A Brand Manager’s Call for Change

“The amount of change in marketing over the past 3 – 5 years probably equals the amount of change over the past 30 years.” – Robert Liodice, CEO, ANA (Association of National Advertisers)

Let’s face it; it used to be a lot easier to be a Brand Manager.  People were looking for brands that delivered functional benefits like “better tasting” or “longer lasting.”  They heard about those brands through a handful of media vehicles like TV, magazines, radio and billboards.  And when they decided to buy that “longer lasting” brand they saw on TV, they went to the neighborhood store, which was happy to stock the trusted brands.  The purchase funnel was a simple, straightforward process that Brand Managers could easily follow and plan against.

Those days are gone and are never coming back.

What people want out of a brand has changed dramatically over the past several years.  While functional benefits still play an extremely important role, consumers want more.  They want a brand to stand for something more than just “best tasting.”  They want the brand to have a purpose and in many cases, they want to have an emotional connection with the brand.  In particular, these changes in attitude are being driven by a new generation of consumers:

  • Gen Y is 40% more likely to “pay more for products consistent with an image I like”
  • 59% of Trendsetter Youth would rather buy a $4 Organic Vegetable than a $2 Non-Organic Vegatable”
  • 62% of 14 to 34 Year-Olds claim to have taken steps to “living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle”, including 14% who have bought environmentally conscious brands.
  • Gen Y is twice as likely to claim to be “influenced by what’s hot and what’s not.”

Digital is transforming how people interact with brands and with each other.

Just as important as the change in what people want from a brand is the change in how they interact with brands.  You see, thanks to digital, people today have been permanently reprogrammed and they are engaging with different forms of media and technology like never before.  Their time is being split across all sorts of media channels and their opinions about products are no longer shaped by just what marketers tell them. Consider these facts of today’s digital world:

  • Nearly half of US online adults are social media users, but 71% of online tweens and teens connect to a social network at least once a week.
  • There are more Paypal accounts than Visa card holders.
  • Americans sent 75 billion text messages in June 2008, a 160% increase from June 07.
  • 70 million of the 90 million homes in the United States that are online have broadband connection speed and 37 percent of US Homes have Wireless or Wi-Fi.
  • 9 out of 10 teens considers themselves to be “video gamers” and more than half play video games at least 3 times per week.
  • 29% of teens would rather shop online than in a store.
  • Consumers aged 18 – 26 are spending more time using the Internet (12.2 hours per week) than watching TV (10.6 hours per week) according to Forrester.

These are just a few facts that provide the background for what Forrester describes as a Groundswell.  In this Groundswell, dramatic changes in technology and media have caused control to shift away from companies and shift to consumers.  As a result, the Brand Manager no longer has the control of creating a message, buying 3 television spots and then sitting back as everyone in markets starts to hum their advertising jingle.  Today’s empowered digital consumer has completely changed the game…but its not just about new marketing tactics or media.  What we are witnessing is not only a shift in the fundamentals of marketing, but also in brand building.  Simple put, the digital consumer is revolutionizing the basic duties of a Brand Manager.

The brand builders of tomorrow need to change what they are doing today.  The fact is we cannot afford to sit this one out.  People are not limited in their choices of brands and they are starting to hold us to a higher standard.  The fact is that digital is fundamentally changing the way companies and consumers communicate….it’s not just another marketing tool.  Instead, digital is an enabler of new means of communication and conversation between people and brands.  To thrive in this new world, brands and businesses need a new type of leader with a fresh set of brand building skills.  They need a Brand Manager with a new leadership philosophy.

So I guess the question is, “What are you doing to be that brand leader of the future?”


  1. says

    Yes, great article Dave! Too many brands consider "digital" a medium…it's not just a medium, it's THE mechanism by which the medium is even possible. This is an even greater issue when targeting Gen Y…as you noted. They don't consume media in large courses…rather they are vending machine like media snackers, getting what they want and leaving. Keep it bite sized and relevant.

    Amazing find regarding applications vs music downloads. Wow.

  2. says

    Great post Dave. But I think Bob has it wrong: It's the marketplace that has changed dramatically, not marketing. That is, of course, if you believe that marketing is a way of walking, not a way of talking. Keep up the great work!

  3. says

    Great post and excellent data points as well. Do you think it is the brand managers who need to change or are they the ones that get it (as more Gen Y BMs start to take the reigns)…and the General Managers are the ones needing the good push in the backside? From where I sit the BMs are willing to let go; its the guys at the top that need the cajoling.

    Good stuff,

  4. says

    It's the new groundswell of MEkerting. The art of the brand builder making the interaction with the brand about me – the consumer and not about the product. What it can do for me, how it can interact and engage with me in a 2 way dialogue is more important than, as you say the "functional benefits like “better tasting” or “longer lasting.”

    MEkerting is about really understanding the consumer and standing for something that they can engage with.

    MEkerting is about the consumer not about your brand, yes digital has really turned brand management on it's head and isn't it fun!

  5. says

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your insightful new marketing manifesto. The USA are leading the way, but North-Western Europe is keeping up the fast pace. Every new generation revolutionises societies, markets and marketing. This is why generational marketing is so useful and practical as a market segmentation tool. It is amazing to track and trace the Zeitgeist studying seniors, babyboomers, Gen X and Gen Y (or Gen Next if you wish) in quantitative and qualitative market research, both using old-school offline and new-school online research methods and techniques. The new marketing is not only a Gen Y thing: do not underestimate the changing communication and shopping routines of the Gen X, babyboomers and seniors. Your article does have some interesting implications for the market research industry of today and tomorrow.

    Cool stuff! Klaus van den Berg

  6. says

    Dave's opinion is one that carries more weight than most as he is one is doing it…everyday. Working for the largest advertiser on the planet. So he sees just about everything and at the end of the day, he and his fellow brand managers will be the ones to make the change that he speaks of a reality. Brand management was first invented at P&G. (honestly, look it up…its true) So why should it be the young marketers at that same company who remake it.


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