Building a brand isn’t a one-person job. It takes collaboration, teamwork, and iterating back-and-forth. But as with any important project, it requires one person to lead the effort, ensuring that you get the results you want. A Brand Manager is an integral member of any company, especially those who feel that they have a rock-solid brand identity. After all, a brand is like a plant: even after it’s been planted and grown from seed to flowering greenery, you still need to take care of it every day to keep it alive.
So how does one become a successful Brand Manager? What makes the difference between a brand that flourishes and thrives, and one that dries up in the pot? A lot of branding can feel nebulous or random, but the fact is that there are core skills and practices that separate the great Brand Managers from the not-so-great.
What Does a Brand Manager Do, and Why Are They important?
First, let’s take a look at what, exactly, a Brand Manager does. As the name implies, they “manage the brand,” but that’s a big umbrella of responsibilities, which can vary substantively depending on the size, stage, strategy, and goals of each brand.
In emerging brands, or those looking to overhaul their brand identity, the Brand Manager is responsible for building the brand. This means doing audience research to establish the target audience, analyzing the market to determine where the brand will fit in the competitive landscape, and ensuring that the brand identity reflects these positioning factors. They’ll also have the final word on core brand elements like name, look and feel, positioning statement, and voice and tone.
For organizations where the brand identity is well-established, there’s still much work for the Brand Manager. They need to support existing relationships with the audience, and also continue to expand brand reach. They’re responsible for reputation management, brand consistency, brand trust, and brand experience.
If something reflects on the brand and is seen by the public, the Brand Manager has their hands on it.
Brand Managers are essential because the success of the brand is inextricably linked to the success of the company. Industry research shows that brand-related factors like brand consistency, authenticity, trusted social media, and engaging voice and tone matter enormously for your company. These elements don’t happen by accident. Brand Managers handle all of them, as well as the challenges inherent in being a modern business: things like keeping the brand relevant, and handling any public missteps that need addressing. To put it one way, they’re the water and sunlight that keep the brand’s leaves shiny and its flowers blooming.
8 Characteristics of A Successful Brand Manager
Managing a brand requires keeping a lot of balls in the air at any given time. It’s a tough role, and one in which success is certainly not guaranteed — but certain qualities make it much more likely. Let’s look at 8 non-negotiable qualities of successful Brand Managers.
- They take ownership and trust their gut. As Brand Manager, you can’t look to higher-ups for guidance or second-guess your judgment. People crave authenticity and boldness from their brands, and if you’re wishy washy in your choices, it will come through. Being a Brand Manager means dealing with a lot of pressure from deadlines and coworkers, but you can’t let these factors cloud your thinking or lead you to settle for something that’s not right. You’ve become Brand Manager for a reason, and while it’s important to get feedback from the team, you’re the one to make the final call. Listen to your instincts, and have the patience to wait for “great” rather than go ahead with “fine.”
- They have a clear strategic vision. Branding is so much more than logos and taglines. A good brand is everything intangible about the company, it’s the ethos that drives you forward and that drives customers back to you. And in order to achieve that, there needs to be a clear vision for the brand as well as a strategic roadmap for getting there. As Brand Manager, it’s up to you to define that vision and to lay out your strategic roadmap, including any obstacles you foresee. Once you’ve put this in place, you must communicate your strategic vision clearly to the team, and take responsibility for keeping everybody’s eye on the prize.
- They get internal buy-in. While we think of brand as outward-facing, it starts internally. Because brands have so many touchpoints these days, everybody in the company communicates the brand identity on some level. For this reason, it’s essential to get team members on board with the brand, to not only cultivate an understanding of brand identity but also get them excited about the brand. Employees can often be the strongest brand advocates! Plus, having buy-in across the company makes the job of collaborating cross-departmentally (a huge part of brand management) much easier.
- They perfect their communication skills. Because brand is an intangible, it can be challenging to put into words. Brand Managers need to be able to handle this challenge deftly, communicating the brand message in as clear a manner and with as few words as possible (attention spans aren’t getting any longer!). This skill is vital not only for crafting public-facing messaging, but also for communicating internally so that you can get the desired results from your coworkers.
- They take a customer-centric approach. Yes, the brand identity is developed internally, but everything about those internal decisions needs to be based on a deep understanding and respect for your target audience. A successful Brand Manager needs to do their research to understand who their customer is and what they want, and then use their findings to shape the brand. This means continually observing how customers’ needs and expectations evolve over time — through things like social listening, surveys, and customer reviews — and making changes accordingly.
- They cultivate creativity. Great brands can’t be built in a lab. You need the ineffable spark of a human mind to give life to all the elements, to tell the brand story in a way that resonates with other humans around the world. Part of being a Brand Manager means putting into place structures and processes that ensure things get done correctly and on time, but also making sure that you build in space for creativity and find ways to actively promote and support creative thinking among team members.
- They don’t shy away from the numbers. Brand Managers also need to be able to put away their creative mindset and shift into analytical thinking. For a brand to be successful, they need to set benchmarks and measure their results, and this can’t be done without data. Brand Managers need to be comfortable with quantitative analysis and parsing the numbers that come back after campaigns, then using this data to refine brand strategy going forward. This is important for improving future campaigns, and also for proving the importance and ROI of brand investment to gain buy-in.
- They look for and embrace change — technological and otherwise. Technology and trends move at breakneck speed these days. Brands need to keep up with all these changes or they risk becoming irrelevant, the worst fate possible for a brand. That means it’s a Brand Manager’s job to keep their finger on the pulse of trends and to think critically about how your brand will leverage new technologies and adapt to changing expectations going forward.
The journey of a Brand Manager isn’t a static one, because the world in which the brand lives is constantly evolving. That makes it a challenging role, but also an exciting one for the right person. With an open mind, a passion for your brand, and this set of best practices in tow, you can create a brand that doesn’t just survive, but thrives, in today’s changing landscape.
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