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Brand Managers Have Always Been Brand Advocates, But Now It’s Just Getting More Official

Stephen Biernacki

According to the consultancy Black Coffee, a Brand Advocate is a consumer who preaches the merits of a given brand when prompted. According to Dave Chaffey, a Brand Advocate is a customer who has favorable perceptions of a brand who will talk favorably about a brand to their acquaintances to help generate awareness of the brand or influence purchase intent.

Where I’m going with this is in both these instances, the advocate is not actually ‘part of the team’. In both these definitions the advocate is the customer. You could even say they’re sitting up in the stands cheering for their team. If you are an institution of higher education, they are your alumni, your community, and yes, your fans in the stands. So when I read this article from Advertising Age about ‘Why It’s Time to Do Away With the Brand Manager’ it got me thinking… Is it? Is it a silly title based on the fact we all know the consumer is the one that truly defines your brands, especially with the constantly changing online social landscape. It’s a two-way street now more than ever before. Is it time to have the title of Brand Manager go the way of the cassette tapes? While the article is a great read, I’m not necessarily convinced. The actual report suggesting this change will be released by Forrester next week.

I believe there is still a place for what we’ve come to know as marketing management. There’s a lot more to be responsible for than what you might find in an ‘advocate’. In the higher ed space, a central figure in your marketing department remains the optimal setup. An employee who’s looking at both the means and the end.

There’s a few other snippets in this article from the report that  got my attention, one being, “…ditching the formal annual budgeting process and upfront media-specific allocation in favor of frequently updated, on-the-fly plans that adapt quickly as conditions change and money earmarked upfront for initiatives, not specific media." In my view, some of this applies to higher education and some doesn’t. I don’t think ditching the annual budgeting process can be done. There are too many logistics that make this a bit on the impossible side for universities. However, while potentially risky in dealing with the unknown, it might be possible to consider planning for initiatives rather than specific media. I’m going to let that thought simmer for a while…

Another passage that was attention grabbing was “…marketing executives should think less about anchoring annual plans around one or two big hits and more about doing many smaller things quickly and adapting based on real-time consumer feedback and other data.” There are still good in having a fairly robust and solid marketing plan in place, but still have areas of flexibility. In today’s environment, changes can happen quickly, but at the same time, the reason for many of those changes can be pinpointed to social networking and analytics. This can result in a university or college taking quick action.

All in all in regards to the position title, we’re just talking about a technicality here. A title is a title. The duties and responsibilities of a position are obviously what really counts. You’re always going to need someone to keep a close eye and make observations and decisions on what to do in the marketing world. You’re still managing the brand and there are still shots to call… you just might have a little less control over the results.

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