Life as a Brand Manager

by | March 10, 2009

Lifestyle

There are many reasons brand managers choose marketing as their profession. Many enjoy the intellectual challenge of branding. Others seek a more livable lifestyle in their profession. Here's a look at some of the key characteristics of a career in marketing and brand management.

Hours

When it comes to hours, brand managers generally enjoy more balanced lifestyles than those in other world-conquering industries such investment banking, venture capital, media, and consulting. For one thing, they generally have consistent hours -- that is, they don't get calls at 3 a.m. telling them that the Indonesian rupiah is crashing, or that the mayor was just arrested for driving while intoxicated. Although brand managers do travel to consumer research, commercial shoots, and sales meetings, these meetings are planned well in advance. Though deadlines do loom, you usually have a good grasp on when you'll be able to leave the office. Brand hours vary from 9 to 5 p.m. during off-season to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. during planning season (planning season is usually a three-month period in the middle of the fiscal year when each product team is trying to develop marketing plans and recommendations for the following year).

Of course, hours can intensify during budget-preparing season: one assistant brand manager reports working 60+ hours a week for two or three weeks while preparing an annual plan. "It's usually not that bad, but there are long hours during peak periods," says a marketing manager at a major packaged foods company.

Because many major consumer goods companies are expanding overseas, international assignments often present themselves. According to one insider at a major marketing company: "You must be willing to work overseas for five to eight years minimum." And although brand employees generally don't have to work ultra-long hours, "they want to know you'll stay in the office 24-7 if you have to."

Women

Marketing companies generally offer excellent opportunities for women. "Half of my brand manager counterparts are women, with about the same proportion in junior marketing roles," reports one insider at a company that focuses on cleaning products. Says a marketing insider at another consumer goods company: "A lot of women do part-time when they have families. You see a lot of families here, and women with kids. They do promote family in every way, which is great for women, as you are free to leave and take care of matters when you have to."

Bureaucracy and competition

Not all is blissful in marketing land. Many leading brand companies make life uncomfortable for their marketing employees by instituting up-or-out policies that breed stress and competition. At one company, employees (some of them 10-year veterans) who are not promoted are put on "special assignment" -- they are given a phone and a desk and told to find another job. "You do get a lot of help from the manager," says an assistant brand manager at that company. "I don't think you get as much help from your peers." Says one insider at another leading marketing company: "There is something of an up-or-out policy in brand. Either you make your numbers on a fairly consistent basis, or you should start looking for employment elsewhere. And at yet another marketing-led company a source says: "Marketing tends to be more high-strung than finance, with more pressure to perform. I don't want to say there's an up-or-out' mentality, but evaluations and bonuses are keyed off brand performance." And even at a company where insiders say there is no real up-or-out pressure, one former marketing employee says "I definitely think there was a lot of politicking going on. There's lots of e-mailing cc'ing your boss so you are always making your boss see what you're doing."

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