Brand managers need to shape up

Our ‘man on the inside’ provides a view from the top of the marketing tree

Call me old fashioned, but brand managers just aren’t what they used to be.

When I was a brand manager, it was my job to know more about my brand than anybody else. I would identify the issues and opportunities facing my products and services, then design and implement those plans which would drive my brand forward.

I am worried that today’s brand managers have forgotten how to think for themselves, instead preferring to outsource far too much of their responsibilities. There are a few factors to blame here. Email is undoubtedly a great innovation, but at times I see some of my own brand managers forwarding and copying emails to such an extent that they have little time to actually achieve anything else in their working day (and that includes reading and thinking about what the email is actually about).

The second factor is that in many cases, brand managers can “phone a friend” or ask the agency as often as they like. This get-out clause leads many of them to commission and ultimately hide behind the agencies, absolving all accountability to the agency rather than leading the agenda themselves.

At its worst, this includes delegating much of the work that a brand manager should really be doing for themselves. When I talk to senior partners in agencies, they are often bemused by this dynamic, yet who can blame them for turning on the taxi meter when clients refuse to think for themselves?

Agencies are there to help us sell more of our products, rather than to be our PAs.

I had a run-in with one of my team this week for this very reason. He came into my office to ask me to sign off additional budget for agency fees. Brilliant – we hire a creative agency to develop advertising and yet we manage to clock up our entire allocated budget by getting them to arrange meetings, write PowerPoint documents and review research that we could and should have done ourselves.

We have no budget left to pay the agency for the work we actually hired them to do. As for my brand manager, you could put this down to laziness, inexperience or total incompetence.

I put it down to all three and call a meeting with my entire team to explain to them that agencies are there to help us sell more of our products, rather than to be our PAs.

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