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The role of the brand manager is crucial for any business looking to achieve their goals and thrive among the competition. They are vital to every layer of a multi-faceted operation. Consider promotion, products and services, advertising, information exchange, and reputation. Each of these is dependent on the effective management of your company’s brand.
Brand managers act to protect your brand’s reputation. They are the megaphone amplifying your brand’s voice to the public. They are the builders carefully constructing your image.
This requires an extraordinary person: someone who is proud to tout brand messages and combines their management skills with a discerning analytical eye. Clearly, there are many important qualities that a brand manager must have to be fully effective.
We’ve chosen to round up these qualities. Hopefully, in your case, these qualities will become second nature. They will become habits. Why? Because rand managers hold the ability to impact your brand in monumental ways.
Whether you currently work as a brand manager, are looking to delve into the career, or are simply interested in evaluating your company’s need for this position, take a look at these 15 habits of an effective brand manager.
1. Courteous cooperation with others
As mentioned before, brand managers are integral components to every layer of your business. This means they get called upon by everyone. They must juggle requests from multiple departments, outside partnerships, brand ambassadors, and prospective clients. Sometimes all at the same time!
As a result, brand managers must bridge the gap between all these moving pieces. They must find ways to cooperate while always remaining courteous.
Let’s break down a few of these moving parts and offer some scenarios:
A restaurant chain gathers management at a meeting to discuss sales. The sales team brings up this quarter’s budget. But some scoff at the idea that new strategies bolstering the company’s brand could result in increased sales.
This segment of the staff continuously pushes for discounts, “here today, gone tomorrow” promotions, and flash sales. They’re constantly looking to add new menu items or extra services or new inventory, failing to consider if their inclusion will water down brand and reputation.
What are some ways you could courteously facilitate cooperation with the sales team? How would you discuss brand management in this context?
Now, the same restaurant chain facilitates a marketing meeting with all the members of their marketing team as well as any creative marketing partners. In similar ways as the sales meeting, everyone is pushing their own agenda.
The junior copywriter in charge of composing monthly e-newsletters fails to see the benefits of expanding the company website to include more pages. When a partner puts forth an idea about going in on some shared advertising space, the social media specialist hesitates about the efficacy of traditional ad space.
What strategies would you utilize to juggle these conflicting interests? How would you discuss brand management in this context?
Highly effective brand managers are able to work at all levels, remain courteous, and facilitate cooperation. They must feel emboldened to decline short-term enterprises that could cause future damage to the brand. This polite approach helps them make sure that all important parties are on board for the brand, especially those with the power to make decisions, such as presidents, owners and CEOs.
What Causes Brand Dilution?
Before we get worked up about behaviors that may or may not water down a brand, let’s take a look at key factors influencing brand dilution, based on research conducted by Kevin Lane Keller, E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business in Hanover, New Hampshire and Sanjay Sood, assistant professor of marketing at the Anderson Graduate School of Management University of California, Los Angeles.
Strength: Only an extension experience that is sufficiently strong has the potential to trigger brand dilution. A strong experience is salient (attention-getting) and unambiguous (objectively interpretable). A weak experience, whether it is less salient or more ambiguous, may be ignored or discounted.
Diagnosticity: An extension experience is diagnostic of the parent brand only to the degree that consumers believe the extension is relevant to the parent. The experience will only affect the consumer’s evaluation of the parent brand if he or she feels the performance of the extension is indicative, in some way, of the parent brand’s quality.
Inconsistency: An extension experience consistent with the consumer’s image of the parent brand is less likely to change that consumer’s impression. However, an experience that is inconsistent with those expectations of the parent creates the potential for change. The direction and extent of change depends on the relative strength and favorability of the experience. Note that highly inconsistent extension experiences, however, may be discounted or ignored if not viewed as relevant.
2. Socially responsible
The socially responsible brand manager realizes that providing goods and services will only get a company so far. To ensure maximum customer retention, you must set customers at ease. Brands need to set forth an image of helping out the greater good in some way. If a brand manager cultivates personal habits of social responsibility, implementing this layer of brand identity becomes second nature.
Tons of companies understand the necessity for social and environmental consciousness. They promote affiliations with local non-profits, participate in fundraisers and auctions, or encourage staff members to turn in volunteer hours. These are all wonderful endeavors that go a long way to helping all sorts of charitable organizations and causes.
However, businesses that are able to infuse this social responsibility into their brand’s image really showcase how commitment to the greater good can bolster brand reputation by leaps and bounds.
Giving back vs. simply giving
Successful brand managers know the difference! Staying socially responsible doesn’t mean you need to give back. If you incorporate social responsibility as a core pillar of your brand and its actions at every level, there’s no need for initiatives that explain how the company gives back (to the community, the environment, etc.). This idea of offering something back creates a sense that you’ve taken something away. It suggests your company needs to negate some wrongdoing in order to balance everything out or settle a score.
Brand managers who have honed the habit of social responsibility simply create a sense of balance and an even score within the brand itself.
Socially Responsible Brand: Rainbow Light
Rainbow Light’s brand is intrinsically linked with a healthy world. Beginning in 1981, it started offering vitamins and supplements to shoppers across the country. But the company doesn’t just improve the health of their consumers and call it quits. They also partner with the non-profit Vitamin Angels in an effort to curb worldwide malnourishment by providing their supplements free of charge to under-privileged mothers and children. And the health of the environment is important to them as well. All Rainbow Light’s products are packaged in 100 percent recycled containers which are also BPA-free.
3. Fosters strong relationships through networking
Everyone has businesses they’re loyal to and acquaintances they call in times of need. Think: accountant, real estate agent, dry cleaners, photographer, catering company, etc.
The highly effective brand manager leverages these relationships and reacquaints in the context of their position and brand. Sure, you can make it rain business cards all day. You can send E-mails until your fingers are numb. But the best way to build strong relationships is through organic connections. No connection is too small: the barista who makes you your double shot every morning, the guy who landscapes your lawn, your nephew’s principal. A brand manager who “knows people” is a fantastic asset.
The idea of professional networking can seem daunting and intimidating, especially for the introverted. But consider how many people you already interact with on a regular basis. Each and every one of these connections, if given the right context, could be invaluable to a brand manager professionally.
When looking to network and build up relationships with others in the field of brand management, the effective brand manager can turn to online opportunities. Sites like Linkedin contain group pages with thousands of members. They can engage on social media to kick start a connection with peers. Or even keep an eye out for online invitations pertaining to in-person meetups in their area. When networking, always remember that relationships are not a one-way street. Seek the welfare of those within your network.
9 Tips for Successful Networking
- Ask if you can treat the person to coffee or an after-work drink. It’s hard to turn down a freebie!
- Come prepared to talk about your ideas and avoid twisting narratives. Share a single stone, not the whole gravel path. This will often leave the other party wanting more.
- Facilitate organic introductions. No need to name-drop people they already know just to find common ground. It’s more helpful to expand out their circle than it is to hover in the middle.
- Flattery will only get you so far. If you rave about how much you admire the other person’s work? They can say “Thank you” and that’s about it. Open up about yourself so they get a clearer picture of what excites you and what makes you tick.
- Don’t feel pressure to fill every silence. Pauses allow the wheels to turn!
- Share the love! Speak highly of others on your team, in your company, and your partnerships.
- Find a way to share or give. This could be as little as a piece of advice and as grand as a donation. You want them to know your relationship is a valuable one.
- Imagine a level playing field. No matter who you’re networking with, approach the conversation as though you are both equally important (even if titles or salaries would have you think otherwise).
- Think of your “pitch” as informative instead of persuasive. This will go miles in helping you avoid a pushy tone.
Most in marketing are told time and again to know their customer. Brand managers agree. You must know your customer before you can serve your customer. Easy enough? Sure, but highly effective brand managers dig a little deeper. In order to build up their brand, empathy towards customers is key.
Brand managers who are empathetic are able to obtain ample awareness of the customer experience. They aren’t satisfied simply knowing who this person is. They want to walk a mile in their shoes and see the entire customer experience, from beginning to end, through their customer’s eyes. This is the only way a brand manager can come to understand what affects and prompts buyer actions.
READ THE CASE STUDY:
“3 Brands that Care About Customer Success“
Stepping into your customer’s shoes
How does the highly effective brand manager facilitate empathy or, in other words, create ways to walk in their customer’s shoes? How can you take part in the customer experience every step of the way?
Reflect on ways you learn about your customer, from insight constructions and market testing to paid advertising and in-store communications and follow-up engagement campaigns. All of these steps along the customer journey are meaningful opportunities for your brand to interact empathetically.
According to Fredmund Malik, School of Business Management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, a business organization should aim to improve customer advantage instead of merely concentrating on increasing profits.
Make empathy one of the forefront principles of your brand. Customers can spot a company “faking it” from a mile away. Empathy isn’t just a marketing tactic or a social media campaign. Empathy is an authentic inclination towards creating a cohesive experience between consumer and brand. Empathy establishes relationships and leverages them for better market value. The only way to achieve this is by spending time with your shoppers on their terms, in real life.
5. Thoughtful communicator
The highly effective brand manager communicates carefully and diplomatically. And they listen more than they speak, which allows them to construct effective, calculated responses and keep all conversations funneled through the lens of the brand.
Keep it simple
In this media-rich world of constant commercials, online popup ads, and flyers shoved daily in mailboxes, we’re losing the ability to know where to look. The likelihood that we’ll take it all in is very low.
Brand managers know their message is only a blip on a radar. So it better be a great blip to cut through the noise! Successful brand managers keep it simple with precise, palatable brand messages.
How to Foster Thoughtful Brand Messaging in 5 Easy Steps
- Develop and practice a killer elevator speech. Explain what your brand stands for in the time it takes to get from the first floor to the top of a building. You might be surprised how often this scaled-down version will come in handy.
- Make yourself available. Allow customers to ask you questions about your brand. Listen to their concerns. Treat what they have to say with more importance than your response.
- Make your services and products easily available. Can potential customers find you online? Are your advertising and promotional efforts clear about what your brand has to offer?
- Once a customer finds you, are you utilizing in-store and online copy to its full potential when explaining how a service works or what a product does?
- Meet with your team frequently to evaluate what is most essential to your brand’s messages. Find ways to eliminate anything that’s considered extraneous.
Thoughtful brand managers speak simply. They understand that throwing a ton of information out and hoping something sticks no longer works. (Most likely, it never did.) Instead, they treat all their conversations with equal levels of thoughtfulness and simplicity.
6. Knows when to put out fires
A brand manager must be vigilant about how everything will affect the brand. They must tend to, nurture, and foster their brand at every turn.
They must constantly ask,“How does this tweet affect our brand?” “How does this new service support our brand’s reputation?” “How can we dispense information in our brand’s voice?”
A brand manager must monitor all communications specific to brand reputation. They must brainstorm new and exciting ways to tell the brand’s story. They must follow conversations closely.
Putting out fires on review sites
Effective brand managers keep up with customer feedback, especially on review sites. Online reviews and ratings on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Citysearch, and similar sites have a big impact not just on brands, but consumer behavior.
According to the latest research, 88 percent of Internet users read reviews to determine the quality of a business. 88 percent believe these reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations made by friends and family.
If your customers are attributing that much weight to an online review, your brand managers should, too.
Brand managers should spend some time analyzing and developing profiles on Yelp and all other major review sites. And they should closely monitor customer feedback and be ready for possible negative reviews.
Negative reviews are usually the result of a complaint that was met with indifference. Brand managers can set their brand apart not just by listening to problems, but by fixing problems. Customers want to be heard, sure, but they also want to see change, especially when their experience was off.
Fix these problems on the spot to help prevent negative reviews. Of course, some problems will go unresolved, and you won’t discover them until reading the negative review. Spring into action just the same. Write a response that seeks to fix the problem. Invite them to come back for a better experience. The goal here is brand credibility and customer trust.
The Complete Guide to Responding to Reviews
7. Creatively analytical
More than just right-brained or left-brained, numbers-oriented or artistically inclined, brand managers must bridge the gap between two worlds and become creatively analytical.
Brands are elevated by those who make sense of complicated research and translate numbers into creative messages that garner the support of people.
A great brand manager is someone who can create and maintain brand strategies and reputation informed by facts. They use careful analytical qualities to garner support from management and CEOs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, they’re also able to incite enthusiasm and innovation among marketing teams, including content managers, graphic designers, copywriters, artistic directors, interior designers, and web builders.
A few tips to help you bridge the gap:
- Humans are visual learners. Find ways to make denser, more complicated messages visually appealing as a means to better explain the content.
- Customer service is of utmost importance. Track down the data to help your customer service representatives understand the need for continued growth in their interactions. Then help implement creative scripts and talking points.
- Seek scientific research to enforce the tone, style, and color choices made by your interior designer.
- Include beautifully styled photographs and videos when submitting press releases. Not only will this make the message more palatable but it will increase online views!
8. Stays aware of the data
By the numbers
The world of marketing is a hot bed of numbers and data. The effective brand manager must remain constantly aware while simultaneously staying just far enough away to avoid tunnel vision (constantly checking the numbers to the point of no return).
Data creates the framework through which the brand manager can funnel other important activity. However, there’s no need to put all the brand eggs in one data-driven basket. This careful balance is integral to achieving successful executive partnerships and positive, results-based presentations.
Instead, highly effective brand managers can read between the lines. It’s unlikely they’ll be presented with 100+ page sales reports or detailed fiscal analysis. They must interpret the numbers based on their own constant awareness of trends and information. In doing so, it’s almost as if they can predict the future!
Brand managers must also remain watchful of data affecting their online reputation. They must stay on top of any online mentions on social media and review sites.
Information that in the past would find no traction or audience is rising to the top of search engines and getting seen by the masses. As a result, effective brand managers set up Google Alerts and stay aware of the conversations being had about their company, products, CEOs, and employees.
So what does brand reputation management look like for the highly effective brand manager?
Most notably, it comes down to how they choose to monitor, address, or assuage online reviews, social media mentions, and search engine result pages (SERPs). There are so many online avenues out there that act as a megaphone for consumers looking to get their voices heard. Staying aware of what others are saying, while noticing trends and developing solutions, is key to a squeaky clean online reputation.
Staying on top of data functions as an early alert system, potentially protecting brand managers from a variety of issues within the company and outside. Those who do so are able to detect problems and make appropriate changes before things go too far and they have an irreversible catastrophe on your hands.
Learn about Millennials
Brand managers know that online data collection and reputation management are key ways to connect with and learn about clients. Millennials, specifically, are far more likely to book appointments online than wait on hold. They are more likely to seek out information online than call with a question. Your online brand, alongside a carefully monitored and managed reputation, are key to reaching and learning about this market segment.
9. Benchmarks goals
Brand managers must constantly set goals and benchmarks. They must ask their team, “What are we hoping to achieve? What changes need to be made to grow our brand? How can we make our brand voice speak to more people in meaningful ways? What will our brand look like in six months? Three years? Next week?”
You may throw around the idea of objectives and goals all the time but a successful brand manager can hone in and truly utilize these terms. They focus their efforts on goals and objectives in an effort to avoid wasting time on items that won’t lead to tangible success. Brand managers must create effective measurement plans by identifying the objectives in order to set goals.
For example, when launching a new E-mail campaign, your objective may be to increase your mailing list and click-throughs. You can then set goals based on these desired results and benchmark them. How many people do you want subscribed to your E-mails in six months? One year?
Perhaps you’re trying to reach a target audience with a new blog. What are the objectives? Content engagement from this group? Center your goals around comments and shares. Qualified traffic? Measure the amount over the lifespan of the blog.
4 tips for benchmarking goals
- Set a time limit. Create a sense of urgency by working against the clock to signal success.
- Be reasonable with your resources. Goals should be in the realm of possibility for your organization, the staff you have to work with, and the materials you have at your disposal.
- Accountability is key. Feedback from everyone involved is important at every step of the journey.
- Make it specific. The difference between setting a goal and benchmarking a goal is in the specifics. Who is involved? Where will it occur? How soon? How frequently?
Brand managers can’t fulfill their job if they’re isolated in ivory towers. They must remain aware of industry trends and developments; this is especially crucial as it pertains to technology.
The effective brand manager is a trend-spotter and early adopter of new technology, always implementing new strategies to extend brand reputation and audience reach.
Brand managers who can suss out people’s unique interests and driving forces can cater goods and services to their audience and develop a massive following. But how do they gain this power?
Read, read, read
One easy way to stay on top of what’s hot and what’s not in your segment is through industry-specific publications, like newsletters, magazines, webinars, blogs, and email subscriptions .The same is true for trend-spotting new tech and marketing resources.
Make sure you’re tracking a multitude of sources. We’ve already discussed how multi-layered brand management is, so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of information out there that would be beneficial to keep up with! Keep up with everything from world news to niche bloggers. Utilize tools (RSS feeds, Google Alerts, even Twitter) to help you keep track and manage all your sources
Understanding your market
Another way great brand managers spot trends is by immersing themselves in their customers. They keep up with everything relevant to their market, they go where their customers go, watch what their customers watch, and click on what their customers are saying. Many turn to review sites in an effort to stay in tune with their customers’ likes and dislikes. They scour social media to learn the struggles and challenges their customers face.
This intimate knowledge helps the brand manager understand trends in the market long before they reach boiling point.
11. The great communicator
A brand manager not only communicates about the brand, but acts as a crusader for its principles. Real excitement and passion for the brand is the only way a brand manager will truly achieve great communication skills.
It is this type of communication which is the most infectious, both within the company and outside of it, and the highly effective brand manager knows this to be true. They know their words have the power to rally the troops and create buzz.
Brand managers are also educators, teaching everyone the values and principles on which your business is built. The effective brand manager communicates these lessons in easy-to-understand language and a friendly tone. They know they must create messages which co-workers, peers, and customers will all understand and stand behind.
12. Clever writer
Highly effective brand managers excel at writing. Their writing isn’t bogged down by words that would leave most running for a dictionary. Instead, they focus their efforts on readability. They want as many people as possible to digest their brand’s message.
The great brand manager isn’t hoping to sound academic because not everyone in their audience will be academic. They aren’t trying to sound wise beyond their years because their customers run the spectrum of all ages. Their writing must marry many sounds so each reader hears their own tune in the melody. This is where that cleverness comes in!
The brand manager’s target audience forms the foundation of the brand’s voice and how you will write when communicating with the public.
Keep the following tips in mind:
- Take into account the voice your customers, reviewers, and followers use when they write.
- When you begin creating content, your brand voice must speak with your audience, not to them. People respond better to a conversation that relates to them and engages them.
- The voice you develop must remain consistent. A brand voice is only possible if it can be recreated again and again. One-offs won’t work.
Brand managers must also be skilled editors. They will no doubt need to delegate various writing assignments to their employees. Maintaining that singular, brand voice can prove difficult when you have many people attempting to write as one. This means a brand manager must not only edit for clarity, grammar, and readability, but also for brand alignment and voice.
13. Emotionally intelligent
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence means you are able to recognize and handle your own emotions as well as the emotions of other people. A few qualities are necessary, including:
- Having emotional awareness: You can spot and define your own emotions as well as other people’s emotions.
- Utilizing emotions: You can then utilize these emotions to help you achieve a specific task or solve a certain problem.
- Managing emotions: You can regulate your own emotions with ease. And you can also alter another person’s emotion, such as give them confidence, set them at ease, make them laugh, etc.
Similar to their empathetic nature, great brand managers are also extremely emotionally intelligent and understand the many nuanced emotions that make up a person’s unique and ever-changing personality.
Why consumers seek emotionally intelligent brands
Gone are the days of hard sells and sneaky pitches. Consumers have gotten wise to so many selling and marketing tactics over the years. Instead, your buyers are looking for a refreshing, genuine approach. Shoppers aren’t just buying a product anymore. They are buying the entire brand.
As new technology comes and goes and most everything is available by tapping a few keys, brand managers must solidify guarantees to customers that are stronger than simply satisfaction. They must dig deep into less logical areas of measurement. The successful brand manager must tap into how customers are feeling emotionally and then figure out which emotions encourage various behaviors.
Understanding how to flatter
The woman helping a customer try on her wedding dress tells her how beautiful she looks instead of explaining the beading process used to achieve the sparkling bodice. The gentleman waiting on the large dinner party makes sure to point out their impeccable taste when selecting a bottle of wine rather than just writing it down and scurrying off.
Emotionally intelligent brand managers understand how to flatter in similar ways. They are in the business of building people up. Flattering potential customers, just like that bride-to-be and those restaurant patrons, puts them in a comfortable place to buy.
Shouldn’t the person tasked with keeping a brand’s best interest at the forefront constantly introduce new ideas and methods to do so? Shouldn’t they be original and creative in their approach?
Of course! Effective brand managers are enterprising in their attempt to make sure their brand’s message is never decided by those outside the brand. And this forethought requires innovation.
The innovative brand manager looks for clues from other brands and follows suit when new platforms for messaging are introduced. But they also lead the way and constantly ask where they can come in first at something.
Brand managers no doubt paved the way for finding importance in a Facebook “like” or a Twitter “retweet”. Staying ahead of the pack in this way results in a sought-after brand and a following of many.
Net Promoter Scores
One tool innovative brand managers are turning to more and more these days is the Net Promoter Score survey. Businesses can implement Net Promoter Score surveys as a means to capture customer satisfaction early on.
A Net Promoter Score is a scale that ranges from -100 to 100 and measures how willing your customer base is to recommend your services to their friends or family. The number is then used as a proxy for overall customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
For example, a company may ask their clients to fill out a short survey at the completion of a transaction. One question asks the client, “How likely are you to recommend?” and offers a scale from 0 to 10 with 0 being extremely unlikely and 10 being extremely likely.
Those answering this question with a 9 or a 10 are considered your promoters. Those falling in the 7-8 range are passive and 0-6 are your detractors. To establish a Net Promoter Score, a percentage of detractors is subtracted for a percentage of promoters.
Let’s say your business has 35% promoters, 45% passive, and 20% detractors.
35% – 20% = a Net Promoter Score of +15.
You can utilize Net Promoter Scores to learn more about what is most important to your audience as well as a means to benchmark goals.
15. Technologically savvy
Effective brand managers are up-to-date in the realm of technology and are early adopters of new software and tech services to help maintain their brand.
Technological advances won’t slow down for anybody. If your brand is going to keep up, it’s important to have someone savvy in the driver’s seat. Technology will always intimately impact the way brand management occurs. Getting your brand’s story and messages out to your customers in this ever-changing landscape can prove difficult if you turn your back on the importance of tech.
The effective brand manager volleys their tech savviness into tracking down the best ways to deliver services and information to your customers through technology, in ways that are most meaningful to them, on platforms they’re already engaging with.
But be mindful of the ways in which your brand is deploying new technology. Technology is for storytelling, not just looking trendy.
Hopefully, reviewing these 15 habits of highly effective brand managers was a helpful step on your journey. By carefully examining the qualities which lead to brand management achievement, you’ve pinpointed a few areas of growth or at least some opportunities for improvement. Whether you’re looking to become a highly effective brand manager or looking to hire one, you now have a firmer grasp on what brand management really takes.