The definition of brand and the role of a Brand Manager 7

The definition of brand and the role of a Brand Manager.

Ariadna Grau (Ari) has more than ten years experience as a Brand Manager in the Beauty and Food industry. I recently joined Prospekt Agency, where we work with a lot of Brand Managers, so I wanted to get Ari's take on what it's like.

We spent two hours on google meet talking about her experience. I could have talked for much longer, but I had the job of condensing the interview into a blog post. I actually ended up splitting the blog post into four segments, which will be released over the next few weeks:

  1. The definition of brand and the role of a Brand Manager (this blog post)
  2. The qualities you should be looking for in a Marketing Agency
  3. Knowing when an idea is good
  4. The demands on brands in a world where everyone has a voice

About Ariadna

Ari is originally from Barcelona. She started her journey in Marketing working in Barcelona Spain, at Henkel  - a leading brand in Adhesive Technologies, Beauty Care, and Laundry & Home Care - before moving over to the Headquarters in Hamburg, Germany.

Henkel

Ari's focus was on Professional Hairdressing in the Beauty sector. She started in Trade Marketing and worked up to International Senior Brand Manager, before she made the transition into Sales. The reason behind the move to Sales was to be closer to the consumer and "market reality".

She told me after ten years in the beauty industry, she needed a change. She wanted to work with products that she could connect with on a more personal level. For her, this was FOOD. She had a passion for food from a young age, where she helped her parents in the kitchen. She dreams of food and loves the creativity that goes with it - opening her fridge and not knowing what's going to happen is always a thrill for Ari.

luxury box with black and white olive oil bottlesed'o

She used this passion and drive to open her own Olive Oil business, ed'o (the gold essence) and "shake things up in the food industry".

I could hear her passion as she talked about it, and how proud she was about winning the "Best Packaging Concept of 2018" at the Red Dot Grand Prix. It was their ed’o Olive Oil – DELUXE Pairing Edition that got them this "Design Oscar" and since then her Olive Oil has been exhibited at
several international museums as a piece of art.

Lantmännen Unibake

In addition to running her own Olive Oil business, Ari works as a Key Account Manager for a Swedish bakery company, Lantmännen Unibake. Again living-out her passion in the food industry and working with complementary products - "there's nothing better than delicious bread and olive oil!"

I said it sounded like she had a lot on her plate (no pun intended), and she told me "I like the two perspectives I get: The knowledge, resources and team structure of a big multinational, along with the startup mentality and flexibility you get with your own business."

I quickly got the impression Ari was passionate about her work and continued to ask her about her experience as a Brand Manager. But first I asked her to define "Brand".

The Definition of Brand

Ari said she had always considered brands as personas - they have a name (logo), a voice and character (tonality), a shape (packaging) and create an emotional connection (loyalty). But she believes there is something more to brands. They evoke a kind of passion and attraction that goes beyond that of a persona.

People go crazy for brands. There is something intangible about them. It's almost like they have a spell over us.

The Role of a Brand Manager

So, I wondered how the Brand Manager (a person) was able to cast such a spell. What does the role of a Brand Manager entail? It turns out, everything!

I got anxious just listening to Ari reel off the list of her "jobs to be done."  Here's a list of the kind of skills you need:

  1. Project management across business functions and with external partners
  2. Strategic thinking and analysis
  3. Planning and decision making
  4. Managing and influencing stakeholders
  5. Market research, trend and competitor analysis
  6. Cultural awareness and adaptability
  7. Portfolio management (your own, but also awareness of competitors)
  8. Creative thinking and idea generation

There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of people involved in the process, which can prove quite challenging.

Challenges

The two biggest challenges for a Brand Manager, according to Ari, are convincing people of your idea and budget fluctuations.

Idea

It was tough to share my ideas at the beginning - it was like I was leaving myself exposed.

Brand Managers are expected to come up with new ideas all the time. But it's not just having ideas, they also have to take the idea to market. Ari told me it's a team effort and you most definitely cannot do it alone, so you have to get people onboard early on. She got used to sharing her ideas and found the easiest way of doing so was to try to visualise it somehow.

Some ideas aren't always visual - especially in hair products where you need an understanding of the technical components i.e. what formula to use. This is where you need the input of experts to help you build out the idea.

When it comes to packaging, however, Ari says you could enlist the help of a design agency to concept a product design before it even exists. The capabilities of 3D technology makes this even easier nowadays.

Budget

Budgets can get shifted between brands on a regular basis, making it difficult to plan effectively. Ari talked about the need for "SMART Solutions" to help manage these unexpected fluctuations. To her "SMART agencies" are the ones that can work with her if there are changes to timelines or budget.

She notes that agencies may not fully understand the internal workings of the company, but if they can empathise and do what they can to accommodate them - even in terms of budget - this is a huge plus.

Joys

There is usually a reason why people keep doing what they're doing. For Ari, being a Brand Manager, means she gets to build something from scratch. She noted two important days for a Brand Manager.

The Launch Day

She compares this to a NASA rocket launch: The whole preparation beforehand, the stress, anxiety and even the countdown! She said it's a huge adrenaline rush as the excitement builds for the big reveal. Being on stage in the spotlight and finally telling everyone about their creation ("their baby") is a proud moment and makes all of the sleepless nights in the run up to the big day worthwhile.

Running above plan

Ari says, this doesn't happen every time, but when it does happen it feels special. This is when the product is selling above all expectation. This doesn't mean running out of stock, because this is a whole other nightmare, according to Ari. But when they are running above their projected sales, they know they gave the customer what they wanted.

It feels like consumers believe in the brand, and you, for what you've created.

The Process: From idea generation to launch day - who to involve when

Ari talked a lot about the implementation of new ideas being a team effort, so I wanted to know who to involve at the different stages to get the support you need as a Brand Manager.

She broke down the process into six stages and summarised the teams you are likely to need at each stage.

Idea creation

This is the most challenging part. You'll need input and support from several sources to guide you.

  • Market research (global & local level) helps to inform potential gaps in the market for innovation. For global brands it's important to understand local markets too. She noted that Korea and Japan are strong leaders in innovation in Beauty, so they often looked to those markets.
  • Lab research can indicate new breakthroughs in science and new discoveries to help shape the innovation.
  • Creative thinking agencies assist in the idea process by hosting design thinking (or"bluesky") workshops. It's important to have people who understand the constraints of reality in these workshops too.

Concept writing

This is where you have to bring your idea to life and consider its feasibility. You'll need all the right people at the table to build a strong proof of concept.

  • Research & Development are required for their technical expertise.
  • The education team or "Prescribers" are those who have a good understanding of the product and need to inform others on it e.g. Hairdressers (in hair) and Chefs (in food).
  • Gurus of the industry, including customers and influencers can be involved to test if the idea resonates with them i.e. if it's relevant.

Packaging & Pricing

Packaging and pricing requires a lot of back-and-forth with multiple teams. This is when you start estimating business potential and get board members excited.

  • Industrial designers are needed to come up with packaging shapes, sizes, materials and innovative creations.
  • Design agencies, ideally with specialists in 3D modelling, can mock-up the packaging before its creation and give guidance on colour palette to be used etc. - 3D allows you to tweak the design multiple times without incurring the costs of physical prototypes
  • Artwork creation is typically needed for print labels or flyers - this could be the same design agency.
  • Packaging suppliers will be the ones creating the packaging based on the mock-ups they are sent.
  • The supply chain team check the feasibility of production and stability of the product during transportation i.e the best palletisation possible etc.

Communication

How you communicate the message is a huge part of your sales success. According to Ari, "Content is the world around the brand." If you're planning on using visuals, including video, you'll need support from the following.

  • An Art Director to take full ownership of the campaign and coordinate the design staff.
  • A video production team (camera, set, models, etc) to ensure your message is accurately captured on camera - unless you've opted for 3D and can save on all that expense.
  • A video editing team for post production - this isn't necessarily the same team/agency doing the production.
  • A highly-skilled photographer to get the best shots of your product, or, if you have "impossible shots" and a lot of technical content to convey, you could enlist a 3D design agency.
  • Social media specialists (strategy & content) to help distribute your message to your audience.

Execution

After the idea has been generated, concepted, packaged, priced and a communication plan exists, we're ready to take it to market. For this you'll need a team that can take the content and repurpose it.

  • Trade marketing take the campaign message and translate it into content for the "offline" world:
    • Sales teams need content to sell the product effectively.
    • Prescribers / trainers (e.g. Hairdressers) need to be able to show their customers the benefits.
    • Point of Sale Materials (POSM) for retailers are required for product promotion in their stores.
    • End user materials are used to communicate the benefits of the product to the consumer.

Budget

Budget is something that's monitored throughout the process. At the end of the day you have to generate a return on your investment. This is where you need support from:

  • Controlling or the finance department who can tell you the sales figures.
  • The so-called "SMART agencies" who should have been supporting you throughout the process, providing you with recommendations on how to develop things in the most cost-effective way.

Ari told me that most product launches take around a year and a half. There are the occasional fast-track jobs that have to be turned around in half a year, but most of the time you can reckon with 18 months.

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So, talking to Ari gave me a good idea about the day-to-day activities she faced as Brand Manager and I was able to get some insight into how a Marketing Agency, like Prospekt, could assist them along this complex and exciting journey.

Are you up against the same challenges as Ari? Send me a message below.