Brand Activation Management

How the most successful brand managers deal with imposter syndrome

February 2021 5 min read Written by Papirfly

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Why successful brand managers get imposter syndrome
  • Techniques to identify good traits and efforts 
  • Tools to help you enhance the great work you’re already doing 

If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, you may not even know it. That’s because it manifests itself as thoughts and feelings that leave you convinced that all your past successes are down to luck rather than hard work. 

No matter how much evidence suggests otherwise, this unfounded fear of being found out can cause major self-doubt, stress and anxiety for brand managers at every level.

Even the most successful people feel like frauds

Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon that has taken over the workplace. It affects employees just starting out as well as those with a string of career successes.

To become a brand manager in the first place, you will have already proved that you have the ability to keep your brand consistent, provide strategic direction and handle high-pressure situations. So, whether you feel deserving of recognition or not, being where you are now is something to feel good about.

In fact, high achievers are susceptible to imposter syndrome precisely because they have set a high bar for themselves. The trouble comes with not being able to accept their talents.

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Why are brand managers being so tough on themselves?

Imposter syndrome in marketing has been bubbling away for a long time. However, there has been a noticeable spike in the last 10 years or so. But what’s causing it?


Social media has found its way into every part of our lives — including work. It puts us under constant pressure to maintain a polished image of career success that’s neither completely true nor realistically attainable. When we are only comparing ourselves to the very best of other people’s achievements, of course we will begin to question our own.

In 2020, brand managers had to deal with a huge shift in the way they work. During periods of lockdown, working from home has exasperated imposter syndrome for a number of reasons, most notably:

Online communication

As meetings and reviews move online, we’re missing the non-verbal forms of communication that can be difficult to get across in emails and video calls. Without these subtle cues, it’s easy to mistake a simple comment about your work for a harsh critique.

Lack of office interactions

Working alone, there are less natural or informal opportunities to interact with your team. This makes it difficult to tell whether the right people are noticing, or appreciating, the work that you’re putting in.

Assuming everyone else is doing fine

Imposter syndrome loves isolation. Without an office full of people around you, it can be easy to lose perspective and convince yourself that you are the only person struggling with a particular project.

If you made it through, you did great

Feeling unprepared or out of your depth is a perfectly reasonable reaction to such an unexpected situation, but it left many brand managers feeling that they are not right for the job. 

Even if you made some mistakes or had to change tack more than a few times, managing a brand through a global pandemic is a huge achievement, all things considered.

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5 types of imposter that could be hidden in every brand manager

Global pandemics aside, being a successful brand manager leaves you open to imposter syndrome at any time.

In her book ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It’, Dr. Valerie Young highlights five ways that imposter syndrome can manifest itself:

The Expert

Due to their need to know every last detail about a subject before they can complete a task, ‘The Expert’ uses up too much time searching for information. This is the feeling that you will never know enough to be truly qualified for your role.

The Perfectionist 

By setting themselves unattainably high goals, ‘The Perfectionist’ experiences unnecessary anxiety, worry and self-doubt. This means they’ll ruminate over small mistakes and focus on failures over celebrating achievements.

The Natural Genius

This type of imposter is especially common in high achievers. When someone is used to mastering skills quickly, their ‘Natural Genius’ makes them feel ashamed when they are struggling with something particularly difficult.

The Soloist

With a strong preference for working alone, ‘The Soloist’ is afraid that asking for help will somehow prove that they are incompetent. 

The Superhero 

Through working unsustainable hours without time-off, ‘The Superhero’ can often experience burnout in an attempt to prove their ability and commitment to the role.


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How to unmask your imposter

Identifying imposter syndrome is the first and most difficult step in overcoming the issues that are holding back countless brand managers. Next, you have to learn to catch negative thoughts and feelings before they take hold. These techniques can help you stop imposter syndrome in its tracks: 

#1 Accepting that you are a work in progress

As a brand manager, you will be dealing with new situations where you may not have all the answers. Learning to be OK with not knowing everything and seeking help from someone more experienced, will get rid of the notion that you have to be perfect to be successful. You may find out that they have been in a similar position themselves in the past.

#2 Beware the inner critic

Learning to silence the voice in your head that’s saying you’re not good enough means you have to find out where it’s coming from. Ask yourself if it really holds any evidence — does it really reflect what you, or the people in your life, actually think? 

#3 Spend more time looking outward

Imposter syndrome is introspective by its very nature but, as a brand manager, you need to be working as part of a team. As cheesy as it sounds, helping others is the best way to build self-esteem and shift the focus from where you think you might be failing, to where you can succeed together.

#4 Write down your achievements

When your mind is filled with fear and self-doubt, it can be easy to write-off everything you’ve worked for as sheer luck. If you made it to the position of brand manager, then that simply can’t be true. The quickest way to dismiss the idea that you’re a fraud is to write a list of everything you’ve achieved in the last five years. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve accomplished.

#5 Learn how to fail

Despite appearances, every great brand manager has experienced more failures than successes throughout their career. The key takeaway is that they didn’t let it stop them. Instead of seeing failure as a sign that you’re not good enough, look at it as the driving force for self-development.

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Give your team the tools they need to shine

When you have a strong team driving your brand forward, it’s much more difficult for imposter syndrome to halt your progress.  

Bringing your team together with regular group catch-ups, team Slack channels and funding for training will help them recognise what they’re already great at and give them the confidence to push their abilities — without the overwhelming fear of failure.

An all-encompassing brand activation management software like BAM by Papirfly™ will also help reinforce your team’s best attributes with features like:

A full asset creation suite

Making it easy to create studio-quality assets without having to budget for agency support.

Customisable templates 

Make sure your team’s flawless brand assets stay consistent across every market.

A single source of truth

Help your team stay up-to-date with your brand purpose, guidelines and evolution.

To learn more about how you can build on your achievements by bringing your team innovation through BAM, get in touch or book your live demo today

by Papirfly

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