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What is Brand Management?
Brands surround us every day, and the business of developing and maintaining brands continues to grow bigger and bigger. Since the emergence of ‘mainstream’ brands in the nineteenth century, there has been a shift from brands existing to represent quality and consistency to them doing that in addition to providing aspirational symbolism to the image-conscious public. Brands create an abstract ‘feeling’ about a product – be that the homely, comforting associations the public may have with brands such as Heinz baked beans and PG Tips, or a feeling of sophisticated luxury as portrayed by high-end car makers, haute-couture brands and such like.
Brand Management is essentially controlling the various aspects of the marketing mix in order to curate the ‘feeling’ that the brand engenders in the marketplace. This will involve ensuring the product itself meets with the brand guidelines, the price is right, and the channels through which it is sold are relevant and it is advertised in the most effective way. Promoting a luxury perfume in a discount fragrance shop, for example, would naturally detract from the work that is being done to distinguish that perfume as a luxury product. Such work is being done in order to increase ‘brand equity’ – the underlying value of the abstract ‘associations’ that consumers make with the product that is being sold.
Brand Managers will be responsible for either one brand or a variety of brands within a portfolio. It is their job to protect and increase the brand equity of each of these brands, thereby increasing demand for them in the market. Launches of new Apple products, for example, demonstrate how a product with a strong brand identity can create unprecedented demand in the market. Whilst there is always a lot of discussion about the new product’s technical advantages over its competitors, no doubt a quick survey of those queuing overnight to be the first to buy the new product will expose many doing so purely because ‘it’s the new x’, or they ‘simply must have it’. They want to be associated with the brand by having the product in their hand.
Demand is increased by levering whatever aspect of the brand is seen to present the most appealing proposition to the intended market. A budget airline, for example, will focus on the financial benefits of flying with them – essentially ‘you want to get from a to b, right, so why pay for fancy stuff?’ – whilst other airlines will focus on the perceived benefits of their experience: no scrums to find seats, free drinks, and no stealth charges for luggage and such like. After such ‘brand positioning’ into the desired segment of the market, it is then the brand manager’s job to differentiate their own brand from that of the competitors. To stick with the budget airline example, we can call upon easyJet’s campaign during the early 2000s – “Who loves flying to the place you actually booked”, or “We fly to airports, not airfields”, making the most of bad publicity their rival Ryanair experienced as a result of some of their purportedly deceptive labelling of their destinations.
Other brands will try to engender a feeling of tradition, of their brand satisfying the consumer’s need for having something ‘the way it should be’. Again, think of Heinz baked beans, Jack Daniel’s whiskey or Del Monte adverts – essentially they say “we go out of our way to make this special for you, it is the way things should be done, do not compromise with an inferior alternative.” Advertising, PR and sponsorship continually pecks away at us trying to convey these messages. Brand managers will always be assessing facts and figures about the sales of their brand, those of their competitors, and the market as whole.
As well as this, a brand manager must also be one step ahead of any threats or opportunities related to their brand. If their brand is dying or appearing obsolete in a vibrant market, they must consider a brand refresh. If the market as a whole is waning, will a brand extension work, or is it time to call it a day and develop new products, new brands? In times like this, a brand manager will gorge upon market insight information, and liaise with Innovation Managers and the New Product Development department trying to squeeze the most out of their brand’s equity.
An extreme yet perfect example of this is Fujifilm – confronted with the death of ‘traditional’ photography as a result of the advent of digital photography, Fujifilm entered into the cosmetics market. Applying the science which they applied to film to skincare, Fujifilm now have a successful cosmetic business which includes brands such as Astalift. Essentially, the business spotted the demise of their traditional market, and, rather than curling up for a slow death, searched for ways of using their knowledge, reputation and routes to market to continue to make money. Brand managers must be alert to such shifts in market behaviour and be proactive and inventive in order to ensure that they maximise the equity their brand holds, and to open up new opportunities and markets for the brand or others associated to it.
It is also the responsibility of the Brand Manager to ensure that any advertising or sponsorship partnerships are in line with the brand guidelines. You will have heard of the massive sums celebrities are paid to endorse brands, which helps to increase equity and demand, yet you will also have seen how quickly sponsors will withdraw from these deals if a celebrity is involved in a scandal. Yet why do businesses spend this money, rather than focussing on the benefits of their products? Gillette spent millions on featuring Thierry Henry, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods in a series of adverts. Despite the adverts being received in an ambivalent way by the advertising community, no doubt many consumers would have responded in the manner desired, and bought Gillette’s razors. People who are not experts in shaving, who do not rely on being clean-shaven for their success, managing to boost sales of a shaving product – it sounds daft, doesn’t it? Yet this has traditionally been the world of mass-market brands – the consumer pays the company over the odds for their product/brand so that the company can spend millions on advertising and celebrity endorsements in order to convince the consumer that their product is superior to own-brand products which are half the price. For evidence of this, look at blind tastings of champagne, where cheaper supermarket brands will outperform their more expensive ‘traditional’ counterparts. Historically, and specifically over the past fifty years or so, consumers have been easily-led, and massively influenced by advertising.
More recently, consumers have been more enquiring, and less susceptible to ‘push’ advertising. In today’s world of ultra-fast communication and social networking, a word of praise will travel quickly, and negative reviews ten times as fast. Word-of-mouth has always been a powerful tool – think of fashion chain Zara developing an empire of over 1,000 stores without running a single advertising campaign, before the onset of mass-engagement with social media – and today anyone has the entire internet as a forum. If your brand does well, you will be lauded. If your brand is perceived as doing anything at all negative, this will travel around the internet like wildfire. Think of Nike and the sweatshop scandal, or Findus and Tesco in the more recent horsemeat controversy. A brand manager must strive to ensure that every single aspect – ‘cradle to grave’ – of their brand is immaculate: if their products are made in unsafe factories, or they source materials from unethical suppliers, then these can create a big dent in the brand’s equity.
Brand management is an evolving discipline, and in an increasingly discerning and communicative society, it is important that brand managers are true ‘champions’ of their brand. No longer is it about ‘push’-selling brands into a thankful (and often daftly) receptive market, instead it is now a case of developing sustainable, ethical and desirable brands which will stand up to intensive scrutiny and pressure.
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The following average Brand Manager salaries are taken from our Marketing Recruitment Review and Salary Survey 2016. It also shows average salaries for the different Brand Manager salaries across different industry sectors.