Often, people get confused with the concepts of brand management versus product management. They tend to think that both are the same since they deal with a specific product being marketed and hence managed from incubation to sales. However, there are crucial differences in the way product managers and brand managers operate. For instance, brand management is all about creating a mind space for the product whereas product management is concerned with features and specifications as well. Further, brand management is often done in consumer product companies that have more products and product lines and hence the overall emphasis on the brand image is more. On the other hand, product managers operate in environments where they have to take care of a single product and hence bringing it to the market is their brief and so they tend to concentrate on the big picture.
Moreover, brand management is associated with consumer product companies whereas product management is associated with software companies. This is because consumer product companies need a top of the mind recall for their products and brands since they mass market them.
In other words, consumer product companies reach out to a larger audience and wider customer base whereas software companies typically have lesser numbers of customers to contend with. Further, brand managers have to sell the product by creating an overall image for the brand that consists of creating a value proposition based on the perceived value that the product or the brand offers. Product managers on the other hand (in software companies) have to concentrate on the value proposition that features and technology deliver.
Apart from these differences, brand managers have to plan for brand obsolescence which means that they need to bring in newer products to keep the product line replenished. Product managers on the other hand need to concentrate on upgrades and versions of the same product instead of trying to launch an entirely different product. There is also the aspect of the lengthy product lifecycle from conceptualizing to bringing to market in case of software products whereas brand managers typically deal with shorter lifecycles. This makes the task of a brand manager harder in some cases where the urgency is more whereas the product manager has some more time. In other cases, the brand manager can relax after the product launch since sales drive the brand management rather than the marketing and branding exercises that would have been completed by then. Product managers on the other hand have to be edge after the rollout since they have to be on the lookout for glitches and bugs in the software that might derail the project the delay the customer experience.
In conclusion, brand management is more about perception and the perceived value whereas product management is more about tangible and measurable value propositions. This is expressed in the customer satisfaction surveys where brand users of consumer products rate the brand according to the perceived levels of satisfaction whereas product users in software rate the product according to the specific and measurable benefits that it brings to them. Finally, brand management is a high stakes game because brands fail at an alarming rate and any consumer company with some seed capital can enter the market. In the case of software products, the products are launched only when the companies have deep pockets and can stay the course. Of course, the dotcom boom and the subsequent bust was all about software companies trying to market themselves like brands and the reason for the bust was that they forgot the basic rules of product management. More on this in later articles.
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