Five Things That Brilliant Brand Managers Do
Brand Managers understand that marketing equals branding
Building a brand is about building trust, and managing a brand’s reputation is the key to successful brand management. Although some doubt this, the fact is that brand management is becoming much more important than just managing the classic 4 P’s of marketing (product, placement, price, and promotion). Having a strong brand offers a business the luxury of putting the classic 4P’s of marketing on autopilot.
Let’s take products, for example. Gone are the days when a company had a unique product no competitor could match. Even the famously secretive Apple only manages to preserve the uniqueness of its products for a few weeks before copycats start emerging and Apple has to start refining their products and software further.
Distribution has also become more accessible, in large part due to the explosion of e-commerce. Established e-retailers such as Amazon provide any business (regardless of size) with the opportunity to sell products on their platform.
The cost of starting an online store has also decreased dramatically. E-commerce platforms such as eBay offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell online for a small outlay and enable them to have a virtual shop up and running in hours.
Procter & Gamble, the company that defined the term ‘Brand Management’ were among the first to realise that modern marketing narrows down to branding. Owning the generic category words in the mind of consumers is becoming the ultimate strategic goal.
Regardless of the industry, the fact remains that a Brand Manager is only successful if his or her brand is one of top sellers in its category and is profitable.
So if it’s not the product or the service, what does make the difference? Well the truth is of course you need to offer a good service or product, but these can only stand out and be unique if there is a strong brand aligned with them. And to ensure the benefits of a strong brand, you need to have a brilliant Brand Manager.
So, what makes a brilliant Brand Manager? Below are five factors that separate effective Brand Managers from not so good ones.
1. They bridge the gap between strategy and creativity
People often describe themselves as left or right-brained, in other words they feel they are either analytical and verbal, or creative and visual.
A strong brand emerges as a combination of sound strategy (left brain) and unique creativity (right brain). A good Brand Manager has the ability to transform the research numbers and strategic bullet points into visual and written signals that will entice people to choose the brand over competition.
A Brand Manager, worth their salt, also has strong analytical and creative skills. He or she must be able to craft and support the brand strategy with research data and facts to obtain management buy-in.
Then, in a 180-degree turn, they have to be able to spark excitement and creativity among graphic and web designers, art directors, and social media specialists, making sure the brand message is communicated effectively.
Unfortunately, there are still not that many options to acquire these skills through formal education. Most Brand Managers have mastered them through work experience.
2. They don’t follow the herd
The need for brand differentiation is critical, due to increased competition and the multitude of choices instantly available to consumers.
Yet it is still the case that many organisations in most categories follow the herd mentality. This is especially true in mature categories where there is very little or no innovation. The reason for this is simple, in most organisations the senior management are risk adverse, so do the opposite of what branding does best, conform to their competition. The result of this is that many products have become similar offering little choices so the consumers fail to see any meaningful differences between brands.
Good brand managers ask themselves at the start of each and every project, “Will this initiative reinforce my brand positioning? Will it enhance our uniqueness? Will it help or damage my brand?” They have the ability to pull the brand out of the commoditisation trap.
An effective brand manager has the courage to stand up to the naysayers and try something different through innovation rather than copying, focus rather than dilution, and meaningfulness rather than price discounts.
3. They consider strategy before tactics
Brand Managers are often pulled in many different directions by other departments and senior management, each pursuing their own agenda.
At a sales team meeting for instance, the monthly budget always seems more important than strategic brand-building initiatives. Salespeople will always push for short-term promotions and price discounts. Moreover, they will ask for a new product, “something new to talk about,” even if those new additions end up diluting the brand. Creative partners also pursue their own interest.
4. They put simplicity first
Today people are information-rich and time-poor. People’s attention spans are shrinking, and brands only have a few seconds to make a good impression. That’s why uncluttering the brand message is of utmost importance.
Simplicity does not only apply to communication. Simplicity means…
- Focusing on the essentials and leaving the rest out
- Explaining how to use a product clearly and concisely
- Making it easy for customers to find and buy your product
- Being accessible to ask questions and solve customer issues
- Being capable of explaining what your brand stands for quickly
Less is more. Simple is better. Successful Brand Managers pursue simplicity in every brand endeavour.
5. They have an eye for aesthetics
Good design costs a lot less than bad design. We see it all around us, examples of bad design that were budget lead rather than objective led. Yet it’s design that often makes the difference to positioning and brand value. Product packaging and marketing materials that are well designed (not just pretty pictures but in keeping with the brand strategy) have a consistent, attractive, and unique look can make a huge difference between success and failure.
We are visual creatures. We do not buy based on facts and bullet points but on what is visually appealing to us. Brilliant creative inspires trust and is often associated with superior quality and functionality.
Brilliant brand managers can elevate creativity and consistency in applying it at all brand touch-points, be it packaging, POS, advertising, and the after-sale experience.
These fundamental skills will allow brand managers to be successful, regardless of the product category, geographical location, or industry. Mastering these skills requires constant education as well as the courage to step out of your comfort zone, and think BRAND.