Seven Sets of Questions Every Brand Manager Must Answer
by Jerry W. Thomas
Brand managers live in a difficult world of constant pressure, tactical chaos, and unrelenting demands from senior executives. Amid all the frenzy of “agile marketing,” demands from manufacturing and operations, questions from major customers, budgetary constraints, and competitive actions, it’s easy for brand managers to overlook or undervalue the critical information they need to strategically (and tactically) manage their brands.
To effectively manage a brand, every brand manager should be able to answer these seven sets of core questions:
- Awareness. What is your brand’s awareness compared to competitive brands? What are the long-term trends in your brand’s awareness vis-à-vis competitive brands? High brand awareness is one key to marketing success. What’s the optimal mix of media to maximize brand awareness? We have seen brand awareness levels fall in many categories as budgets have shifted from TV, radio, and print into digital and online media.
- Brand Image. What is your brand’s image compared to competitive brands? Is your brand seen as reliable, exciting, long-lasting, beautiful, or sexy—or boring, drab, and out of date? Are these image dimensions relevant to your target market? What’s the trend of these image attributes for each brand?
- Advertising Performance. How effective is your brand’s advertising compared to the advertising of major competitors? What is your advertising communicating (positioning, themes, messages, imagery) compared to competitors? Brand managers tend to fall in love with their own advertising, and they fail to commission independent, objective advertising research to measure “how good” (or bad) their brand’s advertising is.
- Product Performance. How do your products (or your services) compare to competitive brands, based on independent, objective research? Every company tends to think that their products are superior to competitive products, but rarely is the research conducted to find out if this assumption is true. Most often, this assumption proves false. Product research must be repeated on a regular schedule, because the market is constantly changing as competitors rise and fall, as the economy mutates, and as consumer tastes and styles evolve.
- Packaging, or (Point of Purchase). How does your brand’s packaging (or package design) compare to that of your major competitors? Does your package contain all the information consumers need to make a final purchase decision? (Note that “packaging” as used here also includes the online presentation of your product or service.) Again, independent, objective packaging research is essential to answer these questions.
- Role of Pricing. What’s the maximum price consumers are willing to pay for your brand? How will a particular price affect trial and/or repeat-purchase rates? What’s the pricing differential before consumers switch to, or away from, your brand? What’s the interaction between advertising and pricing levels? Will heavier advertising permit higher retail prices?
- Target Market. Identifying your target market is often thought of as one of the easiest aspects of marketing, but this is only a false illusion. Determining the optimal target market for a brand is actually one of the most complex decisions a brand manager faces. Some questions that must be answered during this targeting process are:
- Who is the ultimate consumer?
- Who are the heavy users?
- Who is willing to switch to your brand?
- Who can you reach with your distribution system and media advertising?
- Which customers will be most profitable for the long term?
- Who is responsive to your advertising messages?
- Who can afford to buy your product or service?
As you can see, these target-market questions form a Gordian Knot. Careful, thoughtful analysis and planning are required to arrive at an optimal target market for a brand. The ultimate decision must not only be based on research, but also on human judgment about where you want to take the brand in the next five to 10 years.
Ultimately, the brand manager must weave together the answers to these seven sets of core questions in order to build a brand’s grand marketing strategy. The answers to these core questions must be based on research, facts, and hard evidence—not wishes, hope, and self-delusion. The brand manager who knows the answers to these core questions is likely to be a successful brand manager over the long term.
About the Author
Jerry W. Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) is President/CEO of Decision Analyst. He may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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