Memoir of a Brand Manager (Part 2)

June 25, 2019
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One lesson I learnt early in my marketing career was to get into grip very quickly with any new brand I was given to manage. I suppose that would apply to any new role.

The previous July, one year after I joined the company as a management trainee, I had been appointed as marketing executive (the lowest management level in marketing at the time) to directly manage the chocolate brands, Dash, fudge and Chocolate Spread, which were new to the business and were performing very poorly; stocks worth millions of Naira were in the company warehouses at risk of expiring before purchase. My mandate was to significantly deplete the stocks.

I got the notice of my deployment on a Monday (another Monday!) afternoon at about 2pm, and began to psyche myself up for the task.

The weekly Sales and Marketing meeting was scheduled for 8.00am the following morning.

It was a dreaded meeting especially if your brand was not performing well, or you were lagging in delivering tasks or objectives.

The Sales and Marketing Director (OOO, in Cadbury Nigeria style), who later became the MD/CEO, chaired this meeting. I thought I was safe for this particular meeting having just been given the new role the afternoon before, so when it came to my turn to report, I said that I was analyzing the situation having just been moved to the beat.

I was taken aback, nay, more like felt like a boxer blindsided with an uppercut, when OOO scolded, said he expected solutions, and wondered what I had been doing since 2pm the day before!

It didn’t matter that the 18 hours prior included a whole night. It didn’t matter that the issues with the brands had been an uphill task to resolve in the previous 18 months. It didn’t matter that I was relatively a marketing neophyte.

This was a challenge to rise up to, and failure was not an option. So I put my nose to the grind, and with the help of colleagues, we threw up ideas and implemented tactics to reduce the losses on the brands. I guess through grace, the Company was satisfied with the results because six months later at the end of that year, I was promoted to the level of full Brand manager, skipping the level of Assistant Brand Manager.

Shortly after, a new Sales and Marketing director, VB from Cadbury India was appointed on an exchange program with OOO who went to India. 

The company ultimately decided that the market was not ready for those chocolate brands and exited from playing in the category. It was during the debate about keeping or killing the brands that I first heard what I consider a profound marketing question: when I argued for retaining the brands in the portfolio by indicating that there was a gap in the market for the brands, VB countered, ‘yes, there might be a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap?’. I had no empirical answer to that, and rested my case (smile).

The decision to kill the brands was taken on a Friday, which meant for that weekend, I effectively did not have any brand to manage, and technically, did not have a job! So, it was a mix of relief and surprise to have been appointed to manage Bournvita the following Monday!

With the chocolate experience still ringing in my head, I immersed myself in the world of Bournvita.

Author – Lampe Omoyele

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