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The need for a ‘Brand Shepherd’ rather than a ‘Brand Manager’

We have profiles like CEOs and CMOs steering the business and brand strategy who do generally do a fair job of spear-heading the company and its image. The BODs appear to be satisfied with their job profiles and intrigued over their expertise and knowledge. But, yet we are exposed to incidents where the top management official is mysteriously stripped of his responsibilities for reasons undisclosed. Only yesterday I read a story on two executives leaving Chrysler due to a turnaround plan (The Detroit News, 2009). I do not believe the company’s turnaround plans were not seen as a possibility while appointing these new Chief Executives 3 months ago (or 9 months). Whatever the reasons be (it may or may not be due to lack of brand handling capabilities), the board needs to open up to the possibility that their chief team may not have the necessary knowledge and expertise in spear-heading their Brands causing a collapsed or trimmed sales figures.

Perhaps a few of you reading this would then ask, ‘Well, They have Brand Managers!! What do you think are they responsible for?’ And I would answer you, ‘Yes, they indeed do. But does the brand manager have global marketplace expertise? And even if you say ‘YES’, Is he given enough authority to steer the brand in top level management deals?’ If ‘Yes’, then I may be wrong, but it is still important to assess the company’s capabilities in handling its Brand. The most he could do is report to CEO and hope that his recommendations are accepted.

For example, Ford Pinto had to readjust its marketing strategy after it entered Brazil in the late 1970s when they realised that ‘pinto’ was a Portuguese slang word for ‘tiny penis’ (Ricks, 1994). Innumerable blunders like these have come to our attention. But the question is, ‘What was the CEO (and Brand Manager if he existed) thinking?’

Also, as if things weren’t too complicated in International Business, the situation got tougher as the global wave of strategic alliances have caught to be today’s trend. Questions arise; In a strategic alliance where 2 or 3 companies are involved, each having their own strengths and weaknesses, whose brand should be allowed to rise to the top and create a lasting relationship with the consumers? A Brand is a value, who should pay for building that Value and which one of the partner should get the benefits and how much? With such different stakeholders and elements shooed far out of the reach of a Brand Manager’s control and constant ambiguity being a part of daily company operations, a Brand Manager needs an Upgrade. An Upgrade in responsibilities and perhaps in a pay package too, dominantly because it isn’t this one brand and its performance & attributes that he is responsible for. He is indeed a part of every other company operation (from vertical or horizontal expansion to Mergers, acquisitions and alliances) that he is a part of and must have a say for.

A brand manager is no longer the watchman, but indeed a shepherd who is responsible of a multi-dimensional 21st century brand that survives in ambiguity of being a part of constant business and brand building process.


Ricks, David. A, 1994, Blunders in International Business, Wiley-Blackwell, pg 39, ISBN 1405134925, 9781405134927
Priddle, Alisa, October 6, 2009, The Detroit News: Two executives leave in Chrysler shakeup, http://www.detnews.com/article/20091006/AUTO01/910060335/1148/auto01/Two+executives+leave+in+Chrysler+shakeup, accessed on 8th October 2009.

One Response to The need for a ‘Brand Shepherd’ rather than a ‘Brand Manager’

  1. Jack Radoulf Reply

    October 12, 2009 at 8:04 am

    I agree with your views Meheer. The future of branding lies in managing more than one brand. As they call ‘House of Brands’, it is increasingly essential to indeed have a Brand Shepherd who is capable of handling several brands together.

    Our company’s Brand Manager does a fair job with brand at a time, but recently when our new product got a new brand name, it turned out as if we’re asking too much of him (even as he spends most of the time only evaluating the performance of our brand rather than directing it).

    Well pointed out anyways, I guess its time we hire a Brand Shepherd.

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