Don’t do away with Brand Managers… Just start to embrace marketing again

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.

Thank You for Ad Age’s “25 Media People You Should Follow on Twitter”

On Friday I had quite the shock when my email inbox was suddenly filled with notifications of new followers on Twitter.  A quick check of Tweetdeck gave me the answer when I was humbled to learn that Ad Age had named me one of “25 Media People to Follow on Twitter.”  I have a tough time believing I should be on the same list as business luminaries like John Battelle, Mark Cuban, and Chris Anderson but I am honored all the same.

Here are a few of the other very deserving folks that made the list:

Mark Cuban (@mcuban) – Owner of HDNet (and the Dallas Mavericks)

John Battelle (@johnbattelle) – Founder and Chairman of Federated Media

Chris Anderson (@chr1sa)- Wired Magazine editor

Jeff Lanctot (@lanctot) – Chief Strategy Officer at Razorfish

David Carr (@carr2n) – New York Times media columnist

David Berkowitz (@dberkowitz) – Emerging Media Director at 360i

Brian Lam (@blam) – Editorial Director at Gizmodo

Pete Cashmore (@mashable) – Founder/CEO of Mashable, the social-media blog

Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) – Managing Partner of Union Square Ventures

Thanks to Nat Ives (@natives), Abbey Klaassen (@amklaassen), and Michael Learmonth (@learmonth) for the honor of making the list.  And a special thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this blog and follow my ramblings on Twitter.  I really, really appreciate it.

Related Links:

Ad Age announces the 2009 Digital A-List

As someone who lives and breathes digital marketing every day, I am always intrigued to see what the media identifies as the latest and great in digital.  In advance of their Ad Age Digital Conference, Ad Age released their 2009 Digital A-List.  Making the list this year were:

  • Apple:  Apple ads breathe new life into Online creative.
  • Hulu: Top-notch content makes Hulu a success.
  • R/GA: R/GA smashes the boundaries of Digital Shop model
  • CNN/Facebook:  CNN/Facebook Inauguration pairing a watershed moment
  • Obama:  Social Media paves Obama’s way to the White House.
  • Xbox:  Xbox is not just for the hardcore gamer anymore.
  • Twitter:  Who says everything has to be monetized?
  • Walmart:  How Walmart owns the concept of value online.
  • AKQA:  AKQA embodies new digital-agency model.
  • Bank of America:  Consumer control brings brand loyalty to Bank of America.
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Being like Dad isn’t a bad thing

Canadian Club received $3.5 million on measured media last year, 91% of which came in magazine advertising in November and December, after the 'Damn Right' campaign launched.I’ve been a huge fan of the new Canadian Club campaign ever since it broke a few months ago.  According to the latest article from AdAge, it appears I’m not the only one.  The campaign, under the tagline of “Damn Right Your Dad Drank It” has helped Canadian Club reverse one of the longest declines in the spirit industry.  From the article, “case volume of Canadian Club in food, drug and liquor stores rose 4.4% in the 13 weeks ending March 8.”  This is after case shipments went from 3.9 million in 1980 to 1.5 million in 1995 and further down to 1.3 million last year.

In my eyes, the success of this campaign shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that knows Gen Y/Millenials.  For younger consumers (ie the 21 to 30 set this campaign goes after), being like your dad isn’t a bad thing.  Family is more important to this generation of consumers than ever before and dad is a role model, not an old guy.  In fact, doing something your father did isn’t a bad thing, especially when you think about your dad as a cool young guy that enjoyed life.  Canadian Club got it right on this one with their new generation of consumers.

Weekly Round-Up 3-19-2008

Lots of great stuff around this week.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Is the Agency Model Broken?:  I’ve had this debate/discussion with several of my agency friends.  I’ll write more on my opinion this weekend but great post to get you thinking.
  • The conversation at AdAge goes digital: I was really interested in how Twitter exploded at SXSW the other.  It seems that things are going the same way at the conferences this week.  This stuff interested me enough that I am going to give Twitter a shot to see what all this buzz is about.
  • Give Up Owning the Brand:  Love this.  Great advice for brands when thinking about Youth Marketing.
  • Facebook about to pass MySpace in worldwide traffic:  Very interesting.  “Facebook continues to close rapidly on MySpace’s visitor total: At 100.7 million uniques in January, Facebook is now just about 8% smaller than MySpace’ 109.3 million. A year ago, MySpace’s worldwide lead was nearly 4x.”