Responsibilities and Accountability at Various Levels of Pharma Brand Management Teams


The classical structure of the hierarchy is a tried and tested method of running a business. Although today many companies are moving towards flat organizations, at least in the pharma industry it is very, very rare. In fact, I have yet to see one.

With the head of the organization at the top, defined layers of management, and a mass of junior workers at the bottom, everyone knows who they’re accountable to and what is expected of them; or at least they are expected to know. A reality check will reveal that ambiguity exists in the responsibilities and ambiguities.

This is how I look at a typical pharma brand management team in India. There are four key levels in the hierarchy:

  • Level 1 – Brand Executive, Assistant Brand Manager, Brand Manager or Sr. Brand Manager
  • Level 2 – Group Brand Manager, Assistant Marketing Manager
  • Level 3 – Marketing Manager, Assistant General Manager (Marketing), Deputy General Manager (Marketing)
  • Level 4 – General Manager (Marketing), Vice-President (Marketing) or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

Responsibilities at Level-1

In very simple language, at Level-1 your role will be that of basic learning and understanding the job of a brand manager.

Often you may be seen the handyman in the brand management team. Become one and with a smile on your face. You may be asked to perform research on competition in the market, developing campaigns and marketing strategies. At times it could even be frustrating. You may be asked to do a lot of work like extracting data from the retail shop audit reports (like AWACS or IQVIA) or from prescription audits like CMarc or SMSRC. You may not be asked to interpret it as this will be done by those at Level-2 or Level-3.

But surely, a proactive person at this level will try to interpret it and find solutions. You will be sending signals that you have capabilities and even leadership skills for the future.

Often your creativity and even great ideas may get stifled. You may even wonder whether you are in the right profession.

What should you do at Level-1?

The freshly-minted B-school graduates are very enthusiastic first-time marketers. They want to change the company. Indeed they want to change the world. They want to sprint before they learn to walk.

Many new people at Level-1 want to focus on strategy right away, losing track of the fact that at the current level, theirs is a “doing” role. You will be executing programs, analyzing results, and learning how to handle projects. While doing this, you can send signals you are capable of thinking and leading in the future.

A little later, you may be asked to handle a few minor brands in the portfolio.

If you organize the executive duties into ‘productivity management’ and ‘creativity management’ at this level, you may have to spend 90% of your time in ‘productivity management’ and very little in ‘creativity management’. This would include planning assets utilization, helping your seniors in digging out material for medico-marketing tools, and a few more.

What can separate the average Level-1 person from the great ones? The best seem to figure out the right thing to do and then make it happen. Fight through your exasperation and irritation. It can be the foundation and discipline you will use throughout your career.

Accountability at Level 1

As a learner, you may not be held accountable for any tasks. Freshers should consider this as an extension of the learning in their B-schools. Learn, learn and learn so that once you are promoted you may start performing like an accomplished brand manager.

Responsibilities at Level-2

 At this level, you still have to execute, but along with your first direct report. It could be a brand executive or an assistant brand manager.

Here is your challenge now to take on your first opportunity as a manager, or rather a leader of people.

 The success factor for you at this level is to learn to take ownership of your brand or brands. You need to provide the strategic direction, continue to work the system, learn to handle pressure, and get the most out of your direct report.

 How you can be successful at Level-2?

 Do not even mistakenly believe your role is only about managing others. This is the right time in your career to transit from ‘do-er’ to ‘owner’. Yes, you may certainly get your first chance to manage someone at Level-1, but make sure that effort is not a distraction from your opportunity to continue to learn and grow.

 What should you do at Level-2?

 Take ownership of your brand. As you progress in your career, this is a crucial step for you. Some may struggle with the transition from being the helper to now being the brand owner or rather the Brand-CEO.

 You will have to make the project list. You can come up with the strategies that set up the need for the projects.

Avoid a ‘telling voice’. Instead, use an ‘asking voice’. Prior to taking any decision, ask probing questions, as many as possible. Recall the 5-W’s and 1-H? Understand what those at Level-3 or Level-4 want and know from them. Once you feel comfortable have their expertise recognized. But never forget that Level-3 or Level-4 have only been recommended. But it is you who have taken the final decision.

 When managing at Level-3 and Level-4, be careful you don’t ask your boss what you should do. A great Level-3 or Level-4 leader will want you to tell them what you want to do, and may even debate with you. But never forget that you are the Brand-CEO.

 At Level-2, you become the steward of the strategy. Craft strategies that allow you to steer, control, inspire and manage the various functions and agencies that support your brand. Never forget the power of the ‘3-Es’. Embed strategy execution in your strategy. Keep everyone aligned.

At this level, you need to spend more time than before in creativity and innovation.

 Accountability at Level-2

 You will now be accountable for

1.   Brand share (prescription audit) and market share (retail-shop audit) as planned in the brand plan.

2.   Growth as planned in the brand audit.

3.   The P&L as planned. Point to note, many forward-looking CEO’s may even permit a planned loss to nurture a brand.

Responsibilities at Level-3

At this level, you look after a core business unit team. It is more about leading than about doing. The great challenge for you is to nurture and support the greatness of your team! Energize every team member to perform at their absolute best.

Your priorities change – from brand management skills into becoming a coach and guide to become a leader. Set a consistently high standard for your team and bring out the best in them.Keep your people in the foreground. People come first. Bring a brand vision to the role, and put the spotlight on your team. Have an open-door system so that you are approachable at any time. Lead the process and the numbers to ensure your people can focus on delivering the best – at the highest standard.

At this level you need to strike a balance between productivity management and creativity & innovation. At this level you may to spend over 50% of your time in creativity and innovation.

What should you do at Level-3?

Be accountable for the core business unit team.

As a leader, your goal is to help your team member complete tasks at the highest standards. Your team should align with the corporate’s overarching strategic goals. To achieve this, you must clearly articulate what those strategic goals are. In a crystal clear way, let the team know the specific work and processes that will be required of your team to reach them.

By becoming an effective communicator, you’ll remove ambiguity and ensure everyone is aligned and working toward the same goals.

Sharpen your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is your ability to manage your emotions, as well as those in your team. A well-developed level of emotional intelligence is the hallmark of strong leaders. You need to have a keen sense of self-awareness, empathy, and other social skills is someone who can energize and influence others. This is an important quality for Level-3 people to exhibit.

Openness goes hand-in-hand with both emotional intelligence and effective communication. It’s important that your members feel comfortable approaching you when they have questions or concerns, or when they need clarification on what’s expected of them.

However tempting it might be for you to micromanage your team, doing so can will be disastrous to the morale of your team.

You need to learn and know how to delegate responsibilities to your team. This involves understanding who’s best suited to complete a particular task. Make sure your team has the required resources to be successful and the members feel empowered to make their own decisions.

You will also be responsible for knit sales and the marketing teams.  

Accountability at Level-3

1.   At this level you will be accountable the marketing budget.

2.   The P&L of your team.

3.   The performance of marketing campaigns.

4.   Having the right people in right place.

Responsibilities at Level-4

As you move up to the Vice President of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), you will have to make some seismic shifts.

What is it that counts? Confidence or competence? Your people will be smart enough to distinguish between the two. The most powerful combination is competence, confidence and charisma together in one package.

Confidence is your own thinking on how good you are at something. Confidence may lead you to take rash risks. Someone who displays confidence, or a charming personality, can mask incompetence in his job.

So your responsibility will be to display competence i.e. your ability to do something efficiently and effectively.  If you are competent, you will act with caution when there are potential risks ahead. Your team members may not be misled by your charming and charismatic personality. Adopt the 5,5 leadership approach where you will strike a fine balance between your concern for the relationship and your concern for performance.

Again at this level, you have to invest a great deal of time in creativity and innovation, much more than anyone else. And that’s how you lead your firm to the next level.

What should you do at Level-4?

You will now be the spokesperson for marketing to every function within your organization and every external forum. You need to realize that the smarter your people are, the better will be the performance and results.

Consistently have at the back of your mind that anything and everything you do is through the greatness of other people. Your people will always come first. Put your team under the spotlight Be an approachable leader, Focus on delivering what needs to happen. Invest in your people and you will see the difference.

Display humility but at the same show professional determination and firmness. Take blame for poor performance, but give full credit to your team when you succeed. Set high standards to build eternal brands – brands that last. Do not settle for anything else.

Be a leader who leads with all of your body parts: your brain, your heart, your soul, and your gut! 

Accountability at Level-4

1.   You will be accountable for the effective overall marketing management of the firm.

2.   For strategic policies including merger and acquisition of brands.

3.   Implement a system of checks and balances that ensures your team members’ voices are being heard.

4.   Finally as Peter Drucker wrote: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer,” similarly that of a CMO is to create loyal customers who become the advocates of the brands or of the firm.

These responsibilities and accountabilities are drawn from my own experiences of 32 years of hands-on experience in brand management. This is not the final verdict but a broad guideline to clear the ambiguities of many in pharma marketing and sales teams. This will also depend a lot on a firm’s culture and the mindset of the entrepreneur.

I am open to suggestions and criticism from the readers. In fact, I will welcome dissent.  

Written by:

Vivek Hattangadi – Chief Mentor at
PharmaState & The Enablers

Write a comment