A distinctive and consistent brand has become an essential business asset in today's highly competitive and advertising-saturated marketplace. When done well, brand management can move a company from loss to profit by differentiating its offerings from the competition and establishing recognition and trust within the consumer's mind.
Branding consultant and Medill IMC Professional program Lecturer Ryan Reis has observed that a strong brand can contribute between 20-50% of a company's value. For example, the Coca-Cola brand was valued at nearly $98 billion in 2022.1 Although the soft drink is just one of more than 200 products the company offers, it accounts for about 37% of the company's valuation of $264.5 billion.2, 3
Brand management is more than marketing and advertising; its benefits reverberate throughout an organization. Read more here about the primary considerations of brand management and how it can help you drive business value.
The Multifaceted Role of Brand Management
Because brands are central to business success, brand management activities can extend into many different departments, including marketing and communications, product and service development and employee management. One of the critical goals of brand management is to maintain “brand fit,” which measures how closely customer touchpoints align with brand strategy.
Brand marketing managers strive to increase brand equity by establishing a strategic positioning, managing marketing activities to support the brand strategy and monitoring performance results in an iterative loop.4 Brand management is among the integrated marketing communications skills marketers can develop with guidance from the expert faculty in the Medill IMC Professional program at Northwestern University.
Act Consistently to Create a Cohesive Brand Experience
Consistency is a core goal of the integrated marketing communications model that builds consumer awareness, consideration, trust and loyalty. In an article published in the Public Relations Society of America magazine Strategies & Tactics, Assistant Professor and Academic Director of IMC Professional Program Danielle Robinson Bell and her colleague Jacqueline Babb, senior lecturer and academic director of Medill’s IMC Full-Time program, wrote: “Customers should know what to expect at every touchpoint with a brand. How a brand reinforces those connections enhances the customer experience.”5
Tactical decisions that can support or detract from a consistent brand image include pricing and incentives, product packaging and distribution, customer service practices and marketing communications. In communications specifically, maintaining consistency involves staying true to the brand’s central promise while evolving messaging to accommodate product changes or to respond to market trends. Brand managers also need to be vigilant about threats to the brand, such as public relations controversies.
Defend Your Brand
Brand image is more vulnerable than ever in today's hyper-connected world. In his book Brand Resilience, Medill Senior Lecturer Jonathan Copulsky points out that brand risks come from external and internal sources. He urges marketers to carefully consider potential brand threats before they arise.6
Keeping the pulse of public brand sentiment and market conditions is foundational for good brand management decisions. Employee actions and operational decisions are two examples of internal risk. Enraged customers, natural disasters and changing markets are examples of external threats.
“Brand risk is an unavoidable consequence of doing business,” Copulsky says, urging marketers to ”embed your brand risk management efforts into your ongoing operations.”6
Build Trust and Emotional Connection
Many studies have shown that people are more emotional than rational when it comes to their buying decisions,7 and that's why understanding and building emotional connections between consumers and your brand is a goal of brand management.
Brand trust and loyalty are facets of the bonds marketers seek to build with consumers. The German brand strategy agency Brand Trust explains, “The minute people trust a brand, they stop thinking. They buy more, try more and talk more. And they are willing to pay more.”8 Trust is based on reliable performance and consistent interactions. Consistency and emotional connection build brand loyalty.
How Does Your Brand Make Consumers Feel?
In the book The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier writes, "Differentiation has evolved from a focus on ‘what it is,’ to ‘what it does,’ to ‘how you’ll feel,’ to ‘who you are.’ While features, benefits and price are still important to people, experiences and personal identity are even more important."9
Often, people will buy a brand when they feel an emotional connection with it–when they identify with some brand characteristics or aspire to qualities the brand image conveys–regardless of how the brand competes on price or features.
Craft a Compelling Brand Story
Today, when consumers are bombarded by advertising and deeply interested in the ethical values of the companies they support, managing the brand story is more important than ever. Telling an authentic, congruent brand story gives depth and resonance to the emotional connections between your brand and customers.
“Your story should be a throughline across channels,” writes Sprout Social, a social media management software company. “Brand storytelling establishes emotional connections with people based on the values you share with them and their needs, desires and aspirations.”10
In a blog post for the American Marketing Association, branding consultant and author David Aaker argues that the brand story must be intriguing, authentic and involving to “precipitate a cognitive, emotional or behavioral response.” To be strategic, it should “have a message linked to the brand that enables growth by clarifying or enhancing the brand, the customer relationship, the organization or the business strategy.”11
Brand Management in Practice
IMC Professional program Lecturer Ryan Reis's work for Molson Coors is an excellent example of how sound brand management can improve a company’s bottom line.
Reis joined the SABMiller brewing company, which later became part of Molson Coors, as a senior brand manager for Miller Lite in 2006. There, he developed a strategy that increased annual brand revenue by $140 million and sparked share growth that ran uninterrupted for six consecutive years. Later, as vice president of the $2.5 billion Coors brand family, Reis grew share growth to its highest point in brand history with the "Made to Chill" campaign and its associated packaging redesign.12
Throughout his tenure at the company, Reis grew equity for his brands through brand management strategy and tactics that included tapping into cultural shifts, repelling competitors’ brand attacks and focusing on core brand values. He joined the faculty of expert practitioners and theorists in the Medill IMC Professional program in 2020 and shares integrated marketing communications principles and insights from his career with students in courses on Advanced Brand Management, Strategic Brand Management and Persuasive Communications.
Manage Your Career with Medill
The Medill IMC Professional program is purpose-built to help working marketers move into leadership roles and is structured to help you focus on your professional goals. Once you've completed the three core courses, you will tailor your journey to meet your goals through your choice of 10 electives.
For example, if you want to focus on brand management, you can choose from courses including Advanced Brand Management, Marketing Strategy and Building Brand Advocacy. Each of these courses imparts specialized knowledge and skills pertinent to brand management, equipping you with the necessary tools to drive brand success and your own.
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from statista.com/statistics/326065/coca-cola-brand-value/
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from coca-colacompany.com/about-us
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from finance.yahoo.com/quote/KO/key-statistics/
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from Kotler, Philip and Keller, Kevin Lane. Marketing Management, 15th Edition, New York: Pearson Education, 2016, page 323
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=768219&p=17&view=issueViewer&pp=1
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from Copulsky, Jonathan. “Brand Resilience: Managing Risk and Recovery in a High-Speed World.” New York: Macmillan, 2011, digital location 1223.
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4623853/
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from brand-trust.de/en/article/2020/building-brand-trust-how-its-done.php
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from Neumeier, Marty. The Brand Gap. Berkeley: New Riders, 2006, page 114.
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from sproutsocial.com/insights/brand-storytelling/
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from ama.org/marketing-news/how-to-create-a-signature-brand-story/
- Retrieved on August 14, 2023, from linkedin.com/in/ryanreis/details/experience/