Look through any magazine carrying recruitment advertising and one fact stands out – ads for classic brands put as much emphasis on the brand’s message as they do on the details of the job.
Those involved in the recruitment industry agree that an opp-ortunity to work on a classic, British-based packaged goods product will provide the best training and experience for a career in marketing. Traditional products even provide a good foundation for those who want to work on non-traditional brands.
Roy Hoolahan, managing director of recruitment agency Ball & Hoolahan, comments: “Although there is a shortage of training for sophisticated global brands which require strategic ability, I still think experience is the best teacher. Marketing graduates who go to packaged goods companies gain exposure to large-scale consumer research. Exposure to big brands is the key.”
Hoolahan is ideally placed to know what marketing directors require of their new brand managers. Like other recruitment consultants, he supplies the candidates and helps companies to shortlist them.
However, brand management is changing rapidly. Category management, transnational marketing and franchise management are all having an effect. “The classic brand management model is unable to cope with these pressures,” says Hoolahan.
Karen Johnson, planning consultant for the brand development agency CLK, is capitalising on the training gap which these changes have created. She is running a series of one-day seminars called “Brands Today”.
Johnson defines a brand as “a promise that is kept”, and uses this as a guide to a brand’s success or failure. Developing brands and brand equity requires that these promises are maintained. Increasing brand equity, says Johnson, comes from taking advantage of the most convincing promises. She defines brand equity as “unfair advantage – what you can do better, differently, cheaper, more effectively”.
This shift of emphasis in what brands are about needs to be communicated to the new brand manager, says Johnson. She also believes that corporate brands will become more important for large companies.
Corporate brands, she says, will defy accepted attrition rates when launching new functions and new product brands. “Only one in ten brands succeed over a period of time,” she says, citing Virgin’s expanding empire as an example of a corporate brand “singing from the same song sheet”.
From corporate branding to individual branding, people are increasingly being advised to look at themselves as though they are brands. Nothing, however, can compete with the gusto for self-improvement that is sweeping through the Chartered Institute of Marketing. CIM careers and continual personal development manager Sarah Booth says: “A chartered marketer is a brand in his or her own right. There is a need to invest in yourself as a brand. We want the chartered marketer to be the premier brand for marketers. You can only become a chartered marketer if you are making the Continued Profes sional Development programme commitment.”
In other words, the CIM’s definition of a chartered marketer is everyone who has ploughed through all of the CIM exams.
Booth also makes the link between emphasis on the individual and emphasis on category management. She says that trainers are now looking to the customer rather than the product. The impact of relationship marketing is changing the role of the brand manager, she says.
The implication is that the data-driven techniques brought to the fore by academics and authors such as Don Peppers and Martha Rogers in the US, or Professors Merlin Stone and Robert Shaw in the UK, will affect brand managers as marketing directors demand one-to-one marketing results.
Whitbread, which controls leisure brands such as Thresher, David Lloyd, Beefeater, Pizza Hut, and TGI Friday, agrees. The company has moved this idea a step further by taking the control of customer feedback away from brand managers. This information has been pooled into a single central resource, headed by direct marketing database manager John Belchamber.
Brand managers used to manipulate the data for their own brands, but this task has now been put in the hands of one department, which collates the data from all of the brands and hands a digestible and refined product back to the individual brand managers.
Whitbread now uses this data to draw a picture of its leisure consumer and, by using the collated information, it is able to strengthen the individual brand values.
Belchamber says: “We found individual brand managers didn’t like handling all that data anyway.”
But Roy Harrison, policy adviser for the Institute of Personnel Development, believes brand managers have no choice but to become more data literate. The problem, he says, is that there is no specific training in data-handling for brand managers at the moment and this is causing a dangerous skills and information gap.
Harrison also believes that brand managers would benefit from occupational psychology and communication theory training. He even suggests that Neuro-Linguistic Programming studies would not go amiss: “I have quite a lot of sympathy for that. Neuro-Linguistic Programming opens up big questions.”
Psychological theories aside, the priority for tomorrow’s brand managers is numeracy and data literacy. Although companies are increasingly centralising customer information, the key to a successful career is to have all of the consumer facts at your fingertips.