Take a closer look at a brand manager’s agenda and you will see a colorful mix of operational and strategic topics: Common problems need solving, new products need launching, and old ones need to be pulled from the market. The market-structured integration of acquired companies can also find its way on people’s to-do lists. What should they name the new product? And what would branding look like? And in between there’s an important assignment from the board. Oh, and a planning session for a trade show needs to be attended. Don’t forget the dialogues between business units in the marketplace.
So how do successful brand managers ever meet their goals while having to deal with new expectations that keep rolling in?
I discussed these challenges with my colleague Alexandra Fukazawa. Alexandra is a brand manager for a global corporation. She’s in charge of the internal and external design of the brand, and is in close daily contact with the markets, the teams as well as the corporation and service providers. In parallel, she develops new projects in communication, sponsoring and digital media.
How would describe what you do in your own words?
My job is to help the company meet its goals. This can be in the form of redesigning the brand with regard to all its touchpoints and principles or by defining concrete strategies and adequate communication channels. I put together project teams and accompany them to the final brand execution. It is not uncommon that all these project teams need to be orchestrated and managed for longer stretches. This in parallel to keeping to one’s own implementation-oriented work schedule. I get inquiries about brand implementation, amendments to current applications or concerning the development of new assets from all over the world. Collaboration with external agencies is also part of daily business. Advertising agencies, product engineering, etc. require guidance as well. No matter what the task: the brand and the overarching strategy must always be top of mind.
What do the business units expect of the brand management team – and of you especially? What are the benefits that brand management delivers to the business units?
Business units often act like a corporation within a corporation. That’s why their requirements can reach from overarching strategic themes to logo applications on flip switches from migrated sub brands. All in all, we need to think out of a holistic branding perspective, advise accordingly and make decisions that work in the business’ favor. It is therefore vital to constantly align with the business’ brand experts and communication directors. We can help them find individual solutions that fit their corporate strategy without tampering with the overarching brand image. While a business can lay the focus on a specific area, we get an overview over all business units. We can network, connect teams and work together efficiently to get the right solutions.
What role does the brand portal play in all this?
After the brand platform is finished, it is oftentimes the first and only information hub for internal and external teams. There, they will find the most important brand themes, all design elements, guidelines, principles and best practice guides, templates, media banks, and contact information for design management, brand governance and other support teams. It is safe to say that the brand portal is one of the most important go-to places for communication and to find the right tools for brand management. What is on the brand portal takes effect. With its regular updates, the brand portal is a great platform where people all over the world can mingle and exchange ideas.
Are trainings and workshops part of your job?
Definitely. Trainings and workshops are an important part of a brand manager’s job.
To share knowledge in an (online) workshop setting, etc. is a great way to begin collaboration within the company but also between external agencies and service companies. During workshops, we encourage an open dialogue and tell people to feel free to ask questions that we can usually answer on the spot. Also, employees need to live the brand: a team member discussing certain topics is more authentic and engaging than having to read an article on an online portal. By personally engaging with the team, I can put a face to the name “brand management”. Depending on the size and location of a company, sometimes the only way you can contact a brand management team is via email or chat.
Michel: What are the most important learnings to get things done in brand management?
Collaborate. Not delegate. I think it is more important to tackle an issue together. Investing this extra time is worth it because a team can grow together by working on the same task. There are more discussions happening, different insights gained. More creative solutions produced. In addition, collaboration allows for every single member to identify with the project.
Listen and learn. You can learn something new every day by listening to colleagues from different business sectors. Whether that colleague is in HR or in product engineering: The more you listen, the more you learn about the brand and how to guide it.
Always change perspective. Especially when looking down from a corporation’s perspective, one should never stop including other points of views. Does a certain element work for the business? The subsidiaries? And will the external team in Mumbai understand our templates?
Never stop asking. Always ask about what ever happened to project x. What solution was chosen¬–and why? What does the final outcome look like? Not all coworkers like to share their results or insights at the end of a project (sometimes they don’t even know why). But if you keep asking questions and offer your support, you help sustain good quality management.
Keep on moving. Keep on changing. A great brand is never done with. If a brand is lived properly, it evolves and wants to be challenged. You can always make improvements, tweak something or completely change it. With a solid strategy and good brand assets in place, you have maximum freedom to play with the brand’s communication touchpoints. In the fast-paced digital era we live in, this can be a great advantage.
_Michel Gabriel is Managing Director at MetaDesign Zürich
_Alexandra Fukazawa is Brand Manager at MetaDesign Zürich