Brand manager vs. Product manager: What’s the difference?
The world of brands and products is a very exciting space to be in, especially with all of the latest technological advances and the competitive nature of the marketplace. Brand Managers and Product Managers are right in the “belly of the beast” so to speak, but what do their roles entail, and is there a difference?
Although brand managers and product managers have similar roles, a brand manager is responsible for a lot more than a product manager. Not only is a Brand manager responsible for overseeing the development, marketing, legality, and success of a product, they also answer to the board, the investors, and to his peers within the organization regarding the identity of the brand and the brand as a whole.
You might be interested in exploring one of these as a career path, but not sure which one or if there are even any real differences between them. So let’s dive into the world of Brand Managers and Product Managers to explore the similarities and differences of the two roles.
What is a Brand Manager?
A brand manager is responsible for how a company presents itself to consumers, investors, and the general public. They are given guidelines from their employers, this is mostly in the form of a revenue target. They are expected to implement those guidelines and make sure that employees stick to them. When given a target, a brand manager will deal with the Marketing team, legal, product development, packaging team, and so on.
A brand manager will work with all teams and oversee all operations to achieve the targets set out by his employers, all while maintaining the identity of the brand.
Each brand has its own identity, we will get to that in a bit.
A brand manager will work with the marketing department to make sure that all guidelines are being followed and that the brand’s image is presented positively and consistently. Whether it is TV, radio, or online advertising, the brand manager must ensure that the brand is being represented positively.
They also work with social media teams. Potential sponsorships would also have to show the brand manager that the sponsor’s values are in-line with the company’s values and that their sponsored product or ads are at the desired level of quality.
Let me give an example. If the product engineering team approaches the brand manager with a new flavor of an existing product, the brand manager will consult with the marketing, packaging, and legal teams, and give them all guidelines. The teams will work together to create the packaging and marketing campaigns, while the legal team will make sure that they stick to the necessary regulations. The teams will then consult with the brand manager and he must make a decision.
When a new product is being pitched, a brand manager needs to analyze whether or not the product is consistent with the company’s image and whether the introduction of the product into the product catalog is worth it for the brand. After all, he needs to make sure targets are met while keeping within his budget.
When speaking about branding, what is Identity?
When you think of some of your favorite brands, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
The first thing that should come to your mind is the company. Once you have thought of which company makes the product, you should immediately have their logo, theme (casual, sports, or formal) and colors in your mind. That is, in essence, the brand’s visual identity.
A brand manager has to constantly keep up to date with what their competitors are doing, they need to follow current marketing trends and they need to take note of customer feedback.
Why is Identity important?
The identity of a brand is what sets a company apart from its competition. When we think of a brand that we are familiar with, we often associate certain feelings or emotions with that brand. A brand manager will make sure that the brand has certain traits that resonate with its audience.
A brand manager wants you to have positive thoughts and emotions when you see or hear their ads on TV, a billboard, online, or on the radio. If you have those thoughts and feel the urge to buy their products when you hear about them or think about them, then the brand manager is doing their job well.
For more on how to create a brand identity, check out my complete guide with examples here.
What qualities should a band manager have?
- Must have good instincts. When it comes to product marketing and future product concepts, a brand manager must be able to rely on his instincts.
- Should be analytical. A brand manager needs to constantly analyze marketing trends. He also needs to analyze how the company image is being received by not only his customers but also investors.
- Good communication skills. He will have to respond to things such as market and consumer research. Being able to receive information and respond in the best way possible is essential.
- Must be excited about the products that he or she is responsible for.
- Creativity: A brand manager must be able to find creative ways to entice consumers to choose their products over competitors who offer similar products. This requires insightful thinking as well as an aptitude for creative, out of the box thinking.
You will need a strong understanding of digital marketing. This includes:
- Set online brand management strategies and marketing tactics that utilize all tools and channels, including emails, social media, and paid media
- Investigate the campaigns of competitors from a brand perspective and understand best practices to inform online marketing benchmarks
- Identify branding opportunities to use digital technology to enhance their overall marketing strategy
What qualifications does a brand manager need?
Most companies will require you to have obtained a degree relative to the position. Because marketing plays a massive role in a brand manager’s duties, most companies will require a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
If you would like to stand out to your potential employers, an MBA is recommended and it can influence their decision to employ you or someone else. An MBA can also influence your salary so if you can, I recommend getting an MBA, either straight after your bachelor’s or do it while you are working.
If successful, what is the next step for a brand manager?
If you are successful as Brand Manager and have the ambition to step up the ladder, you could find yourself being promoted to marketing director where your responsibilities would go from focusing on the identity of a particular brand to the overall marketing operations of an organization.
Being a brand manager can be rewarding. You are given a budget, a goal and a team to achieve your goals. You get to oversee the development and growth of an entire brand. A brand manager is often engaged with the most powerful people within an organization and if you show ambition and impress your peers, you can build some very powerful connections within your industry.
For a more in-depth look at the day-to-day activities and duties of a brand manager, check out my article on it here.
What is the role of a product manager?
The role of a product manager is very similar, in some sense, to the role of a brand manager as they are responsible for the success of a product.
A product manager is responsible for setting out the definition, roadmap, and strategy of a product or an entire line of products.
The role often requires knowledge of marketing trends and strategies. The role also requires the ability to forecast how a product will do during its lifecycle. He or she must then keep improving the product so that it remains competitive within the marketplace.
A product manager should be an expert in the product or product line that he or she is in charge of and have the ability to make strategic decisions to steer the product in the desired direction.
They will have a deep understanding of what their competitors are doing. They can also lay out a vision of the product after analyzing the market.
Through market research, a product manager can understand what customers need and will come up with new product concepts or improve existing products to meet the demands of customers. A product manager must display leadership qualities as he will often have to lead a sales and support team.
A product manager is responsible for explaining to the brand manager and possibly the board, why they should allocate resources to the engineering/development team to allow them to develop or adapt a specific product. He or she must then lead all teams responsible for developing and marketing that product.
Being a product manager can be very rewarding. You get to be part of the development of new products and if you can make that product succeed, it is really fulfilling.
Because you travel, you get to meet great people, see new places and have new experiences. Working with all the departments that you do, you are bound to form strong and lasting relationships with people you work with.
What are some things you could expect to do as a product manager?
- define the product strategy and roadmap
- Work with external third parties to assess partnerships and licensing opportunities
- Be an expert with respect to the competition
- Develop the core positioning and messaging for the product
- Perform product demos to customers
- Set pricing to meet revenue and profitability goals
- Deliver a monthly revenue forecast
- Develop sales tools and collateral
- Propose an overall budget to ensure success
- Brief and train the sales force at quarterly sales meetings
- Brief press and analysts and go on press tours
- Act as a leader within the company
What qualities do you need as a Product Manager?
- Strong analytical skills. You must be able to analyze what the market wants or needs.
- Must be able to strategize. You will constantly have to adapt your strategy to factors that you cannot control.
- Must be able to think outside the box. You will often have to find a new marketing approach if your targets are not being met. You might have to have a product modified or you might have to find new ways of incentivizing your sales team.
- Leadership: You will be dealing with different teams from different departments to realize the vision you have for a product. You will also be in charge of a sales team and have a sales manager working under you. You must be able to display leadership so that your team trusts you.
What is the career path of a product manager?
If you are successful as a product manager and have the ambition to be promoted, you could find yourself as the director of product management, and after that VP of product management.
You could also create your own company and create products based on the wealth of experience that you build up over your career.
What is the difference between a brand and a product manager?
We have discussed, in-depth, the role of both brand and product managers and while I understand that both roles sound similar, there are some key differences.
So let us go over some key points of both roles
A product manager is responsible for a product or product line, starting from conception to the end of its life cycle. You travel a lot for conferences, expos, and to meet with those responsible for the distribution and/or sale of your product. A product manager will need a degree and having an MBA will be beneficial.
A brand manager is responsible for maintaining the identity of the brand. You will answer directly to your parent company and be tasked to meet all their guidelines and objectives. A brand manager will work with all departments including the legal department. A brand manager will need a degree, preferably in marketing, an MBA is also beneficial.
With a clearer understanding of the differences, and similarities, between a brand manager and a product manager in terms of their roles, duties, and responsibilities, you can make more informed decisions when deciding whether to pursue one of these career options.