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Artisan Talent Tip: Especially as a freelance marketing professional, it is absolutely vital to have strong people skills. A freelance or contract brand manager must therefore build many relationships quickly at a new assignment, involving as many people as possible in envisioning and refining a brand strategy.
Are you curious about what it takes to become a social media manager? This type of position is up-and-coming, and marketing professionals everywhere are brushing up on their knowledge of tools such as Twitter and Facebook. Although social media jobs vary, many of them require some or all of the following skills:
Artisan Talent Tip: A brand manager "owns" a product, analyzing competitive and market data and crafting brand strategy to match. Some companies prefer to bring on this level of talent on a freelance or contract basis when a brand needs extra attention or when they are launching a new product.
If you're in the marketing field, you already know how competitive it is. But do you know what to concentrate on so that you can get ahead? If you're thinking about doing any freelance marketing, you need to find something that will help you edge out the competition. One way to do this is to specialize in a field that's in demand. Things such as product development, research, and digital strategy are all areas that give the savvy marketing professional a chance to get ahead. Here are a few ideas:
Why do we buy certain products? Price plays a role, as do distribution channels (we don't buy what we don't see or know about), but emotions play a strong role in many of the buying decisions we make every day.
Our minds process emotions faster than they make logical connections. In a typical grocery store trip, we make hundreds of buying decisions without even thinking about them, often reacting purely with our emotional minds.
Good brand managers know what emotions drive the target customers of their products, and how to appeal to those emotions. They also pay attention to the shifting tides of public opinion, and how those effect the emotional makeup of their target audience.
Emotional branding covers everything from product design -- creating a digital camera that "feels good" in the customer's hand -- to advertising that seeks to create trust or convey respect for the customer.
If you're trying to set yourself up for freelance marketing jobs, it's a good idea to develop a core network of services that you can offer to your clients. What these are will depend in large part on your skill sets, but here are some things you may want to consider:
Freelance marketing professionals are sometimes brought in to a company to help revive a brand that has lost its allure. This is one situation where a freelancer can be of great value, bringing a fresh set of eyes to assist those who are steeped in the product day in and day out. Here are some ideas for giving a brand a makeover:
Launching a new brand can be an exciting time. Many customers tend to gravitate toward familiar names, and it takes clever marketing to encourage them to consider something new.
Often it's not possible to launch a new brand with a giant advertising campaign or a broad distribution network already in place. AdAge columnist Al Ries points to brands such as Charles Shaw wine ("Two-Buck Chuck") which started with a single point of distribution, and suggests that PR, not advertising, is the best way to build a new brand.
Thousands of new products are launched every year, and it's not clear why some succeed and some fail. A study published by the Product Development and Management Association suggests that successful product launches are more likely to be focused on creating demand ("pulling" customers into stores to buy the product) than by ensuring supply ("pushing" products to a broad distribution chain). The study also backs up Ries's point by affirming that successful launches are more likely to include a PR element in their brand strategy.
If you have marketing experience, strong people skills and a flair for the big picture, you may have what it takes to be a brand manager. In this role -- which may be freelance, contract or full-time -- you "own" a product's branding, analyzing market and competitor data, devising brand strategies, and working with other departments within the company to communicate and implement those strategies.
Brand managers may also be called "product managers." As full-time employees they can be quite highly paid, but some companies prefer to bring in this sort of talent only when a brand needs a great deal of work, or when they are launching a new product. That's where brand management can become a part of a freelance marketing career.
"Brand disconnect" is a classic marketing error that occurs when a creative marketing team implements an image for a product, but the rest of the company is not trained or encouraged to support that image. For instance, let's say an electronics company hires a freelance brand manager to market its new digital camera. The brand manager finds out that the target market for this product has a strong desire to buy from companies with excellent service.
The brand manager can change the advertising, promotions, packaging and in-store displays to convey that image effectively. However, if the company doesn't actually provide good service, all the marketing work will do little good, wasting the company's money and everyone's time.
To avoid brand disconnect, it's important for creative marketing professionals to work closely with executives and line managers company-wide. This may involve developing internal messaging and training programs as part of a brand introduction or revision.
One of the most pivotal decisions to make about a product is its name. Some brand managers and creative marketing professionals even make a full-time specialty out of product and company naming.
The best product names are those that show an image rather than telling people what they're supposed to think. The San Francisco agency Igor has a blog entry contrasting the names of two electric utilities: Integrys and Spark. Which one would you rather see on your bills?
A simple product-naming process includes these steps:
Besides understanding the numbers that represent a product's market, sales, and competition, a brand manager must have the ability to view the big picture and make creative decisions. A good brand manager can analyze those numbers and come up with a compelling story to tell about a brand -- a story designed to appeal specifically to the people most likely to buy the product.
While brand managers seldom do any creative work themselves, they frequently work with ad agencies, public relations professionals and internal marketing departments to make decisions about promotional and advertising campaigns. A campaign manager may be brought in on a contract basis to oversee branding issues for a new-product launch or a special project. It's valuable for a brand manager to have experience in advertising or PR, and be able to communicate with professionals in these fields.
A brand manager must work with teams from many departments, plus vendors and freelancers, to accomplish performance goals for the product. With each of these people, the brand manager must effectively communicate the brand strategy and train that person in how to pass the message on in his or her work.
A freelance or contract brand manager must therefore build many relationships quickly at a new assignment, learning who the more powerful people are in the company (not necessarily the ones at the top of the org chart!) and involving as many of them as possible in the early stages of envisioning and refining a brand strategy.
Part of a brand manager's job is understanding numbers and synthesizing data. You'll probably start with an analysis of the target market for your product. Who are they? How old are they? What is their lifestyle? What other products do they buy? This may involve purchasing market-research data, conducting your own focus groups, and paying attention to industry publications and government regulations that may affect your brand.
Another important source of data is your own company's records. Which products are being bought online? Which are selling well in stores or in a paper catalog? Which products have a high return rate? You'll analyze where and when your product sells or doesn't sell, and use that information to build a stronger brand.
Finally, it's vital to have a strong sense of the competitive landscape for your brand. Who is developing new products? Where are they succeeding, and why?
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|