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When I meet new people, I dread being asked the well-intended ‘what do you do’ question. I’ll often reply that I work in marketing instead of telling people that I’m a brand manager. I do this because I find that people have their own assumptions of what being a brand manager entails, and they’ll often tease me about spending my day ‘playing with logos.’ I should proudly tell people that as a brand manager, I help drive growth for one of the UK’s largest charities, that I create and deliver strategies that change how people perceive heart and circulatory diseases and the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) role in beating them, but I don’t. Challenging these misconceptions was the inspiration behind this latest blog post. 

A few people have also recently asked me what managing a charity brand involves, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to write about what a typical day in the life of a brand manager.

Scan the horizon

I normally begin my day by reading news and articles on Campaign, ThirdSector, Civil Society, LinkedIn and Twitter where I follow several of my favourite charities. It is important to keep on top of issues relating to the sector and I enjoy taking inspiration in seeing what other charities are doing. There is a lot that can be learned by simply horizon scanning and sharing this insight with colleagues. This week saw the launch of Parkinson’s UK latest campaign ‘Time for can’, which is one of the best charity ads I’ve seen in a long time.

Inform and inspire

This is a huge part of what I do, and I can’t stress its importance enough. You need to take the time to understand what perceptions your colleagues have of ‘brand’ and ‘marketing.’ Unless you’re all on the same page, you won’t get very far. ‘Brand’ is a tricky concept for many people to understand, and for good reason because it is essentially an intangible concept. Many brand consultants argue that brands don’t really exist, that they only exist in consumers’ minds. During a typical day, I can find myself leading a brand induction, training session, or brand clinic to help improve understanding and awareness of the BHF brand. I enjoy this part of my role because staff and volunteers are your strongest brand asset. Because they’re so important, they must understand their role in bringing the brand to life. Building strong networks across the organisation and implementing a network of brand advocates or champions will also help to keep you informed of the organisation’s needs.

Research, research, research

For your brand to grow, you need to understand your brand’s market and its influences. You also need to learn everything you possibly can about your brand’s customers and potential customers. 

If you don’t, you risk becoming redundant and there are many famous examples of brands that lost touch of what mattered to its customers like Kodak and Blockbuster. Last year I managed one of the BHF’s most significant pieces of market research. We wanted to better understand what areas of our work the public cared about. Once we knew this, we tested different types of communications to see what they found engaging. Using this insight, we developed a guide on how to craft effective stories about things that people cared about. A typical day could see me using this insight to help make our propositions, content and campaigns stronger. 

Measure what matters

Peter Drucker was one of the most influential thinkers on management. He said that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. As a brand manager, it’s true that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. I work closely with the BHF’s Research and Insight team to track the BHF’s brand. While we don’t look at our metrics daily, we do keep a close eye on them if we’re running a campaign and review them on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.

It is vital to have a good understanding of market research, brand metrics, and statistics in general. Your analysis of your metrics will be used to inform planning, and you wouldn’t want to jump to the wrong assumption when you’re analysing data. For example, there is a strong correlation between the number of people who drowned by falling into a swimming-pool and the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in. However, I’m sure you’ll agree that this correlation doesn’t mean that Nicholas cage had anything to do with those deaths.

I’d recommend The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data by David Spiegelhalter to learn more about market research.

Engage and encourage

Another big part of my day is dedicated to providing brand consultancy and support to staff and agencies to inspire them through their decisions and their work to align with the BHF’s brand positioning and strategy. For example, if we were developing a new fundraising event, I’d help review the brief, the response to brief and subsequent concepts. I’d then review early drafts of marketing and communications to ensure that they’re right for the BHF before formally approving content ahead of its launch. Many people assume that this part of the role means telling people what they can’t do or being the ‘brand police.’ While I do stress the importance of consistency and cohesion for brands, I try to do this as an open dialogue. If I’m not sure about an idea or an execution, I ask for the rationale behind decisions, explain any concerns I have, and where possible, I always try to help look for solutions with the team.

Empower and equip

When so much time, consideration, and love has gone into crafting each element of a brand, it is understandable that a brand manager would want to protect each part by keeping it under lock and key to have full control over it. But again, for a brand to grow, you need to help empower staff and volunteers to help you champion it. You can do this by creating and managing a range of tools and resources that empower them. For example, last year, the BHF launched a brand asset library that houses branded illustrations, films, animations, photography and is basically a one-stop shop for all brand guidelines and resources. Since its launch, hundreds of users from across the BHF have downloaded thousands of assets from the library. On any given day, I could help upload new assets to the library, commission new resources or develop new tools for staff and volunteers to use.

Strategy development

Helping to develop a new brand, proposition, positioning or strategy is one of the most exciting and challenging parts of being a brand manager. However, this isn’t something that a brand manager gets to do every day as a good proposition or strategy should last for several years. I was lucky enough to play a key role in developing and delivering the strategic brand review that saw the BHF completely overhaul their brand and helped their brand metrics (impact, consideration, and urgency) reach their highest recorded levels. If you wanted to focus on strategy development regularly, you might prefer working for an agency that specialises in brand strategy.

In summary

If you’re considering a career as a brand manager for a charity, I hope that talking about what I do on a typical day and why it matters has helped. If you’d like to carry on the conversation, please feel free to send me a connection request on LinkedIn. 


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