If it looks like a Brand Manager and talks like a Brand Manager, that doesn’t mean it’s a Marketer.

One of the biggest misinterpretations of brand management is that being a Brand Manager and being a Marketer are one and the same.  The simple fact is they can be very different.  You can be a stellar marketer, but not a great Brand Manager.  Likewise you can be an amazing Brand Manager, but not a breatkthrough marketer.  Each “position” not only requires different skills but in many ways, requires different mindsets as well.  You can learn to be great in either role…but the first step is realizing the differences.

A Brand Manager, especially at a company like P&G, is a business manager first and foremost.  Marketing is just part of their job.  They lead a cross-functional team that includes finance, sales, PR, product supply, R&D, etc.  Plus they have agency teams and Assistant Brand Managers (ABM’s) as well.  The job of the Brand Managers is to lead and inspire this team.  They are tasked with creating the strategy for the business, defining the brand equity and making decisions about how to most effectively run the business to protect that equity.  A Brand Manager in many cases is a General Manager in training.  They do not have to be a brilliant marketer that is in touch with the latest ways to connect with consumers.  They have agencies, ABM’s and others that can bring them great marketing ideas.

Brand Managers need to evaluate and fund great marketing ideas.  They don’t have to be marketing experts….they can be specialists in only a few marketing areas like mass media (which they grew up creating, evaluating and approving).

In short, a solid Brand Manager needs to be great manager and leader who can tap into marketing expertise from their agencies and direct reports.

Now on the flip side, what defines a great marketer?  In many senses, it is similiar skills sets as a Brand Manager.  You need to be an expert on the consumer and the brand equity of your business.  But a great marketer needs to take it a step further.  They need to be passionate not about managing a business but on delivering breakthrough marketing that grows the business.  They need to live and breath the changing consumer trends.  They need to be a cultural anthropologist tapped into how their consumers interact with each AND interact with brands.  These marketers knew what a blog was 3 years ago and realized a fake blog created by a PR agency wouldn’t cut.  These are the people using Twitter during a conference and shaping the conversation.

In today’s age, a great marketer needs to be figuring out two way communication with consumers instead of the one way shouting of Mass Media.  To use a baseball metaphor, they need to be an utility infielder that can play different positions.  They need to know and understand all the different types of marketing…whether that is traditional mass media, social media, shopper marketing or digital media.  They need to be energized by learning about new marketing and coming up with brilliant methods to connect with the consumer.

Marketers are curious about the potential of new tools.  Brand Managers need to know what the ROI will be on these tools.

Now I’m not saying that a person can’t be both…but I think it is pretty rare.   By nature, few people are going to have the capacity to fully devote themselves to being great at both skill sets.  The key is recognizing the difference and understanding what you are best at.  If you love marketing…devote yourself to being the best marketer in the world and knowing how the world of media and communication are changing.  And if you love running a business/brand, then surround yourself with people that love marketing and are willing to devote the time to being a brilliant marketer.  Just dont make the mistake of assuming just because you are one, means you are the other.


6 Responses to If it looks like a Brand Manager and talks like a Brand Manager, that doesn’t mean it’s a Marketer.

  1. Been reading for a while now. Just wanted to say good job.

    Chris Tackett

  2. Vincent Chan says:

    Great Post! Thanks so much.

  3. trontr says:

    Well I cannot agree more. Its rare to have both skills in one person. But it is heaven when you get it.

  4. BobG says:

    100% agree again, Dave. I wonder your opinion on which skill will be more important for P&G (or brands overall) in the next 3-5 years.

  5. etalerman says:


    So glad to have your post so clearly articulate the difference between Brand Managers and Marketers. As a board member of the VCU BrandCenter, we’ve been trying desperately to educate the next generation of business oriented Marketers and creatively curious Brand Managers. Maybe, just maybe, we can shorten the distance between the two so that Brand Managers get better results from their agencies and so that agencies get better briefs from their Brand Managers.

    Elizabeth Talerman

  6. Vanuza says:

    Waw… shocking overview.. however a very true one.. as a BM i confess i had never consider myself to be either one or the other..always considered to be a combination of both…uhmmm

    Now i wonder whats the long term focus that you need to have as a BM.. is it the Marketer perspective or is it the BM…and how do you make sure that you improve on the skills required?


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