Before considering the role of a brand manager, it is perhaps important to understand the meaning of the term brand as it occurs in the business environment. and how it is used to encourage consumers to purchase goods or services and thus enable the firm to achieve its business goals.
According to Phillip Kotler, who is regarded by many as one of the foremost academic scholars on the subject of marketing, a brand consists of a symbol or name that is uniquely associated with a specific product or service with the intention of differentiating it from the substitute offerings of competing firms. A brand can be applied in two ways. In the first instance, it can be focused on the corporate name, in which case consumers will associate all product/services being offered by the corporation with the brand. Examples of this include the McDonald’s big ‘M’ symbol being associated automatically with Fast foods, and Mercedes badge with its automobile products. Alternatively, a brand can be applied to an individual product offered by the corporation. For example the iPad, manufactured by Apple, has become a brand in its own right as distinct from the corporation that manufacturers it.
From this brief overview of the term, it is apparent that the role of a ‘brand’ manager is to ensure the successful marketing and promotion of the product or service offered by the brand. To fulfil this role, the brand manager will need to have developed a number of key skills and competences, of which the following are considered to be the most important.
Understanding the product
Although it has often been said that a good salesperson can sell anything, this is not strictly true. A proficient salesperson makes his or her task easier because they devote the time and effort to understanding the product or brand they are employed to promote. In this context, their most important task will be to identify the product’s unique selling points, which are the critical elements that will attract the consumer, as it is these that should form the central message of their promotional plan.
Understanding the consumer
There is no point in having a great product or service unless you, as the brand manager, are fully conversant with the consumer segment of the market place it is likely to attract. Furthermore, to maximise the sales and revenue the brand manager will also need to be aware of what it will take to create a sustainable relationship between the branded product/service and its customers. It follows that understanding the customer at which the product/service will be one of the key tasks of a brand manager.
The main skill a brand manager will require in order to fully understand and identify the appropriate target market for the brand are essentially related to his or her ability to conduct effective research. There are three important parts to the research task. First, the manager will need to evaluate whether the product or service will appeal to business or end user consumers. Secondly, particularly with consumers, there is a need to assess the potential age and gender demographic of consumers that are likely to purchase the brand product or service. For example, it is less likely that the older age group would be interested in purchasing a two-seater sports automobile than their younger counterparts; they are more likely to be interested in a luxury saloon. Third, the brand manager will need to assess which consumer bracket has the disposable income levels that will enable their purchase of the product being offered. There is no point in promoting a luxury Mercedes to those consumers whose disposable income limits their automobile purchase to a low-cost brand.
Understanding the media channels
The next skill that a brand manager requires is the ability to identify the media channel, or combination of media channels, that provide the best and most effective for the promotion of the product or service to the target market they have identified. For example, if the target market consists of a younger age group, that decision might involve use of the Internet and social networking sites as the best form of promotion. Conversely, with older age groups the most appropriate avenue could be television or print media, although as technology develops, this distinction is becoming more blurred.
Similarly, it is equally important for the brand manager to be able to decide the most appropriate content for use within their promotional message. For example, with younger segments, modern pop music or celebrities could be seen as the most effective ways in which to attract the consumer, whereas other segments might respond more positively to promotions that contain nostalgic images.
It is apparent from that a brand manager has to possess, or have the ability to acquire through learning, a range of skills and competences that this role requires. Amongst these understanding the product or service, the market segment likely to purchase and the most effective means of promotion will rank highly.
David Arnold (1992), The Handbook of Brand Management, London: Century Business
Phillip Kotler (2002), Marketing Management, (11th ed), Harlow: Pearson Education
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