Lately I have seen more and more companies in Brazil renaming the function “Product Manager” as “Brand Manager”, apparently trying to “upgrade” it. Is this correct? Is the Brand Manager a Product Manager on steroids? This demands some thinking.

Where the word brand comes from? Most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that brand comes from the verb “to brand”, meaning to “to mark by burning with hot iron to attest ownership” (as in cattle) – Merriam Webster. The burnt mark left on the hide showed who  the owner of the animal was, which farmer or farm.

At the end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th, the names of some companies achieved prestige and they started to print their logo on the packaging of their products. Up until then it was the name of the product that mattered. The name or trademark of those companies had been established in the consumers’ minds and began to mean “something”:  quality, personality, modernity, tradition etc. The opportunity to transfer this meaning to their new products or less successful ones was irresistible.

In Brazil, the high quality of products from the German company Bayer, already recognized by consumers, gave birth to the slogan “If it is Bayer, it is Good”. [Blogger’s remark: it sounds MUCH better in Portuguese, trust me]. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The attribute of high quality was lent to several other products manufactured by the company, from Aspirin (medication), to Baygon (insecticide) to Baymec (pesticide). They were all made by Bayer, thus they all had high quality.

Another phenomenon: some product names became protagonists and turned into company names, such as Coca-Cola. They became brands, establishing themselves in the mind of the customers with a “meaning” and “signs”: a shape, a color, a sound, a logo, a personality, a gender etc etc etc.

Coca-Cola is an authentic brand, 4th most valuable in the globe, worth US$ 58.5 Billion, as per Forbes. It is an umbrella for different products and other companies. But be sure that underneath this umbrella there are countless Product Managers and there is probably one for the much-feared Cherry-Orange-Vanilla Coke. There are probably many more for (guessing) Coca-Cola in cans or bottles.

Take home messages: there are much fewer actual brands than products. Few company or product names become authentic brands that can occupy a unique spot in the mind of customers and gain meaning. I can think of a few pharmaceutical products that achieved the status of a brand or close to that. I can think of Novalgina (Brazil), Nexium (US) – the power of the purple pill, Viagra and Botox among others.

The vast majority of us are “de facto” Product Managers. In the US, there is the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM), which provides professional certification through a demanding process. As far as Google knows, there is no Association of Brand Management.

Mozilla’s CMO, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, when asked about the most critical position in a company answered: “Without question, the Product Marketing Manager … If I were re-starting my career, I would start in product management”.

We are all Product Marketing Managers – and should be proud of it. The impact that we can bring to a company business is amazing.

By the way, the American Marketing Association Dictionary uses the terms “Product Manager” or “Brand Manager” as synonyms, thus one can argue that neither is more important than the other. For my taste, I prefer “Product Manager”, but if anyone feels better being called “Brand Manager” there is no problem at all.

As long as he/she knows exactly what a Brand is.

See you next time.