Rachel, the Brand Category Manager: relentlessly tracking trends


At Indix, we believe that anyone who influences the product, including its attributes, price, promotion or distribution, is a Product Manager (PM). PMs’ titles or avatars may vary, but their responsibilities are remarkably consistent.

Earlier this month we introduced you to Amy, a composite Retail Category Manager at a large online retailer. Today we continue our series of introductions to fictitious but typical PMs, under their widely varied titles and avatars.

Rachel is a composite example of a Brand Category Manger. An upper-middle-class suburban woman with an MBA, she has eight years of experience on marketing teams at three major sports-apparel makers.

Rachel is now working for a huge athletic-gear maker as a Brand Category (Merchandising) Manager for North American basketball equipment and apparel. That includes shirts, jackets, hoodies, shorts, socks — all for both on- and off-court wear — and of course shoes. These are marketed singly and as items within collections of clothing from such basketball greats as Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Amar’e Stoudemire. Shoes, many of them highly technical and wildly colorful, figure most prominently among the items she manages. She is responsible for as many as 40 styles at once.

Here Rachel describes her job further, in her own voice.

“I have to spot trends in colors, materials and fashions and then help my employer profit from them. So I have to keep a close eye on what US basketball players are wearing, head to toe, both on and off the court. A blistering night on the court by a player wearing a particular shoe can create an instant trend. That means I spend a lot of time — more than my kids would like — scanning YouTube and noting, say, what LeBron James wore to a social event last week.” For these aspects of her job, she must be highly creative and intuitive. But she must also be analytical.

“I also have to watch the competition to see what products, in what styles and colors, they might introduce to gain a competitive edge,” she said. “Then I have to come up with effective responses. I have to use every tool I can find to make product and category decisions, including sales data, trend reports and consumer opinion.”

Because the range of licensed US basketball apparel is relatively small — consisting of tops, bottoms and shoes — competition among apparel makers can get intense. Knowing where she can undercut the competition, even by pennies, can give her company an edge. She must constantly monitor pricing — both her own company’s and that of online and brick-and-mortar competitors. Promotions by the competition require an instant decision whether to match them or strategically let current prices stand.

Gathering, monitoring and analyzing all of this data could benefit from a 13-person team — but Rachel works basically alone. It requires Internet searches, Google alerts, RSS feeds and a terrific effort on her part — unless there was a software tool designed specifically to be a working home for professionals in her position.

Through focus groups and in-depth interviews, indix is working hard to understand and address the pain points encountered by Rachel and other such Brand Category/Merchandising Managers. These requirements are at the forefront of our minds as we continue to build indix. If you are a Brand Category (Merchandising) Manager, we would love to hear your pain points. Please provide us your feedback via comments.


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