brand management, especially when they’ve never worked in the profession.
I keep hearing that brand and marketing are NOT the same thing. And that’s just plain wrong.
Be careful of people who say this. They’ve probably never run a brand before. They are likely “brand strategists” who just want to work on the strategy and nothing else. They are intellects with big words that don’t want to get their hands dirty actually running the business. They are trying to diminish “marketing” as just activities. I’ve even heard one guy slow down on the word “marrrr-ket-ing” as though it was for simpletons, and that brand strategy is far more than “just activities”. If you haven’t done the job, stop telling those in the job how to do it. Who really cares what we call it. In fact, separating brand strategy and marketing does more harm than good.
Stop debating words: Brand Management is about running everything on your branded business.
Brand Management leads the strategic brand planning process. You have to create a 5-year brand strategy road map that lays out the brand vision, purpose, brand big idea, strategic pillars for everyone to follow and then the 1-year brand plan that focuses everyone on brand vision, purpose, goals, strategies and tactics. Here’s more information on writing a brand plan for your business: How to write a brand plan Strategy is not just about blue sky ideas, but real choices that you have to make that focus your brand, deciding where you will play, how you will win and how you will allocate your limited resources to win in the market.
Brand Management allocates the resources–people, partners, financials and time. Brand management is responsible for delivering the profit to the organization, managing the P&L statement with responsibility for revenue, margins, spending. There are 8 specific areas that brand management can impact profits: pricing levels, trading the consumer up or down, product costs, marketing costs, stealing other users, getting current users to use more, entering new categories and creating new uses for your brand. Next time a brand strategist approaches you about strategy, show them your P&L and ask them how they’ll drive more profit for your brand. If you can’t run a P&L statement, you shouldn’t be in brand management. Here’s more on how to manage the profitability of your brand: 8 ways to drive profit
Brand Management creates and owns the brand positioning that serves to build your brand’s reputation in the minds and hearts of your consumers. Positioning is not just the stuff you put in the creative brief for the latest advertising campaign. It’s an idea that big enough to drive every part of the brand and everyone in the organization–including every outside agency, new product development, operations and retail execution teams. The idea should be the foundation and internal beacon for the culture of the brand. Doing the work on brand positioning forces you to make focused choices against who you will target, what is the main benefit you will stand behind, what reason to believe makes the most sense and get the consumers to think, feel or act differently about your brand so that you can manage your brand’s reputation. To read more on creating a brand positioning, click on this link: How to write a brand positioning statement
Brand Management runs the day-to-day operations of the brand and makes the final decision on everything connected to that brand. Delegate but never abdicate. When you are working well, you never do anything but decide. You should be able to delegate everything to your team of experts. Control the strategy and give freedom on execution. The role of brand management is to say “yes”, “no” or “make it better” on every possible decision on the brand, but never say “let’s do it this way”. Be leery of strategists or agencies who tell you that they can own your brand strategy for you. But be equally leery of those experts who ask how you want to execute. You’re a generalist, not an expert. When you master the art of asking challenging questions of your team, you will realize that not doing anything actually gives you full power. Give your team your problems but never give them your solutions.
New organization structures are diminishing marketing. In the branded house type organizations, the CMO should have a seat at the board. First, I’m getting tired of hearing that the CEO runs the brand. That’s like saying the CEO is running the new SAP implementation in the IT department. The CEO should be too busy to “run the brand” and is likely paying the CMO a lot of money, so they should earn their keep. To me, this type of statement is usually said by consultants that don’t want to go below the C-Suite. Second, I’m also seeing separate departments for brand, marketing and product management. Brand does high level equity stuff (advertising, website, logo, sponsorship), marketing does launches, quarterly promotional pushes and retail marketing while product runs the innovation pipeline, product claims and runs the P&L. With 3 separate groups all operating independently, there ends up a lack of alignment, constant abdication of responsibility and an inconsistency in the delivery of the brand promise.
Brand Management is a leadership role where you find the future leaders or your organization. In most marketing driven companies, the layers above you starting at the CEO likely all came from brand management. Brand Management at it’s best is a bottom up leadership approach where the brand manager is the most important role in the organization. The CMOs or Directors that merely act as senior-senior-senior brand managers are not doing their jobs in creating future leaders of the organization. I have always demanded that my Brand Managers act like owners and tell me what they wanted to do. The strong leaders thrived and the meek struggled. Brand Management has to have their finger on the pulse of the business, knowing the consumer trends and insights that are changing the dynamic of the brand, the channel shifting going on at the retail level, moves by competitors and what the hot buttons we can push for success. They know the business better than those above them. Let them tell you how to run the brand, don’t you tell them how. Let them come up with the creative solutions and new ideas to take the business to the next level. I’m also seeing the house of brands type organizations structuring their marketing teams around Consumer Brand Managers, Innovation Brand Managers and Trade Marketing Brand Managers. That really just means that the Director is the de facto Super-Duper Brand Manager. That may work in the day-to-day but it’s not serving to develop future generalists brand leaders who might come up through one of the 3 specific areas and completely lack enough experience in those other areas.
Brand Management means running the business. It means leading, challenging, influencing, thinking, deciding and executing.
To read more about Brand Management, follow this Powerpoint presentation on running your career in brand management.
Also, if you’re interesting in training programs for brand management, feel free to contact us to learn about our one day or three day boot camps for brand leaders. Here’s more information.
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