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Before I dive in, I want to let you know that by reading this first newsletter issue you are getting in on the ground floor of something that will be really big. I fully expect this newsletter to take over the world.
So to be sure you don’t miss any of the action, make sure you subscribe to receive future issues. You’ll get weekly advice on how to accelerate your brand management career with topics in leadership, strategy, creative media and innovation…. Now, on with the show.
A BRAND MANAGER’S DILEMMA
When most outsiders hear the title brand manager, they think of someone who makes logos and TV ads for a living. In contrast, those of us who have been on the inside know that great brand leaders operate less like ad creatives and much more like general managers.
Unfortunately, this means new ABMs have a much different expectation of what their work (and success) will look like compared to reality. Many will burn out or quickly hit a ceiling based on their work style and skillsets.
Doubt will set in… They’ll wonder, “Did I make the right career choice?”
This leads us to the important question: How can you tell if brand management is right for you?
Or if you are a senior leader, how can you tell if a potential hire will be successful as a brand manager on your team?
THE STUFF BRAND MANAGERS ARE MADE OF
While many marketing roles are becoming more and more specialized, the generalist nature of brand management requires potential marketing leaders to become well versed across a number of areas.
Even if the brand manager isn’t doing the deeper work of each specialist, they must be skilled and knowledgeable in a variety of areas ranging from strategy to creative media to finance to innovation.
From experience working inside and consulting with a number of teams, I can tell you that a clear pattern emerges of what skills and attributes make for short- and long-term success in brand management. If someone fits this pattern, they will not only be successful as a brand leader, they’ll probably really enjoy working in brand management.
In contrast, if any one of these characteristics are missing, their long-term potential is limited. And if they are missing more than one, they’re probably in for a real struggle.
5 CHARACTERISTICS THAT ALL GREAT BRAND LEADERS SHARE
- They are good with numbers. Strong analytical skills and comfort working with financials is a must. Brand managers spend a large part of their time analyzing sales and share data, writing business reports, creating category analysis, working on price models and virtually living in Microsoft Excel. If someone doesn’t geek out a bit when it comes to numbers, they might get bored or even intimidated.
- They are creative problem-solvers. Creativity comes in many forms. And, although brand managers aren’t the ones making the actual ads, they need to be creative problem solvers on an almost-daily basis. Things will go wrong. Questions will arise. The brand manager that can think out of the box and help the team come up with solutions is insanely valuable.
- They are born leaders. Because brand managers touch so many areas of the business, but don’t have reporting authority over cross-functional team members, leadership is non-negotiable. They work well with others, take initiative, and set direction. This also serves them well long-term as many marketing-driven companies tap brand managers for senior leadership roles.
- They think strategically. The majority of brand managers do not do this well. It’s actually quite rare. And while you can certainly read a book or take a course on strategy, I’ve found that the best strategists have a natural curiosity, vision, and discipline that aren’t easily taught. They simply see the future, know the right questions, and aren’t afraid to make choices.
- They thrive in ambiguity. Brand managers often need to make decisions or present a clear point of view with less-than-perfect information. If you suffer from analysis-paralysis or need to be told what to do and in what order, you will have a really hard time. But if you like figuring things out, are comfortable in unclear situations, or thrive in a highly autonomous environment, then you just might be a great brand manager.
CAN YOU LEARN THIS STUFF?
It’s nice to think that all these things can be taught to someone who hasn’t demonstrated them. Yes, there are books, courses and coaching. But to me, some things are easier taught than others.
Teaching someone how to use a piece of software, about a process, how to write a brand positioning statement, or specific functional expertise (like why a particular skin care formulation is superior)… those are all doable.
But skills like leadership, strategic vision, and comfort with ambiguity I hate to admit are extremely difficult to teach—and I say that as a trained and passionate educator. From experience I’ve found that some people are wired to do these things more than others. Look for those people and get them on your team.
And if someone doesn’t naturally do those things? Well you might need to have a candid conversation with them at some point… or with yourself.
Here are some ways you can get additional value from me:
- Subscribe directly to my email list to be notified when I post newsletters, brand management articles and frameworks. As a thank you, you’ll immediately get our welcome guide: The Marketing Executive’s Guide to Brand Team Building.
- Subscribe to my YouTube channel for free video tutorials and lessons in brand management.
- Connect with me on LinkedIn, TikTok, and Twitter.
- Check out our menu of in-depth brand management training workshops, our all-inclusive Brand Management Accelerator program, or our 1:1 brand leadership coaching program.
Kevin Namaky is CEO at the Gurulocity Brand Management Institute, a marketing education company that trains and consults for notable brand teams including Kimberly-Clark, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bolthouse Farms and Gorilla Brands. Kevin is a featured instructor for the American Marketing Association, lectures at the IU Kelley School of business, and has been featured in Ad Age, Forbes, Fast Company and the CMO Council. Previously Kevin worked for 20 years in the corporate and agency world growing notable brands. Follow/connect with Kevin on LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter.