Do you have a brand management interview coming up soon? If so, skip to the end and start practicing with the interview questions in the PowerPoint presentation!
What kinds of questions should you expect?
In a brand management interview, you will see three categories of questions: behavioral, marketing case, and fit.
Behavioral questions are designed to assess your past behavior in specific situations. Some companies, such as P&G, will lean heavily on these since they believe past behavior is the best predictor of future success. These questions typically start with phrases like "Tell me about a time when..." or "Give me an example of a situation where you had to...". The goal of behavioral questions is to understand how you have handled situations in the past, which can help the interviewer gauge how you might handle similar situations.
Marketing Case Questions
Marketing case questions assess your problem-solving skills and ability to think strategically. These questions typically present a hypothetical scenario and ask you to analyze the situation and propose a solution. Marketing case questions can be challenging because they require thinking creatively and outside the box. As a result, this is probably the most difficult category of questions to prepare for and will take the most practice to master.
Fit questions assess your fit with the company culture and the team. These questions are often open-ended and may not have a right or wrong answer. The goal of fit questions is to understand your personality, work style, and values and to determine if you would be a good fit for the company.
Strategies for Behavioral Questions
You've probably heard of the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method or the CAR (context, action, result), but there's one I found that I like so much more.
It's from this book I stumbled upon randomly on Amazon, but it has the best behavioral storytelling framework and tips I've come across.
By Angela Guido
The key lesson here is that every answer you share in response to a behavioral question should be a story with a narrative arc. There should be a conflict, emotion, something at stake, and a nice resolution. You should be the main character and explain the choices and tradeoffs you had to make.
Introducing Angela's CCCC Storytelling framework
Context -> Conflict -> Choice -> Change
Step 1: Choose an accomplishment.
Step 2: Brainstorm what happened at the beginning of your story.
Step 3: Brainstorm what happened at the end of your story.
Step 4: Define your conflict sentence.
Step 5: Distinguish and articulate your choices in response to the conflict.
Use these questions to explore and outline your story:
• What were the circumstances?
• What was the task in front of you?
• Who else was there?
• When was it?
• Where were you?
• What was challenging about the situation?
• What obstacles did you have to overcome to achieve your goal?
• What did you want, and what was standing in your way?
• How did you think and feel about the challenges you faced then?
• Was there a particular moment when all hope seemed lost? What was that like?
• Did you have a strategy to overcome the obstacles?
• What was your plan to get what you wanted?
• What was the rationale for that strategy?
• Why did you think that strategy would work?
• Why do you think it did work in the end?
• What two or three core actions were most important in helping you achieve your goal?
• Why were those the most important?
• What was the rationale for your choices?
“I wanted to ___________, but had to overcome __________.”
• What was the happy ending?
• What measurable results were produced (by you directly or any others involved: dollars earned or saved, hours removed from a process, promotions, accolades, awards, or honors)?
• How did you grow, and what did you learn?
• How did you change (Confidence? Career trajectory? Other personal growth?)
• How did you feel then, and how do you feel about these changes now?
Eight Rules of Storytelling
• Storytelling Rule #1: Stories are made of actions, not opinions.
• Storytelling Rule #2: All stories have a beginning, middle, and end.
• Storytelling Rule #3: Stories happen in space and time.
• Storytelling Rule #4: Conflict defines the story.
• Storytelling Rule #5: Choices define the character.
• Storytelling Rule #6: Stories are made of concrete details.
• Storytelling Rule #7: All heroes feel.
• Storytelling Rule #8: All stories have a happy ending.
Strategies and Frameworks for Marketing Case Questions
Books and courses are dedicated to formulating answers to the case questions you'll encounter in a brand management interview. To be concise, I will highlight the most relevant frameworks you should use if you're not already familiar.
Here's what I've found in my interview prep—just because you've learned about the 4Ps doesn't automatically mean you can use them well. It takes practice, and when you talk to people who have been in the industry, there is so much nuisance and detail to each "P" of the 4Ps.
Imagine that you are new to tea and find that you like hot earl gray tea. Now imagine talking to a tea connoisseur. You ask her, "what do you like in black tea?"
An amazing cup of black tea should be rich and full-bodied, with a complex and nuanced taste that evolves with each sip. The aroma should be floral and slightly sweet, with hints of honey, fruit, or spices. The taste should be smooth and balanced, with a slight bitterness that is offset by a sweet or savory aftertaste. The texture should be silky and luxurious, with no astringency or roughness. It should be made with high-quality tea leaves, brewed using a precise and careful method, and offers a rich and complex flavor that is both satisfying and memorable.
That's how your interviewer might think about their product or the retail channel sequencing strategy (Placement). The example is a little bit of a hyperbole, but what I'm sharing is that there's a lot more depth and nuance.
If your answer goes just a little deeper than "we should distribute the product through Mass including Walmart and Target," then you'll be ahead of the competition (even if Walmart and Target is a reasonable answer).
For strategic questions, use the 5Cs framework
The clue to whether it's a strategic question versus a tactical question is around the word "should." If the question is whether or not a brand should do something (launch a new product, enter a new category, etc.), then you use this framework to guide your recommendation.
A typical example is, "Should Cheetos get into the frozen prepared meals category?"
Consumer: Understanding the needs, wants, preferences, and behaviors of the target consumer is crucial to the brand's success. This involves researching to identify key consumer insights, such as demographics, psychographics, and purchase behaviors. It would help if you always started with the consumer when answering these case questions.
Category: Category is everything in brand management. You have to be a true category expert. Understanding the category means knowing its' market size, growth rate, and trends. This also includes being familiar with the key players in the category and what they offer the consumer.
Competition: Understanding the competitive landscape is crucial to identifying the brand's unique value proposition and points of differentiation. This includes identifying direct and indirect competitors, their market share, product offerings, and marketing strategies.
Company: Understanding the company's strengths, weaknesses, resources, and capabilities is essential to aligning the brand's strategies and goals with the overall business objectives. This also includes understanding the company culture, values, and mission.
Channel/Customer: Understanding the distribution channels through which the brand's products are sold, and the needs and preferences of the customers within those channels are crucial to developing effective marketing strategies. This includes identifying the key decision-makers, influencers, and stakeholders within the distribution channels and understanding the customer's journey and purchase decision-making process.
For tactical "how " do we do this questions, use the 4Ps
If there's a question about evaluating how a brand is doing or how to execute a marketing plan for a new product launch, then you're in the realm of the 4Ps. The focus of the 4Ps is to get down to the details about bringing something like a new product launch to life. For example, "How would you launch a new ranch dressing under the Doritos brand?"
Product: This refers to the tangible or intangible item or service the brand offers. It includes the product's design, features, packaging, quality, and branding. As a brand manager, it's essential to ensure that the product meets the needs and wants of the target consumers and is aligned with the brand's values and mission.
Price: This refers to the amount of money charged for the product or service. As a brand manager, it's important to determine the appropriate pricing strategy based on production costs, competition, target market, and consumer demand. Pricing strategies can include value-based pricing, cost-plus pricing, or promotional pricing.
Place (Distribution): This refers to the channels through which the product is made available to the target consumers. This includes physical and digital distribution channels such as retailers, wholesalers, e-commerce platforms, and direct-to-consumer sales. As a brand manager, it's important to ensure that the product is available at the right place and at the right time to meet the needs of the target consumers.
Promotion: This refers to the methods used to communicate and promote the product to the target consumers. This includes advertising, sales promotions, public relations, personal selling, and direct marketing. As a brand manager, developing a comprehensive promotional strategy that reaches the target consumers effectively and efficiently is important.
For questions about critiquing advertising, use TOESS
TOESS is a framework I learned in Michigan Marketing Club (MMC) at Ross for critiquing advertising campaigns. It stands for Target, Objective, Execution, Strategy, and Support. Here's a brief explanation of each letter:
Target: This refers to the advertising campaign's intended audience or customer segment. The target audience should be clearly defined, and the advertising message and creative execution should be tailored to resonate with their needs and interests. The target should be clear by watching the ad. If you're confused by who the ad is for, it isn't well-targeted. On the other hand, if you think, "wow, nurses and doctors would love this product!" then the ad is well-targeted.
Objective: This refers to the specific goal or outcome that the ad tries to achieve. It's the reason why the brand created the ad. For example, do they want consumers to try the product for the first time (Pepsi Zero Sugar in the '23 Super Bowl)?
Execution: This refers to the creative execution of the ad, including the visuals, copy, and tone. The execution should be consistent with the brand's values and messaging and should be engaging and memorable to capture the target audience's attention and drive action. In other words, does the ad work from your perspective?
Strategy: This refers to the overall strategic approach to the ad. Marketing strategy boils down to segmentation, targeting, and positioning (STP). Is the product or service featured in the ad well-positioned and targeted to the right segment? Bad strategy: 300mg energy drinks for older adults who live with their children. Good strategy: melatonin-infused tea for high-tech entrepreneurs. One makes sense; one is nonsense.
Support: This refers to the evidence or data used to support the claims in the ad. This could include testimonials, stats, or other data to support the message. Basically, is it believable? Why or why not?
A question might be, "What's an example of a good TV campaign you've seen recently?"
An easier ad critique framework is MOB
This is a framework from Lewis Lin's "The Marketing Interview" book. The content on this page is some of the notes I took while m reading it a while ago!
Memorable: Is the ad memorable? Is it memorable enough to capture the attention of the target audience? A memorable campaign should be visually appealing, use a catchy tagline, or evoke a strong emotional response. Think about your favorite ads and what makes them memorable.
Obvious Product: The second element of the MOB framework is Obvious Product. This refers to whether the advertising campaign clearly communicates the product or service being advertised. This sounds obvious, but sometimes, it's hard to tell what the ad is for until the end! Sometimes the payoff is worth it (think insurance). Sometimes, it's a risk that doesn't pay off. The product should be front and center in the campaign, and the messaging should be focused on the unique features and benefits of the product.
Benefit: The final element of the MOB framework is Benefit. This refers to the value proposition or benefit that the product or service provides . Does the ad make it super clear? If so, great!
Use AITP Funnel for Marketing Communications and Promotion Questions
Think about what stage of the consumer journey you are targeting with your marketing promotion plan in your answer and explain why. For example, if it's a new product launch, then you should focus on awareness. If it's a product that people already know and are familiar with, then your marketing should target the final conversion or purchase (this would mean more shopper marketing or trade marketing programs such as in-store displays versus national TV media).
Awareness: This is the first stage of the funnel where the customer becomes aware of the product's existence. This can happen through various channels, such as advertising, word of mouth, or social media.
Interest: In this stage, the customer shows interest in the product and starts researching and learning more about it. This can involve visiting the product's website, reading reviews, or comparing it to similar products.
Trial: In this stage, the customer tries the product for the first time, which could be through a free sample or a discounted price. The trial stage is important because it allows the customer to experience the product and decide whether they want to purchase it.
Purchase: This is the final stage of the funnel where the customer decides to purchase the product. This stage involves the customer evaluating the value and benefits of the product and deciding if it's worth the price.
Three ways to respond to a declining sales case questions
First, make sure to diagnose the problem. Identify the root cause of the sales decline. This could be due to competition, distribution issues, or a missed market opportunity. There are other possibilities, but these are the three most likely.
If competition is the problem: Develop a marketing plan to differentiate the product and create a unique value proposition. Maybe target a new customer segment, improve the product's features, or reposition the brand.
If distribution is the problem: Create a channel (retail customer) plan to improve the product's availability and accessibility to the target consumer segment. Maybe expand the distribution network, optimize the supply chain, or partner with third-party distributors.
If a missed market opportunity is the problem: Recommend market entry by identifying new customer segments, markets, or product categories. This could involve conducting market research, developing a new product line, or launching a new marketing campaign.
If your sales are flat, but your market share is decreasing
This means that your competitors are growing and the category is growing. Sometimes, categories naturally grow because of certain trends or macro drivers (i.e. big flu season), but if your sales are flat and your dollar volume market share is decreasing, it means that you are not getting your fair share of the category growth.
How do you respond against a private label or store brand?
Increase the value you're offering
- Launch new products for new, underserved segments
- Launch new products for existing segments
Decrease the price
- Manufacture the private label product
- Create a fighting brand to compete
Decrease cost (Helps improve profit margin and gives the brand flexibility to cut prices)
- Negotiate discounts with suppliers
- Automate processes to reduce overhead
- Simplify packaging
List of 20 strategic marketing initiatives from Tim Caulkins
These should all be self-explanatory if you've gotten this far! Pick a few and explain how they can be implemented.
- Build awareness
- Expand distribution
- Build buying rate
- Build penetration
- Build extended usage
- Increase loyalty
- Strengthen in-store merchandising
- Improve product quality
- Decrease product costs
- Introduce a new brand
- Attract competitor’s customers
- Defend against new competitive product
- Enter a new market
- Increase referrals
- Reposition the brand
- Enter a new distribution channel
- Increase pricing
- Strengthen the brand
- Test new marketing tactics
- Accelerate new-product development
What metrics should you track to measure digital marketing success?
I used to do performance marketing, and there are literally hundreds of KPIs and stats. However, get the basics first.
Advertising media: impressions, CPMs, average frequency, reach, share of voice
Engagement: CTR, CPC, visits, visitors, pageviews
Business impact: revenue per order, visits, visitors, pageviews
Costs: total cost, cost per click, cost per conversion, cost per order, cost per acquisition
Other: shopping abandonment rate, cost of sale, ROAS (return on ad spend)
What's the market size for X item?
This is actually less common in brand management interviews, but are still fair game. To answer this question, start with these key facts for your first estimate and then zoom in or zoom out.
US Population: 319M
New York City 8.3M
Los Angeles 3.9M
San Francisco 837K
Outside of US
South America 388M
Other useful assumptions
Life expectancy 80years
People per household 2.5 people
Median household income $53K
GDP Growth rate 2%
Corporate Tax Rate 35%
Smartphone Penetration 70%
Percent with bachelors degree 30%
Percent married adults 52%
Percent under the age of 18: 23%
Percent over the age of 65: 13%
How to Practice for the Big Day
The best way to prepare for a brand management interview is through practice. I've put together 50 brand management interview questions that I've been asked at some point while recruiting as an MBA student and later on as an Associate Brand manager with some brand experience.
Download the PowerPoint file and go into presentation mode. Every time you hit "Next Question," there is a macro I write that jumps to a random question within the deck.
Don't worry! All the macro (aka small program within PowerPoint) does is creates a random number between 1-50 and jump to that slide number when you hit "Next Question."
Here is a copy of the PDF if you don't want to use the PowerPoint file.
To get the most out of this PowerPoint file, use it as if you were actually being asked that question in an interview. You can even record a slideshow by hitting the record button in order to hear what your answers sound like.
Are you ready to ace the interview?
See if you can answer these brand management questions!
For now, get your reps in!
Check out my other projects, and let me know what you think!