What is a Brand Manager and how will he/she play a role in building the 21st century?
By Ryan Jones
Given the tough business climate, mind-bending techology changes and the dire need for innovation in the next decade and beyond, some (like Forrester) propose that we ax the command and control “Manager” part of the traditional Brand Manager title and go with something more relevant like “Brand Advocate.” Ad Age followed up with a similar article on this topic near the end of 2009.
Brand Managers today in many companies are really business managers that guide a multifunctional business team (e.g. Finance, PR, Supply Chain, etc.). Marketing promotion is just one part of their job (remember the 4Ps of marketing). Brand Managers create the strategy for the business, making decisions about how to run the business and build the brand.
Good Brand Managers are fun, open and inspire their teams as they lean forward to discover new ideas. They get out front and show that they want to build future focused products and their brand for the next generation. They work together with trend, consumer research, and design agencies to envision the future, so they can build something that makes sense. These guys and gals are visionaries with a lot of courage. They are builders first, managers second…
Other Brand Managers can tend to focus too much on how they will close the financial year. They operate with so much discipline and care to deliver the right numbers that they lose sight of the future. They don’t take risks…and they aren’t willing to adapt to technology. They spend too much time on internal “horn blowing” and developing processes for yearly evaluations instead of following up on what’s happening in the culture and working out how they can build a better future for people. These folks wind up killing the “golden brands” built by earlier entrepreneurial heroes.
There are good and bad brand managers in every company.
“Brand Building” the 21st Century
P&G invented the “Brand Manager” term back in the 1930s when the industrial era was moving full steam ahead and command and control was in vogue.
So, as the new century emerges, it will be interesting to see how Brand Management evolves and what (if any) title emerges to take its place. I personally like the idea of the Brand Builder.
Brand builders create the classic, seemingly untouchable brands/products that form the foundation of a company. Brand builders aren’t just 20th century leaders seeking internal influence and power; they prefer constructing and transforming the future. While they thrive on understanding what’s happening now in the online social spaces and in the culture, they don’t meekly conform to the fleeting whims of online crowds…instead, they think longer and deeper to consider the impact of their products on future generations. They are reflective, curious and tend to motivate other people. Brand builders would rather put messages into the culture that help and inspire. Builders think about driving the evolution of culture…not devolution.
As Umair Haque puts it in his recent manifesto, today’s builders are igniting the distant grandchild of yesterday’s industrial revolution: an institutional revolution for a post-industrial world. They are forging the new building blocks — from ethical investment, to deep journalism, to socially useful finance, to universally accessible communication — that a rusting economy, society, and polity so urgently demand.
It’s easy to get into the mode of “just trying to find newfangled ways to move product” via promotion. Brand builders would like to see more focus return to the Product part of the 4Ps. Brand builders want to create sustainable and responsible growth that matters…not just another boring line extension that clutters the shelves and people’s lives.
The 20th century Brand guy/gal thinks in terms of “I” or “we.” The 21st century Brand person thinks “all” — people, communities, and society (thanks Umair).
Let’s hear it for the 21st Century Brand Builder.
Ryan Jones is a Global Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble. He’s a sustainability and brand purpose champion. He blogs over at www.m-cause.com and lives in Geneva, Switzerland.