When you hear the brand name of a product, what is it that comes to mind? If you think of something positive, inspiring and generally want to hop online and buy that product to serve a need, then there is a brand manager somewhere out there who has done her job.
Brand managers are charged with ensuring products, product lines and services they are responsible for resonate in a positive way with the target audience. To accomplish this, brand managers must regularly monitor marketing trends in that product line, and keep a close watch on competing products in the marketplace.
Brand managers often work under the supervision of marketing managers or corporate marketing officers. They serve as the point person for the development, implementation and execution of marketing activities and initiatives for that brand.
Marketing IS Branding
When you think about becoming a brand manager, first know that marketing is branding.
To build trust in a brand, it is important to manage the ‘4 P’s’ of marketing:
But there is more, much more. A strong brand build by a good brand manager puts the company in the fantastic position of putting these 4 P’s essentially on autopilot. Consider this: Given the competition in the marketplace today, it is rare that companies have a completely unique product that no other can match. Even Apple can only keep its products unique for a short time before there are copycat products released by competitors.
To build a brand effectively, below are the five things that brand managers must do well. Below you also will find information about the salary range of brand managers as well as branding mistakes that have been made recently by major corporations.
1. They Bridge Gaps Between Creativity and Strategy
Many people describe themselves as being left or right brained. This typically means a person is verbal, analytical, visual or creative, depending upon the situation.
But a strong brand only will emerge when there is the perfect combination of sound strategy (more left brain), and original creativity (more right brain). A great brand manager has the skill to take what the research statistics and data and strategy bullet points say into written and visual ‘music’ that will entice consumers in the desired demographic to choose that product over competitors.
Obviously, a good brand manager must possess a mix of excellent analytical and creative skills to work well in both creative and strategic spaces. The manager must be adept at crafting and supporting the brand strategy with pertinent research data and facts to get buy in on the marketing plan and branding from upper level managers who make the financial decisions.
Next, the brand manager must manage to spark creativity and excitement among the creative talent on the team about the brand message – art directors, graphic and web designers, content writers and social media masters.
Mastering both creative and strategic skills is not something easily mastered in college. More often than not, brand managers only develop these skills through years of work experience with brands.
2. They Ignore the Herd
It is very important for a brand to differentiate itself from the competition. These days, there is so much competition across the spectrum of products and services with all of the options available with e-commerce.
Yet, you will notice that many brands still will follow a herd mentality. This is even more true in mature product and service categories where there is less innovation. Some products have become so similar to one another that consumers may not see major difference between them.
A good brand manager must fight the urge to go with the herd. He will ask himself at the start of the project: How will this effort reinforce the positioning of this brand? Will it help or hurt the brand?
A top brand manager must possess the courage to try a different tact. Innovate rather than copy, focus rather than dilute.
While ignoring the herd is important, it also is important to pay close attention to consumer wants and needs. A classic example of a branding flop where brand managers tried too hard to break away from the pack is the Edsel. In 1955, the Ford Edsel was manufactured in a time when consumers wanted compact cars during an economic downturn. It was the wrong car at the wrong time, and the brand failed after two years.
3. They Put Strategy Before Tactics
As a brand manager, you are sure to be pulled in various directions by various departments and stakeholders who want to put their agenda first. For example, at a sales team meeting, the budget is more important than any brand building strategy. Salespeople are notorious for wanting to push discounts and promotions to build sales. They also often ask for new products, even if this results in brand dilution.
Creative types will pursue their own agendas. Email providers will downplay the importance of marketing with content, while the social media expert with trash print, TV and radio advertising.
The best brand manager is able to turn down initiatives that might fulfill short term needs but cause long term damage to the brand. Getting buy in on your brand strategy from the major decision makers on the project is critical.
An example of tactics that failed because of a bad strategy is Nike when it tried to recover after brand spokesman Tiger Woods got bad PR in 2009 due to having an extramarital affair that made international news.
Nike decided to try a tactic of a YouTube video and commercial where Tiger Woods tried to explain why he did it. It was an unmitigated disaster for Nike. The better thing to do would have been to initiate a new brand strategy immediately: Cutting ties with Woods as soon as possible and using another spokesperson.
4. They Keep It Simple
One of the mega important things to remember about consumers in the modern world is they are information rich and time poor. With the existence of social media, the Internet and smartphones, attention spans are shrinking and brands often have mere seconds to make their best impression. Thus a spare, uncluttered branding message is so important.
When we say keep things simple in terms of branding, this is what the manager must do well:
- Focus on product essentials and discard the rest
- Explain how the product is to be used concisely
- Make it as easy as possible for consumers to find and purchase the product
- Have people accessible to answer questions and solve customer problems
- Be able to explain what the brand stands for quickly
The good brand manager knows that less is more and simple is always better. Top brand managers make simplicity the bottom line in every marketing effort.
A good example of a brand marketing flop that did not keep things simple was a misbegotten effort in 1982 to have Colgate sell frozen, ready to eat meals. It is hard to understand how a brand manager would have greenlighted an effort for a toothpaste brand (mint flavored) to be used to sell frozen foods. The attempt was made and failed within months. Cosmopolitan also attempted to sell yogurt in the late 90s, and this brand-diluting product also failed, unsurprisingly.
5. They Have an Aesthetic Eye
Here’s the thing about design: Good design costs just as much as bad design. Marketing materials and product packaging that are unique, consistent and attractive can be the difference between success and failure.
Brand managers remember that human beings are visual by nature. People will read facts and bullet points about a product, but visual appeal is massively important in the purchase decision. Good creative design in the packaging and presentation inspires trust, and is related to quality and functionality.
A good brand manager uses creativity and consistency in applying it to all parts of the brand – packing, advertising, point of sale, and customer service.
Brand Manager Salary Outlook
Good brand managers are in demand these days because they make profits for their company. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states demand in this field will rise by 10% through 2026. That is why they are paid well.
According to Glassdoor.com, the average base pay for brand managers is $96,100. Successful brand managers are also paid bonuses, with the average annual bonus at $11,600.
Of course, different companies pay different salaries for brand managers. Here are some average salaries for top US companies for brand managers:
- Proctor and Gamble: $137,400
- Kraft Heinz Company: $127,600
- Ralph Lauren: $64,100
- Clorox Company: $120,300
- Kimberly Clark: $119,000
- Starbucks: $120,300
- Nestle Purina: $120,500
- MillerCoors: $121,500
- PepsiCo: $119,800
- Rubbermaid: $89,900
- Dell: $105,000
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- What Is the Role of a Brand Manager? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thebrandingjournal.com/2016/08/brand-manager-job-description-role/
- Brand Flops – 5 Lessons Brand Managers Can Learn. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.personadesign.ie/brand-flops-5-lessons-brand-managers-can-learn-epic-brand-failures/