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What is Brand Management?
As the “jack-of-all-trades” in the business world, brand managers work to safeguard one of the company’s most valuable assets; its brand.
By JR BLASZEK
Most companies have a reputation that they hope to maintain. In the complex and competitive world of business, the value of a brand name can transport a business from mediocre to the upper echelons of the global elite. Think about names like Coca-Cola, Apple, Amazon, Oreo, Marlboro; all of these words probably conjure some type of emotion or vision in your mind. These images are not a matter of chance. They were carefully constructed by brand managers.
Who are brand managers?
Brand managers like to refer to themselves as the “hub of the wheel” in a business organization. If you picture an organization as a wheel of functions (finance, R&D, manufacturing, procurement, etc.), brand managers are the point where all of those functional “spokes” intersect. In a sense, you can think of the brand manager as the CEO of a particular brand. In general, brand managers are:
A unique characteristic of brand managers is that they must be equally talented in analytical capabilities as they are in creative thought processes. Brand managers must use both sides of their brains to be successful. In the business world, it is difficult to find a person who can balance these skills well (which is a reason that good brand managers are so highly coveted).
What do brand managers do?
In most CPG companies, brand managers are responsible for the profit and loss (P&L) of the brand. In order to maximize the ‘P’ and minimize the ‘L’, brand managers control the following aspects of the business:
Product: Whether it be the size, flavor, scent, color, or ingredients, the brand manager is in charge of it. Brand managers must use their partners from consumer insights, and their own keen statistical abilities, to identify consumer trends that can be used to develop the next great product. Once the key insights are identified, the brand manager works closely with R&D to develop those visions.
Price: Brand managers work with their finance counterparts to determine optimal price for their products. The finance department usually provides a variety of scenarios, but it is the brand manager’s job to make to ultimate decision on how to price the product to maximize profitability.
Distribution: Brand managers must control costs by working closely with their supply chain partners. Brand managers work tightly with their retail partners (Wal-Mart, Kroger, etc.) to ensure the best deals for the product’s distribution. If a shipment on a product is delayed, it is the brand manager’s job to ensure that the problem is solved quickly and with the least amount of cost.
Promotions: This is arguably the most fun part of the brand manager’s job. In conjunction with ad agency partners, the brand manager is in charge of advertising and promotions for a product. This means that you are involved with PR events (think product launch in Times Square), TV shoots (working closely with celebrity spokespersons…depending on the brand), and even the random Sunday newspaper coupons (Free Standing Inserts in CPG language) that your brand sends out. At the beginning of each year, the brand manager will be given a budget for their marketing spend…they need to figure out how to maximize their return on this money.
Packaging: This is the final major piece of the puzzle that a brand manager must get right. It is often overlooked, but quite possibly one of the most important factors in a brand manager’s job. When it comes to packaging on the shelf, a design can either make or break a consumers purchasing decision. In this role, the brand manager is working closely with external or internal design teams to create aesthetically pleasing packing that will stand out on the shelves.
As you can see, there are many facets to the work of a brand manager. As you begin your career, you will not be responsible for all of these tasks at once. As you move up, however, you will be expected to manage larger and larger pieces of the puzzle.