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While Simon Williams was correct to point out three key elements necessary to revive the ailing brand management system in his Forum article (AA, June 26), he left out one very important factor that should be the focus of any marketing plan: the consumer.

The reason why the brand management system is poorly equipped to manage the marketing environment of the '90s is because it forces the brand manager to focus on the product or the company's bottom line. It does not have any structure that brings the consumer into the organization that can better enable marketers to understand their needs and make better marketing decisions.

Two tools that will help solve this problem are a database and outside-in thinking. The former allows you to gather information about who is buying your product and is easy to install in your company. But the latter is what allows you to use the database to gain an advantage over the competition and is much harder to establish in your marketing department.

It is imperative that companies adopt these two tools and a more integrated planning process to help them survive the inevitable business cycles, changing competitive landscapes and ever-increasing parity among products in the '90s.

David Shell

Or better yet, just wait till I graduate!

Mr. Shell is a graduate student in integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

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