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What makes a great brand manager?

A job-hunting friend of mine recently asked my perspective on what makes a great brand manager from a strategy consultant’s point of view

brand manager

I paused.

Thought a little.

Reminisced about previous projects.

Wrote a few notes down.


And got to this…

My ideal brand manager is one that has fire in them, and does not shoot down ideas for being too out there (within reason).

Similarly I would not want the brand manager to just say yes to everything and agree with me on everything I’m saying. This always makes me think that when it gets presented up to C-level it will be shot down and the agency (me) blamed as s/he did not ask questions, nor did they probe as to the detailed process to understand why things get done a certain way and to see how a vision and brand strategy is formed.

Keeping in touch with the strategist and checking in regularly is also key – as basic as that sounds – and true that it can be frustrating and disruptive if you’re in a good flow, but it makes me believe in them. That is key for a great partnership to grow as I expect to be challenged until they are confident I will deliver and that I know my stuff, and I expect them to be open to being challenged too.

Put it this way – the best strategists are unafraid to ask the tough questions and make people rethink a brand that they have spent 20 years working for… despite me working 20 hours on it… and having the conviction that this guy is making them reconceptualise their brand for a reason.

Brand managers must be the opposite number in the same journey, receptive to what is being asked and essentially a partner in the journey.

Honesty and integrity is important for me as I am more comfortable challenging the conventions and norms nowadays.

A mentor of mine when I was much younger once got fired from a massive project after saying ‘[client industry] is dead’ in a client meeting… three days later the brand manager called up and said ‘you were a cocky b*stard but on thinking about it, you were right’ – the agency was rehired. He, on reading the reasoning in the presentation we sent him home with that day, realised that what he thought he knew, he didn’t.

Fresh eyes bring fresh perspective.

 december_snowdrift via Compfight

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About Greg Dillon

Greg is the founder of strategy consultancy GD | Inspires and spends his days strategising for various design agencies and clients around the world - see more at http://gdinspires.com. He is also a prolific entrepreneur having launched Strat-Talking.com - a website aimed at giving advice and insight to new, existing and veteran freelancers as well as commenting on all things strategic as well as acquiring CreativeAgencyFreelancing.com for designers. Feel free to email him at: greg@gdinspires.com or follow on Twitter @CAFreelancing.

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