10 things that separate the sh*t brand managers from the good ones

Victoria Cooper, Marketing Academy of Australia scholar
By Victoria Cooper, Marketing Academy of Australia scholar | 13 August 2015

Professor Mark Ritson gave the Marketing Academy of Australia scholars, along with their friends and industry colleagues, a recent lecture into the key points of being a wonderful brand manager as opposed to being a sh*t one. 

The two hour session started with a case study of Snapple, which was sold to Quaker from the Snapple founders in 1994 for $1.7billion and in only three years was subsequently sold to Triarc Beverages for $300M US in 1997. To lose $1.4billion in three years is the nightmare of any brand manager. Understanding what makes a brand special and using that understanding to drive business is critical in brand management. No two brands are alike nor should they ever be treated like that.

This then led Ritson into sharing with the captive audience his tips on how to be a good brand manager. Time to get your pads and pens out...

1. Market oriented to the point of paranoia - Get out there in market and listen to your customer

2. Research before strategy: every year undertake both qualitative and quantitative research. Run your own qualitative and design your own questionnaires if possible, this should feed the strategic planning process and doing one without the other is insufficient.

3. Be 'choiceful' in your targeting: Decide who your brand is NOT for. You can't target everyone and strong brands don’t. Segmentation is marketing but targeting is strategy, the smart ones chose what not to do.

4. Clear tight positioning = 4 words or less, ditch the models and get the words right and avoid the usual suspects such as quality, trust, innovator, excellence, integrity.....

I am sure you are scanning your confusing brand sums, houses and triangles right now and seeing those words stick out like a sore thumb, I know I was, but basically it is about making it ownable. If you want consumers to know what your brand is about keep it to a few simple words. The Hublot watch with Fusion as the positioning was used as a standout example of this.

5. Be disruptive in your application, don't obey the category norms, standout.

This is where I felt agencies in the room rejoice while brand managers quivered. Why play it safe and blend in when you have the opportunity and power to stand out.

6. Be a killer not creator of brands. The world already has too many. Take the Ford approach, in 2006 when Alan Mulally arrived the company was losing $12billion and after selling the majority of brands in 2014 the number was still the same but now in the black.

7. Be sceptical about social media, the majority of us are not sure it’s working but we plan to spend more on it next year. Get a reality check. The players may have changed but the game is still the same. What media will help me: reach my target, fits with my brand positioning, delivers my objectives and gives me the best return.

8. Be an integrated marketing communications switch hitter and media neutral. There should not be special budgets for certain types of media. Who cares whether we engage with our target through TV, digital or radio -we just want to engage them.

9. Use brand tracking - this is a MANDATORY

Do all the above and no doubt you will rise above the stink of bad brand management!

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