“Brand managers do not report any systematic initiatives to connect to brand theory or research” (*Redler and Schmidt, 2022).

It was terrific to catch up again with a good friend and prolific brand management researcher, Prof Holger J. Schmidt, during his recent visit to Cape Town as the keynote speaker at our Brand and Digital Research Hub symposium. Over dinner, while overlooking the iconic Table Mountain, he told my wife and me about the fascinating and frankly shocking findings of his most recent publication from no more than six weeks ago.

Expanding understanding of brand management

Our understanding of brand management has grown exponentially over the last three decades and as brand management researchers, we continue to push the boundaries of knowledge. In this vein, several brand management schools of thought or paradigms have been identified, studied, and published guidelines.

The authors conducted interviews with marketing professionals and found “that there is no awareness about different brand management schools” among those interviewed and that they do not have an appreciation of the co-creative school specifically.

Concerning state of affairs

This is a concerning situation. Brand managers are directly responsible for the health of their brands. Not being aware of the developments in brand management can be very detrimental to the brand they are responsible for.

Who’s to blame?

Our conversation turned to why this is the case – can this sorry state of affairs be blamed on brand researchers or brand managers? As brand researchers, we tend to focus on every narrowing niches and deem our job done after publishing an academic article. However, brand managers do not get their information from scholarly papers. Hence the theory-practice gap.

My friend and I differ in our views as to whose responsibility it is to address the gap with my friend holding the belief that researchers are solely to blame for not making their research more accessible to brand managers. My view is that, in addition to making research more accessible, brand managers should also step up as it is part of their continuing professional development and seek out meatier content and not only rely on easy-to-digest sources of information. After all, we are referring to brand management professionals and not the general public.

Narrowing the theory-practice gap

I am already practising what my friend suggests by making brand management more accessible via this newsletter, but fellow brand managers … we need to get off the Purity baby formula.

Brand strategy

When managing a brand, many companies focus solely on tactics and leave strategy by the wayside. However, a new study shows that this approach may do more harm than good.

The study by the Brand Identity School found that nearly 60% of companies don’t have a clear brand strategy. Without a strategy, these companies are just winging it when it comes to their branding. And unfortunately, this often leads to inconsistency and confusion.

While tactics are essential to execute your brand goals, it will only get you so far without a well-thought-out strategy. A good brand strategy will consider your company’s mission, values, target audience, and competitive landscape. It will also lay out a clear plan for how you can achieve your branding goals.

Branding schools of thought

The three main brand management schools of thought are the image school, identity school and co-creative school.

Image school

Brand managers that prefer the image school of thought support the views of the pioneers of brand positioning, Jack Trout and Al Ries, in that their primary focus is on identifying an unoccupied space in the minds of their target consumers and then adapting your offering to fit into that image gap. This is also called the outside-in approach.

As a brand manager, it is your job to sell the company’s image to consumers. You are in charge of creating and maintaining the company’s public persona. If you believe that the company’s image is more important than anything else, you support the image school.

Some may argue that this approach is short-sighted and that you should focus on other aspects of the business, such as product quality or customer service.

Identity school

Adherents of the identity school of thought believe in an inside-out approach and start by understanding their brand, its capabilities and sustainable competitive advantages. And then they position their brands based on its authentic identity.

This means that brand building should start from within the company. All employees should be aligned with the company’s core values and mission. Only then can they effectively communicate these values to customers and other stakeholders.

Companies can create a strong foundation for their brand by starting with internal alignment. From there, they can effectively communicate their message to the outside world. This approach takes more time and effort than traditional advertising but can pay off in the long run.

Co-creative school

The co-creative school advocates that brand managers are no longer in control of brand creation; instead, brands are co-created by the company and their consumers and other stakeholders. Consumers are deliberately involved in the co-creation process.

This means marketers must let go of control and let consumers create the brand. This can be done through social media, user-generated content, and other participatory marketing techniques. While this may be a scary thought for some marketers, it is an exciting opportunity to create truly unique and powerful brands.


Granted, brand managers will be more knowledgeable regarding concepts like ad campaigns, marketing efforts, brand recognition and brand awareness to create a strong brand. Customer loyalty, buyer persona / potential buyers / target customers, customer experience and visual identity (color scheme, color palette) will probably be understood. I have experience that brand promise, branding strategy and brand equity are not understood by business owners and its importance to build a successful brand.

Ultimately, we agree that these findings are shocking and suggest that we may be failing brand managers. This is a problem because brand managers are responsible for the success or failure of a brand. If we are failing them, we are likely also failing the brands they manage. The bottom line is that we need to do better at supporting and training brand managers and brand managers need to consume denser brand management content so that their brand marketing strategy and advertising efforts for their particular brand can lead to effective branding.

*Source: Redler, J., Schmidt, H.J. I know that I know nothing: exploring the managerial relevance of recent orientations in brand management research. J Brand Manag 29, 498–511 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41262-022-00287-5″Brand managers do not report any systematic initiatives to connect to brand theory or research” (*Redler & Schmidt, 2022)