This is Part-1 of a two-part series “On Becoming Brand President.” Part-1 addresses the advantages of Brand Management versus alternate titles and systems, and the role of Brand President. Part-2, which will follow next week will cover the importance of “thought leadership” and share thought leadership practices in becoming Brand President and earning a seat at the table with senior decision makers.
What’s in a title?
Our client marketers have very different titles depending largely on company heritage and how they perceive the role of marketing. Some are Marketing Managers, others are Product Managers or Directors, and yet others are Brand Managers. These are often considered interchangeable, but we’d argue they are, in practice, very different.
- The “Marketing Manager” is typically wrapped-up in supporting the sales force and/or engaged in project management.
- The “Product Manager or Director” (we prefer the “Director” label since it sounds like a higher level in the hierarchy and, therefore, would suggest a greater level of compensation) is focused on the physical product.
- The Brand Manager’s focus in on the management of the “brand,” that constellation of values going beyond the mere physical product that establishes the bond we earn with Target-Customers based upon their experiences (which we build into our offering) with it.
It’s coming-up on 46-years that I joined Procter & Gamble (P&G) following service in the U.S. Navy and Grad School, where I earned an MBA. At P&G we were Brand Managers. We were responsible for the general (marketing) management of the “brand.” While my MBA concentration was in finance I joined P&G because they promised to help me become President of one of their many brands. And, since I intended to become a financial analyst my thinking was that becoming a Brand Manager would be excellent training for the financial world. If I could learn how to be President of a brand then, my reasoning was, I would be better equipped to become a leading financial analyst.
Brand Management – The Strategic Advantage
P&G created the Brand Management system to gain a strategic advantage. That advantage was focus in creating and managing brands. It would be difficult for any one person to create and manage all of their many brands equally effectively. (The company currently has a listing of 200-brands worldwide, with more than 70 having annual sales of $100-million or more, and 22-blockbuster brands whose sales exceed $1-billion annually.) Focusing all of one’s attention and energies on the development of one brand, not product (the right thing in the right way), was expected to boost competitiveness and garner better results in the marketplace, as evidence by increasing market share and gaining (and sustaining growing) market and/or segment leadership.
We encourage all of our clients that do not have the title of Brand Manager to convert to it. We also advise them not to ask the permission of their HR Department since its managers will probably take two-years to review and study it, only to deny it in the end. Just change your business card to read “Brand Manager” from Marketing Manager, Product Manager or whatever, to change your thinking and approach to marketing, and move into the role of being President of your brand.
At Procter & Gamble the Brand Manager, serving as President of the Brand, was at the center of the wheel – the organization for the brand. All support groups, including the sales force, pulled in the same direction as charted by the Brand Manager and her/his plans for the brand. Now don’t get us wrong, the Brand Manager did not have carte blanche. S/he had a strong Board of Directors (i.e., more senior managers in their hierarchy) that needed to buy-into plans and proposals for resources, based upon securing a competitive advantage and attaining specific, agreed-upon business objectives of sales and market share. And, the Brand Manager had to gain the cooperation of the support groups through agreement borne of thoughtful analysis and collaboration (not consensus!).
This wheel represents the (P&G) Brand Management model:
The Role of the Brand President
How do Brand Managers differ from Marketing Managers and Product Managers? They start by thinking like Brand Presidents and assume that role. Regardless of what the HR job description might hold living-up to this title leads to a very different mindset and focus. Here are just a few of the key differences:
- They have the big picture and take the long view – They appreciate the value of a brand over a mere physical product and strive to create one built around positive customer experiences that will bind them to the brand. They think competitively and search out ways to create a distinctive, meaningful positioning strategy. They see where the market is going and race to make it happen sooner by leading the way with innovation whether it be improvements to the physical product to satisfy previously unmet needs, development of a compelling campaign and other innovations. They know what their brand is capable of achieving and develop a plan to realize its full potential. This plan is built on selective segmentation, a firm knowledge of their customers’ needs and desires, competition, discovery of legitimate and productive customer insights, and company capabilities among others. Moreover, they recognize the importance of the entire organization (i.e., all their support groups such as R&D, sales, etc.) in achieving the brand’s potential. They manage their business (e.g., development of brand equity, product pipeline, etc.) as opposed to letting the daily demands of the business manage them.
- They create impact – It’s not about the number of projects undertaken and completed but doing what really matters. It’s going from spinning one’s wheels pursuing and crossing-off the urgent, non-critical tasks to focusing on those non-urgent, critically important ones. What is critically important? Those that will have impact, as defined by growing incremental sales and market share. If the category is growing at X% they identify and champion activities that will exceed that growth. It’s about that 20% of actions that will yield 80% of the results. What two or three strategies or actions might you undertake that will have a significant impact on growing incremental sales?
- They’re responsible stewards of the brand – Brand Presidents recognize that they’ve been entrusted with the management of a valuable company asset. And, they need and want to make the most of that trust. They think “ROI” (Return on Investment). Like the parable of the land owner who entrusts each of three employees with a bag of gold coins s/he seeks the greatest bang for the buck (or whatever currency they’re dealing with). Therefore, they do not undertake anything for which they do not know the impact, and ROI. To ignore this would be to gamble with company resources and they do not gamble! Instead they invest in building the brand, its reputation and sales. By the way, ROI is not just influenced by marketing mix element but by ideas. So, they seek out BIG, juicy Ideas. Then they test and analyze before rolling-out ideas and continue to measure their results in the marketplace to gain important feedback for future decision making.
- They serve – They recognize the key to success is better serving customers than their competition. So, they develop a deep understanding of the customer and make serving them not just their priority but that of the organization. They ask not just whether an activity will serve to embed their brand’s positioning strategy but whether it serves the interest of customers. They also serve their support teams by ensuring they get the resources needed (which could include sufficient “time”!) to get the job done properly. Recall the line out of the movie “Jerry Maguire” where Jerry (played by Tom Cruise), a sports agent, tells his client, a professional football player (played by Cuba Gooding), “Help me help you.” Ask and serve! And go beyond just asking “what can we do with what we have?”. Find out what’s needed to do what will grow the business and champion for the resources to make it happen.
- They build winning teams – They collaborate, communicate, and orchestrate. And, like the leader of an orchestra, they gain the input of support groups in both strategy development and execution. They collaborate not merely for the purposes of buy-in but to include and get the best from everyone – thinking and execution. In this way they gain support from team members. Then they communicate, over and over again, so that everyone is kept on the same page and execution follows intent. They coordinate the concentration of forces to ensure optimal execution in the marketplace. Success, in turns, draws talent.
Please take note that even with the title of Brand Manager, no one in the organization is going to grant you the role of President of the Brand (or, to shorten it, Brand President). You have to earn it (the old-fashioned way) by exhibiting what we refer to as “thought leadership,” followed by delivering on target business objectives.
Next week in Part-2 we will share what we mean by “thought leadership” and suggest specific practices for earning a seat at the table with senior decision makers as the Brand President.
We look forward to sharing more to assist you in becoming Brand President!
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney