Business environments today are tough. Things change fast. From a new competitor on the scene to shifting market conditions, technologies, and buyer dynamics, there’s a lot that’s simply out of our control. Because of this, organizations are putting more and more emphasis on the things they can control — like their brand.
Brand management, once a practice reserved for the Coca-Colas and Nikes of the world, is now a commonplace practice for any organization looking to win the hearts, minds, and spend of their target audiences. And, just as you see with other business priorities, it helps to put a dedicated person in place — like a brand manager — to ensure it succeeds.
What is a brand manager?
A brand manager is a marketer that’s responsible for developing, protecting, and nurturing an organization’s brand across all internal and external communications, touch points, and experiences. Brand managers ensure that no matter where someone encounters their organization’s brand, it’s represented in a way that’s consistent, relevant, and authentic.
These “brand guardians,” if you will, are researchers, storytellers, strategists, problem solvers, data analysts, people wranglers, and so much more. They wear many hats, leading the charge on everything from competitive analysis to brand positioning, communication strategies, content audits, creative guidelines, and beyond.
A good brand manager is the linchpin in an organization — holding the brand in place while the business world dips, swerves, and bobs about it.
Essential brand manager skills
Whether you’re considering hiring a brand manager or becoming one yourself, it’s important to know which skill sets are most critical for success. In our experience, the best brand managers are left and right brained.
They straddle the line, balancing lefty logic with the creativity and intuition of a right-brained individual. While brand managers will naturally excel in different areas (after all, there’s no magic formula), here are a few nonnegotiables.
Make no qualms about it; brand managers must be creative. They absolutely cannot be afraid to push beyond the status quo. To differentiate their brand, they need to approach strategies and challenges from a unique vantage point. But most importantly, they must inspire “creativity with parameters” throughout the organization.
They must enable creative thinking, while simultaneously looking after the brand by ensuring the right processes, guidelines, and rules of operation (like this essential brand identity checklist) are in place or upheld.
Able to see the big picture
Brand managers are responsible for strategies and efforts that span departments, continents, and channels. And although they manage many of the minute details of a brand, such as font size or HEX color, they also must be capable of seeing the grand scheme of things.
In other words, they must be able to pop their head out of the weeds, marry brand strategy with business strategy, and communicate a brand’s values in a voice and language that resonates with internal and external audiences. Without a holistic approach like this, they’ll fail to understand how their decisions impact the entire organization, audience base, marketing plan, and more.
Communication skills are a given for most professional roles, brand management being no exception. However, for brand managers this is especially true regarding internal communication. Brands, while stable in their own right, do evolve over time. And it’s up to brand managers to communicate these changes and rally support from internal stakeholders.
Because after all, if everyone on the inside understands how the brand is shifting, changing, and growing, it makes it that much easier to effectively communicate the brand externally.
A keen eye
Consistency is absolutely essential to brand management. A great brand is recognizable and memorable, largely because of a clear and consistent presentation. Brand managers need the persistence to steer the brand in the right direction. However, they also need an eye for aesthetics, excellent storytelling, and style.
From color choice and image style to content tone, messaging, and positioning, brand managers need to know what’s working and not working. Only then can they successfully communicate their brand.
Analytical and data-driven
Brand managers need to understand their customers and audiences better than anyone. Intuition is helpful, but to really succeed, brand managers must have the know-how to harness the power of data. They need to know what to look for, where to find it, and how to interpret it.
The most qualified brand managers can draw parallels between brand awareness and the “direct” website traffic tracked in Google Analytics. They can extract insights about brand recall from focus groups and surveys. And they know how to leverage social listening tools to gauge the competition and their brand’s share of voice. The list (and the data) goes on and on!
Brand managers are a unique breed of solution-oriented people. They need answers, but they also need the grit and ingenuity to unlock them on their own. Whether digging into data, conducting and evaluating market research, or testing creative approaches, brand managers must be willing to get their hands dirty.
They don’t always settle for the easy answer, but they push deeper and harder to get at what really makes their brand relevant, relatable, and worthy of audience attention. And, isn’t that the key?
Agents of change
You need a brand manager who tracks the leading edges of technology, customer behavior, and global culture. This is someone who’s actively looking for the next big thing while they eat breakfast in the morning. And they do it because it fascinates and excites them, not because anyone tells them to.
You don’t want a brand manager that jumps on every new thing just to seem “with it.” True agents of change know the difference between a real opportunity for your brand and a passing trend. They don’t wait for permission to get started, either. You want a brand manager that has a vision for a new brand experience, develops a plan, and knows how to get your business to invest when it matters.
Challenges faced by brand managers
Brand managers are kind of the unsung heroes of an organization. They keep the order. They inspire action. And, let’s face it, they juggle a lot behind the scenes. But this is not without challenge.
The average consumer is exposed to thousands — if not tens of thousands — of different brands every single day. Brand managers must cut through the noise in a way that’s both genuine and relevant to their audience. They must navigate the onslaught of competing brands and channels to form authentic connections with people. They must, despite the dwindling attention span of consumers, tell their brand’s story with an urgency and attraction that inspires action. A tall order? Maybe, but not impossible.
Here are some of the common challenges brand managers face:
- Presenting a consistent brand experience. When you present your brand consistently you can increase revenue by 23%. Brand managers are tasked with the challenge of delivering a cohesive brand experience across every channel. And every time they don’t, your brand can lose a customer.
- Protecting your brand from damage. Brand managers need to make sure licensed images, videos, and songs are taken down as soon as licenses expire — or your brand could face a lawsuit. And when you inevitably redesign a logo, your brand suffers damage every time someone uses the old logo file. To avoid this, your brand manager has to simultaneously distribute the new logo in time for the brand relaunch and retire the old one from use.
- Storing, managing, and distributing brand assets. Does everyone on your global team have access to the same logo file? Does your sales team, social team, and email team use the same images or duplicate unnecessary work? Many companies still struggle with managing their brand assets. One of the biggest challenges your brand manager can face is getting the most out of your brand assets.
With the necessary left- and right-brained skill sets, brand managers are more than capable of navigating the challenges of the role. However, they are most likely to excel with a little support and help. Whether it’s a strong brand management team behind them, the right technologies in place, or both, the most successful brand managers do not go it alone.
Support your brand managers with DAM
If you’re ready to support your brand manager, one of the most effective investments you can make is in a digital asset management (DAM) system. With a brand management solution like the Widen Collective® behind them, you can help brand managers overcome their challenges, manage their brand assets, and deliver a consistent brand experience.
Note: This article was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated to remain current.