Brand Management and Marketing Consulting
In a typical brand management organizational structure, positions are developed around responsibility for a particular product rather than a specific functional expertise (i.e. you're an assistant brand manager for Cheerios). This structure enables you to be the "master of all trades," acquiring an expertise in areas such as manufacturing, sales, research and development, and communications. In brand management, the marketing function is responsible for key general management decisions such as long-term business strategy, pricing, product development direction and, in some cases, profit and loss responsibility. Brand management offers a terrific way to learn intensively about a particular product category (you could be a recognized expert on tampons!) and to manage the responsibility of running a business and influencing its performance.
The core of brand work is brand strategy. Brand managers must decide how to increase market share, which markets and demographic groups to target, and what types of advertising and special promotions to use. And at the very heart of brand strategy is identifying a product's "brand identity." Brand groups then figure out how to exploit brand strategy, or, in some cases, how to change it. PepsiCo's Mountain Dew has built the drink's popularity among youth as a high-caffeine beverage into a "brand identity" of cutting-edge bravado that has boosted market share, while the Banana Republic chain underwent a transformation from an outdoor adventure store that sold actual army-navy surplus to an upscale, chic clothing store. In both cases, the brands have benefited from a shift in brand identity, and consequently, a shift in their market. Brand identity is normally created and confirmed through traditional print, radio, and TV advertising. Advertising is usually produced by outside agencies, although brand insiders determine the emphasis and target of the advertising.
Although most well-known consulting firms are known for their expertise in general strategy, many consulting firms now hire industry or functional experts that focus on marketing issues. These firms need people who can develop expertise in the areas of branding, market research, continuous relationship marketing, pricing strategy, digital/new age, and business-to-business marketing. McKinsey and Monitor are two general strategy firms that have begun to hire marketing specialists. Other boutique marketing consulting firms, such as Kurt Salmon, focus on certain product categories like beverages, healthcare, and retail.
Jennifer Goodman is a marketing specialist at McKinsey & Company and graduate of Harvard Business School.