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:
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.
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.