With companies investing an estimated $500 billion globally each year on brand marketing, the role of a Brand Manager aka ‘the brand guardian’, is no small feat. The days of constructing a brand’s identity through one-way advertising has increasingly given way to the online minefield of social media; leading to an era of “open source branding” where “consumers not only discuss and disseminate brand content, they also create it.”
When the job of a brand manager is to protect a brand’s reputation, brand manager responsibilities are now harder than ever. Audiences can hijack campaigns with parody YouTube videos, products sales are jeopardised by Tripadvisor reviews and a disgruntled tweet from an employee can expose years of brand building.
As protectors of brand consistency and integrity in a world of instant criticism and scrutiny, it’s today’s Brand Managers have their work cut out for them. We take a look at four major problems Brand Managers encounter and discuss ways to overcome these troublesome brand challenges.
1. The consumer who derails your brand campaign
In today’s highly competitive markets, to stand out in the noise marketing management is increasingly focusing on bringing meaning and purpose to brands – so much so the term jumping on the ‘purpose bandwagon’ has now been coined. However, as many brands are finding out the hard way, this can be a dangerous strategy to employ.
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As brands can no longer buy consumer opinion in the same way they could buy a commercial slot or billboard placement, Brand Managers are often at the mercy of the interpretation of their brand message once it’s out in the digital ether. This can lead to huge misinterpretations of the original brand message and how a brand is perceived by an audience. 2017 has provided us with some shocking examples of this – Pepsi’s disastrous Kylie Jenner saga, Nivea’s “White is Purity” ad, Dove’s October Facebook video and McDonald’s grief-driven father-son commercial to name a few. All attempted to bring a greater purpose and meaning to their global brands but instead were met with overwhelmingly negative accusations ranging from insensitivity to racism. Campaigns were completely pulled at great financial and reputational cost; with the brands very publicly called out for missing the mark and promoting a phony brand image.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Brand Managers. This year is also full of category management case studies where brands are nailing the purpose game. Heineken’s powerful “World’s Apart” campaign was deemed an ‘anti-Pepsi ad’ and achieved critical and consumer praise for the clever way it approach hotly political topics. Axe received similar praise for its “Find Your Magic” platform, including “Is It Okay for Guys”, which used real Google searches to respond to questions about male identity such as wearing makeup or experimenting with sexuality. Based on hard data and using influencers rather than high profile celebrities, widespread consensus towards Axe’s anti-“toxic masculinity” branding was one of a genuine and authentic appeal.
Brand Manager Takeaway: Bringing purpose and meaning to a brand can have great benefits, however Brand Manager definitions of what is authentic needs to be carefully considered to avoid consumer backlash that’s amplified across social channels. Julian Pearce of brand consultancy The Propaganda Agency sums this up perfectly: “Honesty has often been used as a buzzword for business, but whereas in the past this might simply have been lip-service those values are starting to be examined more closely.”
2. The bad Tripadvisor review
It’s not just commentary on brand campaigns that those in a Brand Manager role can find tricky. Third party review sites such as Yelp, Trustpilot, Amazon and Tripadvisor, with their ability to amplify ‘word of mouth’ marketing to dizzying new heights, can also lead to brand management nightmares.
Research conducted by One Poll found that in the past year, 51% of 1,000 UK businesses had been affected by unfounded reviews, 76% were concerned about how third party reviews affected their company and 17% went as far to say they felt such reviews had the potential to completely destroy their enterprise.
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Match these stats with current ReviewTrackers data and it’s clear how important managing online reviews is for a Brand Manager. According to the findings, online reviews are seven times more influential in automobile and healthcare industries than TV ads or social media. A trend supported by research which found that 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews and 80% of consumers have changed a purchasing decision between competitor brands due to the quality of feedback.
Jill Avery who has managed brand strategy for big names such as Gillette, Braun, Samuel Adams, and AT&T highlights this issue: “Consumers have always had the ability to boycott brands—or to ‘buy-cott’ brands. They could picket or come together in collectives, but that was a lot harder in a non-virtual world. In the virtual world we can do that at the snap of a finger.”
Luckily for Brand Managers, although you can’t stop online comments, there are strategies to not just manage review sites but capitalise on them. For instance, research has shown that 53% of consumers expect brands to respond to their queries within one hour, and 70% do not expect to be ignored. When only only 7% of companies monitor what is being said about them online several times a day, there’s an opportunity to be more proactive and engaged than your competitors and demonstrate excellent customer service skills; winning back consumer loyalty and maintaining business.
It’s also not all about ‘the haters’. As Avery explains, these platforms can help nurture active brand advocates by engaging with positive comments: “Your best defense against the haters is to have a connected group of very passionate supporters who will defend you. If people start bashing a beloved brand, there is a ready group of organized consumers who swoop in and say, ‘Don’t beat up our brand!’”
Brand Manager Takeaway: Make monitoring review sites one of your key brand manager duties, always responding to both positive and negative comments and working hard to cultivate and reward your loyal social community who will have your back when you need them.
3. The angry employee tweet
If consumers and clients weren’t enough to worry about, in order to protect a brand’s reputation, Brand Managers also need to consider their own internal team. These days, a disgruntled employee tweet or blog post has the potential to seriously damage your external brand identity and values. This can happen to even the biggest of brands. Recently, Uber has been accused of treating it’s drivers as ‘sweated labour’, Amazon’s employees spoke out against mental and physical pressures and tech innovator Hubspot found one employee writing a whole book on the company’s flaws with the damning title: “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.”
Feminine products brand Thinx is a clear example of the damage that can be done when brand values are exposed by employees. External branding portrayed Thinx as a fiercely pro-feminism, women-first company who challenged social norms with brave advertising campaigns that were incredibly popular with its target audience. Speaking of the brand’s approach, CEO Miki Agrawal stated: “Each and every word and image used in our communications and our campaigns is thought up and created by our team of young badass feminists. Integrating feminism into our marketing is not a ploy, and it is not exploitative; it’s reclamation of how brands treat and speak to women”.
This carefully constructed feminist dream however dramatically unravelled as many of it’s nearly all-female workforce took to job reviews sites such as Glassdoor, to give sharply contrasting realities such as 2 week maternity leave, poor career progression opportunities and an aggressive culture of bullying that did not uphold a message of supporting women. Not only was this a PR nightmare for the brand but ultimately led to Agrawal stepping down as CEO.
Brand Manager Takeaway: Investing in an internal brand culture that matches your brand image is paramount to brand integrity. Essentially your employees are your best brand ambassadors and need to be given the support if you want them to reflect your company’s ambitions, increase brand awareness and assist with brand development. Fortunately there are trailblazing companies in this field such as Google, Zappos, Netflix and Nike. We explore their brand culture hacks in our blog post ‘Branding Inside Out.’
4. The underprepared brand ambassador
Transforming employees into a team of brand ambassadors, while extremely worthwhile and effective in the long-run can also prove one of those complex and challenging Brand Manager skills to master.
As daily communicators of your brand identity, employees are constant brand content creators.
In 2014, 500 billion Microsoft Office documents were created and in 2015, 2.6 billion emails were sent and received each day. That is a lot of communication material and a Brand Manager functions and exists to ensure all this content is on-brand and brand compliant.
When brand identity is rooted in consistency at every touchpoint, if managed manually human error is a constant threat. For example, a busy employee might not remember to update their email signature with company’s latest logo, use an old contract template with outdated legal disclaimers or create a new sales pitch with random Google images that are not reflective of a company’s positioning. Unless a Brand Manager checks every single document sent by their team, a unified brand message is almost impossible to monitor and control.
In recent years, specifically designed automation software such as Templafy have given Brand Managers the tools they need to help busy workers produce high quality, brand compliant content. Dynamic best practice templates, email signature managers and centralised asset libraries all save employees time and increase productivity by ensuring everything they produce is on-brand and that internal teams are always aligned with your branding.
Templafy is designed for brand managers, watch this short video and learn how our solution can streamline your brand compliance:
Brand Manager Takeaway: Don’t risk human error and manual mishaps when it comes to your brand identity. Give your team the tools they need to transform them from reluctant employees into enthusiastic brand ambassadors that can help increase brand awareness and add to the value of your brand.
To find out how Templafy can remedy your Brand Manager headaches; get in touch with us and let’s discuss the benefits of automation software and streamlining on-brand content.
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