Exploring Career Trajectories in Branding: An Insightful Guide from a Practitioner

Last week, I had the enriching experience of guest lecturing at McGill University. The engagement was not only enjoyable but also intellectually stimulating, especially considering the insightful, career-oriented queries raised by the business students. This piece aims to simplify and elucidate the various career paths available in the realm of branding.

Main Roles in a Branding Agency

A branding agency typically comprises four pivotal roles: Project Manager, Strategist, New Business Development Expert, and Creative. Larger firms might have additional roles such as finance accounting and production, but the following four are indispensable:

Project Manager

Also known as Client Manager or Program Manager, this role is unique in branding agencies, which usually operate on a project basis rather than handling accounts. Individuals in this role come from diverse educational backgrounds, including journalism, communications, or business. Essential qualities of an excellent client manager include attention to detail, strong relationship-building skills, and proficiency in executing ideas and managing resources. For students aspiring to this role, starting in an advertising company or a small creative shop can be a beneficial stepping stone.


Strategists in branding agencies often specialize in areas such as professional services or consumer goods. Their backgrounds are varied, encompassing corporate strategy consulting, marketing management, or research, with many holding MBA degrees. The hallmark of a successful strategist is their ability to think analytically, recognize patterns, and blend strategy with design. For students, roles in product management or consumer insights in B2B or B2C companies can pave the way to becoming a strategist.

New Business Development Expert

Key traits of a successful new business development expert include exceptional networking skills and high visibility in the industry, often achieved through advisory roles and public speaking engagements. This senior position, typically filled by former senior client directors or strategists, demands excellent pitching and communication skills. Aspiring professionals might progress through client manager or strategist roles before considering starting their own agency.


The essence of a branding agency lies in its creative team, primarily graphic designers. These professionals blend artistic talent with a business mindset, addressing strategic business problems through creative solutions. Persuasive communication skills are also crucial, as clients often rely on designers to guide them in design decisions. Aspiring designers should possess a formal education in graphic design and can often start their careers in branding agencies while still students.

Concluding Thoughts

This guide is a simplified overview of career trajectories in branding. Brand practitioners are welcome to add their insights, and I encourage students or professionals interested in branding careers to engage in the comments section for a more interactive discussion.

540-698 Dovercourt Rd, Toronto, ON, Canada

2 Replies to “Exploring Career Trajectories in Branding: An Insightful Guide from a Practitioner”

  1. Thank you Günter, your “Creative” sections answer most of my questions.

    McGill University does not provide courses that are specifically related to graphic design. As a student in marketing, what other kinds of hands-on experience and internship should I acquire for the meanwhile, before obtaining that diploma/certificate post-undergraduate graphic design education? It seems like there isn’t much I can do until I finish design school (which would be about 3 years from now), and I am looking for something relevant to get involved with, like putting one foot into field and have a better knowledge and experience about the industry.

    Great blog!

  2. Thanks Olivia.

    First, I would not let a degree slow me down. If you are serious and if you really know what you want in life, I recommend you to gather your portfolio and apply to intern/junior positions at small ad agencies. There are so many of them. I believe if you have enough spark in your portfolio, you could get accepted to an agency.
    If you don’t have a portfolio that you can shop around, then the best is to work on pro-bono projects and use that experience to build your portfolio. As a student, get involved in any association – university-related event. Volunteer to magazines published by McGill. There are so many of those. In the mean time, invest in yourself, that is buy books and read them. Don’t get caught on income. Use your network. Your parents, your friends’ parents might need some of your services.
    Also follow websites like underconsideration.com. Network with people. Finally, subscribe to elance.com and odesk.com. There, you can get some freelance projects that are actually paying. That way, you can both build a portfolio and make money.
    Again, don’t let a lack of degree stop you. If you take a year or two and invest a lot in yourself, you can make a quantum leap once you are done with your degree.

Leave a Reply