The buzz around the marketing water cooler this morning is about a report by Lisa Bradner of Forrester entitled “Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age.” In the report, Lisa makes the provocative statement that our industry should change the name “brand manager” to “brand advocate” as a response to the fundamental changes brought about by the digital age. Further fuel is added to the fire with Ad Age’s story about the report called “Why It’s Time to Do Away With the Brand Manager.”
The Forrester report makes a compelling story and the subsequent Ad Age article adds further proof of why Brand Management is about to undergo its’ biggest change since McElroy wrote his infamous memo in May 1931.
But there is one particular point that I think needs repeating:
We don’t need to get rid of Brand Managers - we need to “return to marketing as the focus of Brand Management.”
As my colleague Bob Gilbreath points out in the article, marketing needs to be something much more important than “one of the six things a Brand Manager does.” Or as Bradner states, “So much of [brand managers'] time is subsumed by internal management, and so much of the creative process and planning is outsourced to agencies and other parties… [brand managers] really need to be in charge of the heart and soul of what the brand stands for. It does move you off the generalist track to be more of a pure marketer.”
I could not agree more with that statement.
In fact, this was the entire premise of one of my first posts on Hard Knox Life in April 2008. At the time, I wrote that:
One of the biggest misinterpretations of brand management is that being a Brand Manager and being a Marketer are one and the same… If you love marketing, devote yourself to being the best marketer in the world and knowing how the world of media and communication are changing. And if you love running a business/brand, then surround yourself with people that love marketing and are willing to devote the time to being a brilliant marketer. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming just because you are one, means you are the other.
This same point is as true today as when I wrote that original post. For the past decade (or longer), Brand Management has been more more about being a generalist and less about being a brilliant marketer. But that has to change. When suddenly we are faced with a world with 50 marketing choices instead of 5, we need to have pure marketers who can make sense of the chaos.
That doesn’t mean that we have to get rid of Brand Managers. But it means that our entire industry needs to re-embrace what it means to be a marketer.