What is 'Brand Management'

Brand management is a function of marketing that uses techniques to increase the perceived value of a product line or brand over time. Effective brand management enables the price of products to go up and builds loyal customers through positive brand associations and images or a strong awareness of the brand. Developing a strategic plan to maintain brand equity or gain brand value requires a comprehensive understanding of the brand, its target market, and the company's overall vision.

BREAKING DOWN 'Brand Management'

Brands have a powerful influence on customer engagement, competition in the markets, and the management of a company. A strong brand presence in the market differentiates a company’s products from its competitors and creates brand affinity for a company’s products or services. It takes years to establish a brand, but when it finally occurs, it has to still be maintained through innovation and creativity. Notable brands that have established themselves as leaders in their respective industries over the years include Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Microsoft, IBM, Procter & Gamble, CNN, Disney, Nike, Ford, Lego, and Starbucks.

A brand manager is tasked with managing the tangible and intangible properties of a brand. The tangible aspects of a company’s brand include the product(s), price, packaging, logo, associated colors and lettering format, etc. These features are implemented to get the attention of consumers and to differentiate one company’s brand from another. Some brands are associated with viral jingles, attention-grabbing catch phrases, or animals that stick to the minds of consumers. For example, seeing a gecko reminds one of Geico Insurance which uses the reptile in most of its advertising campaigns. Similarly, the Coca-Cola jingle, It’s the Real Thing, which first aired in 1971 as a TV commercial that featured people of different races and cultures, is still branded on the vocal chords of Coca-Cola consumers.

A brand does not only need to be tied to one product. One brand could cover different products or services. Ford, for example, has multiple auto models under the Ford brand. Likewise, a brand name can take on multiple brands under its umbrella. For example, Procter & Gamble has multiple brands under its brand name, such as Ariel laundry detergent, Charmin tissue, Bounty paper towels, Dawn dishwashing liquid, and Crest toothpaste.

A brand manager’s role is to analyze how a brand is perceived in the market by taking the intangible elements of a brand into account. Intangible factors include the experience that the consumers have had with the brand and their emotional connection with the product or service. The intangible characteristics of a brand build the brand equity. Brand equity is the price above the product’s value that consumers are willing to pay to acquire the brand. Brand equity is an internally generated intangible asset in which its value is ultimately decided by consumers’ perception of the brand. If consumers are willing to pay more for a brand than a generic brand that performs the same functions, the brand equity will increase in value. On the other hand, the value of a brand equity falls when consumers would rather purchase a similar product that costs less than the brand.

Brand management involves not only creating a brand, but also understanding what products could fit under the brand of a company. A brand manager always has to keep its target market in mind when conceiving new products to take on the company’s brand or working with analysts to decide what companies to merge with or acquire. A car manufacturing company that merges with a clothing retail company is hard to fathom and may lead to a disaster for a company’s bottom line if the reasoning behind its decision is nonsensical.

A brand that has been established has to continually maintain its brand image through brand management. Effective brand management increases brand awareness; measures and manages brand equity; drives initiatives that support a consistent brand message; identifies and accommodates new brand products; effectively positions the brand in the market; etc. The difference between brand management success and failure comes down to ongoing innovation. A brand manager that continuously seeks innovative ways to maintain the quality of a brand will retain its loyal consumers and gain more brand affinity, compared to one that is content with the current good name of the company’s brand. Case in point is Xerox which launched the photocopier machine that revolutionized the way businesses copied documents. However, the company was fixated on this successful offering and failed to keep up with the times as technology disrupted old ways of doing things. In addition, by focusing on the target consumers of today without anticipating how their needs will change tomorrow, Xerox was outranked by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard which improved on Xerox’s technology to develop cutting-edge inventions and smarter devices that grabbed consumers’ attentions and dollars.

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