Isaac Hellemn graduated from Carolina in 2014 and is now an Assistant Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where P&G is headquartered, and manages the Downy brand of fabric enhancers.
Why did you choose your major and career path?
I’ve always been curious about how the world works, and that’s what got me into the Business and Psychology majors. From there, Brand Management was the natural progression; it’s the one career path where you get to use both skillsets fairly equally.
What are some typical responsibilities of an Assistant Brand Manager at P&G?
It can vary a lot depending on the brand, but even on a billion-dollar brand like Downy you get a pretty impressive scope of responsibility. Among other things, I manage an eight-figure marketing budget, work with our ad agencies on copy, and meet with external partners like Google and Facebook to A) learn about what the consumer is looking for and B) find the most effective ways to connect with them.
What is your favorite part of your job?
There’s a sense that you get to look behind the curtain at the things that power everyday life. In the US, almost every decision we make in a given day is at least influenced by marketing – from what we wear to what we have for breakfast to what bar we head to on Friday. And obviously there are big differences in what makes a bar successful and what makes a clothing brand successful, but there are certain fundamental elements that are the same, and learning how those work has been very cool.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The level of responsibility and independence I’m given is a major plus, but also a significant challenge. When you’re managing a multi-million dollar budget for a multi-billion dollar brand, you definitely have to be careful with the decimal places.
What skills are required to be successful as an Assistant Brand Manager at P&G?
The best ABM’s strike a good balance between personal investment and intellectual detachment. You have to genuinely identify with your brand, because you’re expected to actively seek out opportunities to grow it. But you also can’t put too much of yourself into the branding – you have to be able to recognize that as a young working professional with a big paycheck, you’re not necessarily representative of the average consumer. Maybe you’d pay $20 a bottle for the shampoo Olivia Palermo uses, but if your consumer is used to $3 a bottle then it might not make any sense.
Are there any perks to working for the world’s largest CPG company?
I probably won’t ever have to buy consumer products again – we get a lot of free stuff.
What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in marketing or brand management?
Make sure you really understand what it is you’re getting into. A lot of people think it’s going to the Super Bowl and being at commercial shoots with Sofia Vergara, but brand management is a lot more than that. It’s getting the packaging right, it’s analyzing competition, it’s making sure the coupons have the right exclusions. So there’s a lot to it and not all of it is glamorous, but you do absolutely get to change the way millions of people live. That to me makes it worth it.