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.
- 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 helps a company build a loyal customer base and helps fuel a company's profits.
- A brand manager ensures the innovation of a product or brand, creating brand awareness via the use of price, packaging, logo, associated colors, and lettering format.
- Brand management is usually centered around fostering the brand recognition, brand equity, and brand loyalty of a product.
- Brand equity refers to the value a company gains from its name recognition, enabling it to be the popular choice among consumers even when compared to a generic brand with a lower price point.
How Brand Management Works
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.
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, and effectively positions the brand in the market.
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.
Benefits of Brand Management
- Distinguished Products. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, there were over 250,000 full-service restaurants in the United States as of 2019. Strong brand management is necessary if any of these restaurants want to be recognizable apart from their competitors.
- Strong Employee Engagement. Brand management begins with the internal buy-in of the values, principles, and perception of a product. By ensuring all people in a company are part of the brand management process, employees may be more likely to buy into the strategic plan of the brand and company.
- Increased sales quantity. Though never a given, stronger brand management that drives brand loyalty and brand equity may drive stronger sales quantities. As more consumers are tied to a brand or positively recognize a brand, they are more likely to choose it over an unfamiliar alternative (all else being equal).
- Increased CLV. Customer lifetime value. In addition to greater sales quantities, brand management drives stronger value over the lifespan of a customer. Customers are more likely to repeat purchases if they have a positive experience and may be more likely to buy different products along the same product line if they forge strong brand loyalty with a single brand.
- Leveraged Pricing. If a company has a strong reputation with the market, their brand management may be leveraged to other products. This means a company can sell products at a premium if their brand invokes a strong enough connection to consumers (i.e. Apple).
- Less Volatile Market Position. Though companies always risk depressed financial results during market downturns, companies with stronger brand management may be able to weather the storm easier. This is because consumers may find it non-negotiable to deviate from companies they have strong, positive associations with even during inclement financial times.
Effective Brand Management Techniques
Brand management may seem complex, but there are a number of simple, elegant techniques that make the process manageable. Here are some of the more effective ways brand management occurs.
Establish Branding Basics
Brand management often begins with the basics, and that means establishing a strong mission statement, logo, target audience, and vision statement. Though these are often created by the marketing team during a company or product's infancy, it is up to the brand management team to further refine and drive the branding basics.
Create Compelling Stories
As the product or company begins to be used by consumers, it is critical that the brand management team strengthens the relationship between the good and user. This means capitalizing on emotional stories by tapping into the human connection to however the company's products are being used.
Often guided by social media and a website, brand management must be cohesive across all media platforms. This includes any televised, radioed, or printed advertising. The more marketing channels a company has, the more important it is for brand management to cohesively link these to convey a single, consistent message to consumers.
Consider Branding Language
On a related note, the brand management process must be guided by a consistent use of language and tone. This may be easier to convey using photos or printed advertisements. However, different challenges may arise if different people are managing different marketing channels. As long as the receiving channels are the same across product lines, the brand management team must ensure the wording and feeling behind communications are consistent.
Establish Internal Rules
All of the tips above don't matter if the internal branding and marketing teams aren't aligned. Therefore, the brand management team must effectively implement limits and rules on how certain activities are performed. For example, the brand management team may restrict the use to certain fonts, images, designs, or color schemes. Any deviations from these rules must be run through the brand management team for special approval.
Brand Management Elements
There’s three critical elements to brand management: equity, recognition, and loyalty. Though it may be difficult to quantifiably measure the benefits of each, brand management plays a direct part in developing all three aspects of a brand.
Brand management often starts with brand recognition. If a company can’t invoke positive emotions in consumers when they see a brand, that may be no brand to manage. In addition, brand recognition entails ensuring recognition of a brand invokes a favorable response instead of brand opposition.
This is especially important for new products being brought to market; a company must decide how to best manage that brand and invest upfront capital to make the brand more recognizable. On the other hand, more established brands must decide how many resources to allocate to maintain or strengthen a brand's existing position.
Brand equity is the commercial value of a product’s image. Though a company doesn’t actually receive the direct dollars of value from its products having high brand equity, brand equity often translates to greater sales as consumers associate a product or brand with greater value. Brand equity is built over time through positive experiences, associates, and demonstrated value.
Consider an example of a billboard displaying an advertisement for Powerade. Because of the positive name-association of Powerade (via partnerships with professional sports leagues and massive market), it may have greater brand equity than a generic brand. Similar to how a company may become more valuable over time as it becomes worth more, a brand’s value can increase over time in the same way.
A customer may recognize a brand, and a customer may even assess strong positive value with a brand. However, if that customer is easily swayed to pivot to a competing product, brand management has failed. The objective of brand loyalty is invoke such as strong relationship between the consumer and the brand that the consumer can't fathom diverting from the brand's products.
Whereas brand recognition occurs on the front-end of brand management, brand loyalty is a long-term achievement that is earned in a variety of ways. Companies must demonstrate their products meet consumer needs. In addition, companies must ensure strong customer service ensures a customer has a positive experience along the entire life of the product.
Smaller companies with lower headcount may have one dedicated team to both the creation of (brand management) and implementation of (marketing) branding strategies.
Brand Management vs. Marketing
Brand management and marketing both appear to do the same thing; after all, both departments influence how external stakeholders perceive the company's or product's brands. However, there are subtle differences between the two.
Marketing Initially Leads, Brand Management Follows
When companies or products are launched, those companies or divisions may not have a fully dedicated team for brand management. Instead, they more often have a collection of marketing professionals that guide the initial external management of public perception. That marketing team may own many initial aspects of brand management, though their role often entails much more than simply honing in on a branding strategy.
Marketing Is Broad, Brand Management Is Specific
As a product line or company matures, the brand in question may receive more resources, especially if the brand has been successful. At this point, the brand management team documents, defines, and formalizes the brand strategy. This plan is much more detailed than the initial plans laid out by the marketing team. In addition, the brand management team will be more likely to collect information from other departments to ensure a broader, company-wide adoption of the brand management implementation plan.
Marketing Is More External, Brand Management Is More Internal
The marketing team of a company is primarily focused on the outside interactions. This includes communications, event presence, public perception, and public relations. Though these aspects may play a part in crafting the brand, brand management is more internally-focused on strategically devising the course of action. Brand management is more likely to outline the strategy and internal buy-in, whereas marketing is more likely to implement the external strategy and external acceptance of the brand.
Examples of Brand Management
For some, seeing a gecko reminds them 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 popular and familiar to generations of Coca-Cola consumers.
A brand does not have 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.
Requirements of a Brand Manager
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.
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 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 brand equity falls when consumers would rather purchase a similar product that costs less than the brand.
A cult brand is an example of a "benign cult" where the customer base for a product or service is extremely loyal, leading to the brand's success as a growing legion of customers feel a unique emotional connection with the brand.
The Importance of Innovation in Brand Management
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.
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.
What Is Meant By Brand Management?
Brand management is the creation and enforcement of rules surrounding how a company or product is communicated to markets. This includes dictating boundaries on advertising, language, tone, and cadence of communication with customers.
Why Is Brand Management Important?
Brand management is important because it dictates how public markets perceive goods. Without brand management, consumers may not become loyal to a product line or may not choose to repeat purchases with a company after a positive experience. Effective brand management may lead to not only to greater sales quantities in the short-term but greater long-term financial success due to long-term customers.
What Is the Goal of Brand Management?
The goal of brand management is to form a specific perception about a product or company. By strategically determining the font, language, style of messaging, and marketing plans, the brand management team hopes to make the public see a product or company in a specific light.
The Bottom Line
Brand management is the vague strategy of guiding public perception of a good, product, service, or company. Brand management is heavily tied to creating brand equity, loyalty, and recognition. It is also formulated by a dedicated team, most often after the marketing team has built-out an initial marketing plan. By effectively building out a brand management strategy, a company may experience stronger short-term and long-term financial success.