Marketing Mag. So far you’ve half-read three or four articles, found out a bit about design or telemarketing, noticed a couple of ads, taken in a few jokes. Now you’re at the end where they shove the chewy stuff. Nothing smart here. If you want to improve your IQ, move on McDuff. This bit’s bog basic – it’s about money and what you do 7 days a week.
What’s Marketing anyway? What is this magazine about? One minute it’s talking high-brow branding and debating the psychological impact of colour and speed of movement, next moment it’s about stuff no-one would dream was important except the person reading it, who happens to be a marketer.
What do people really do in Marketing? Where do you draw the line in calling them marketers or Journalists, marketers or shop-keepers? Or wine-makers? Are we humans all marketers, except stressed stay-at-home Mums or the blokes changing the tyres at Bob Jane’s T-Mart?
This article is about the roles which dominate the world of marketing – I’ve tried to list all the standard ones I’ve come across over the last few decades. I’ve avoided listing the hundreds of jobs where you simply constantly use marketing, like general manager or politician.
You live or die on your relationships with only a few key companies/characters. In some cases, only one company. There are many depressed persons whose sole job is to carry bags and sell creative to a single group like say a Ford or BMW. They are known as the desert wastelands of account service. You go there when you have given up all hope of real life. Most account managers get into the job via being either a product manager or have been a sales person who’s job evolved into a more specialised role. And a few become an account manager having grown into the position from within the company – you started as a receptionist, were brilliant with clients and someone says, hey, why don’t you come along to the next meeting at their factory? …and off you go. The stresses on account managers are immense. It’s your fault if anything happens, regardless if the client gets bought by a big multi-national or sales drop 50%, whatever happens, it’s you who is to blame. Did I mention trust? The client rarely really trusts you because it’s your job to sell them stuff and they know it, and the business, regardless of whether you work for an agency, a manufacturer or a law firm for that matter, knows you have a close relationship with the customer so they are always scared you’ll run of with the contract.
Ad Agencies / Designers / Consultants
Let’s break this down a tad. There’s essentially four types of people in ‘creative’ land. I’ll start with suits.
Suits – deal with clients all day long and chase them when they are not within phone call/meeting range. They are called suits for obvious reasons, but many don’t wear them and neither should they. It’s actually handy to wear casual and be formal, rather than try to be the other. Marketers make great suits but there’s still not many of us in agency land. There should be more.
Creatives – do the ads. They could be writers (many great marketers work in this field – coming up with good ideas) art directors, web designers. Marketers who move into these roles do so with much more depth to the work they do than those who come here from other disciplines, like music or drawing. Creative can pay extremely well, but you often have to watch as someone else, way dumber than you, sells your baby down the tube by agreeing to double the logo size.
Management – Still not enough professional marketers in senior positions in creative agencies. Many is the agency, like the rest of Australian companies, run by an accountant who thinks he/she is a businessman. They are worse than the snobby old intellectual who did an arts degree majoring in French history who thinks because they own a few ties they are somehow qualified to make management decisions. Marketers are the only people with an appropriate qualification to run an ad agency and anyone who says different ought to be shot by the AMI. Given your work is OK, your people skills are good and you can add up, if you’re an anyway decent marketer this is where you should end up, making great ads and changing people’s lives for the better. Hope you apply.
Media Buy – You thought I was going to say sells media, but I like media sales people. They take shit from Marketing Managers and ad agencies & media buyers all day long. But they know that eventually we have to buy from them so it’s just a waiting game and doesn’t matter what sort of a bitch you feel like being today, tomorrow they’ll have their revenge. As a marketer, being a media sales person or a buyer is a great job. You get to use your training and experience and good judgement gets demonstrable results. You can ask all sorts of questions and no-one thinks you are anything other than cluey. As a buyer, that you have behaved like a shit all day to a bunch of people who’s job it is to sell to you is neither here nor there. They make more money than you, so they can put up with your shit.
Entry role for many people, this is the job that puts the rest of your career into perspective or permanently scratches your glasses. Get a good, open, caring, intelligent boss and your career will blossom. An idiot and it’s back to the drawing board and even dentistry is looking attractive. To get in, ring the company up instead of just answering the ad on seek or mycareer. Go see the personnel officer or the HR manager, even if you don’t have an appointment. Drop off your CV with a hand-written note (no-one can hand write today, it’s really powerful) put a photo on your CV, yes, it sounds naff, but if they see a face they mentally bond much better than if they don’t. Follow-up and insist on an appointment. When you get into the meeting, very politely find out what they are really looking for, (then tell they why you are perfect) what the process will be, who else you may have to meet, and ask when they’ll be getting back to you. Take whatever salary they have in mind, you can always get a raise.
CMO’s and MD’s
Chief Marketing Officers and Marketing Directors are essentially the same beast, just one is more pretentious. This is the best role of all to get as a professional marketer and the hardest to win. You’ll need a great track record in go-ahead companies and an iron-clad back ’cause every accountant on the board (and there are usually 6-8 of them) will be trying to knife you all of the time. With clever negotiations at the front end regarding share price and company turnover, you can make millions a year.
My favourite of all people. You get into entrepreneurship by having an idea or stealing someone else’s and then telling everyone about it for years. In Australia, many of the great entrepreneurs went travelling overseas, saw an idea and stole it. Like Craig Kimberly, who stopped at an all-jeans shop in San Francisco and said, ‘why don’t I open a chain of stores called Just Jeans’? All Entrepreneurs are professional marketers, whether they have a degree and 20 years experience or not. They just are. Marketers are usually the best at becoming entrepreneurs, mainly because we can spot the opportunities in an idea way before the other types of people. You need real tenacity and a preparedness to go without and to take big risks, which is why most entrepreneurs start out young. The biggest difficulty is always getting your hands on enough money fast enough to make the thing work before you run out of enthusiasm. This requires a business plan and months trudging the alley ways of big cities trying to talk investment bankers into backing you, or getting yourself a rich uncle. In Australia, as all the banks only lend against property, you will find it virtually impossible to get anyone to back an idea no matter how good it is. Try the USA. They understand investment capital in the states. Possibly the only thing they do truly understand, other than weaponry.
Product / Brand Managers
Spend your life worrying about whether Coles is going to drop your Big Red Sauce today or next week. Do 6 focus groups a quarter on the flavour of Big Red and whether the ads truly reflect the vibrant new piquancy. That the public can’t taste – what would they know? Do 4 business cases for an increase of 10% on your ad budget. Meet the agency twice a week for 6 weeks just to get a half-page ad moved into the front half of Good Taste magazine. Wonder why your girlfriend makes jokes about you getting on the sauce, being red-faced, are not so big, except your gut and why you eat pies every lunch time. Know that there is another life and this stage is simply that, a stage. And that you will one day come out of your cocoon and become a butterfly – a marketing manager with plenty of HVPG cred and a real budget, who’ll be able to fire that son-of-a-bitch at the agency who wrote about you so disparagingly in Marketing Mag.
We all end up here at some time or other. Whether we stuff up a promotion and the board calls for our head, or we’ve just left Uni and can’t find a job, marketers invariably spend time on their own, as ‘consultants’. Keep in mind, for many professions, this is as good as it gets. Dentists invariably work in numbers of one, at the most two. Same with optometrists, chemists. They’ll never know what it’s like to have an army of thousands under their control. To be a consultant is one of the hardest of all marketing jobs. You are your own boss. Like you or lump you, you are it. You establish your own goals, KPI’s, own company policies. You are your own sales force, often your own accountant and it’s lonely. Yes, you get to go to lunch if you feel like it, or sleep in until the afternoon, and you can make serious money, given you have few overheads. To survive, you must quickly establish an area of perceived expertise. A generalist marketing consultant working on general industries handles start-ups and small companies and starves. Be helpful to marketing consultants. And they often move from here to running a clients department to lecturing or something equally useful to you, so be nice.
The most hunted member of the marketing clan. Hunted by consultants who want a budget for brand analysis or planning. Hunted by ad agencies, media sales people, promotions companies, printers. They get bottles of wine and perfume sent by strangers trying to woo them. They are invited to lunches, dinners, sex parties and sports events by more people than Kate Moss with a pocketful of coke. If you’re into being popular for what you can do for people, and don’t mind how shallow the company if it is pretty and the drugs are free, this is the gig for you. You get to make the last tiny smidge of a decision, having been shoved into the corner by someone half your age who’s had more training on client manipulation than an SAS sniper would get in target shooting. Marketing management can be got into several ways. The most traditional way is to be a product manager and step up. But many a Marketing Manager has been national Sales manager or have come from another discipline such as engineering but has had a few years training alongside an experienced Marketing Manager. There are unfortunately a few without any decent backgrounding and they often are the ones you’ll see with the good-looking suit. The job is as much fun as you want to make it and you do get to massage the public’s mind if you’re in the right position, so it’s worth doing. Make sure you have a decent budget and make sure you have autonomy. Many do take on roles that don’t have budgets cause the business itself sounds like fun, or they need a job, but they don’t last long. And a short stint looks lousy on your CV.
Researchers / Strategists
The most intellectual of marketing roles and one of the harder ones to get into. At ground level there’s a few jobs around interviewing people over the phone or doing shopping centre work, but it’s tough to get the next level up. You’re competing with PHD’s and lots of middle-class snobs from England who think if you aren’t English you’re an idiot with absolutely no taste or understanding of the really important issues. The ad game also suffers from a focus on British intellectual power. As an Australian it is your sworn duty to laugh at them. If they really had their act together they’d still have an empire. Like the English, many researchers spend too much time worrying about nuances in the projects they are working on and miss the big issues. If you can read between the lines and give clients precise answers to their core marketing questions, you’ll do well. And that’s pretty much all you have to do as a strategist – understand the game (knowing a few good processes helps) and decide what should be done, to get what you want. And the pay is good for both.
One of the easier gigs. Yes, you set KPI’s with your team, yes, you maintain key relationships with big customers. But you spend most days in meetings or going to lunch and generally doing SFA. Great gig if you can get it, not as much fun as Marketing Manager, but as many of these positions are an amalgamation of both MM and SM, a lot of sales managers do the really tasty stuff anyway. You need sensational people skills and a heart of stone, because not all people you employ will work out and it breaks your heart when you have to shoot part of your team every few weeks or months. You get into it by being a good sales person, note I didn’t say the best. Anybody who puts their best sales person into managing the rest of the team is an idiot. The best sales person should always be selling. The best manager of sales people should be the one doing that. They are rarely the same person. Good marketers are often quite good sales people and the other aspects of the job like brand management etc. we obviously excel at. It’s an important thing to do at some stage in your career and many find it one of their best and most enjoyable roles. And it can pay very well.
A hard job. We all sell all the time. CEO’s sell. So do Taxi drivers. But to sell and only be judged on how well you went that day or week at selling, is tough. You are at the vagaries of the weather, the economy, whether someone likes pink shirts or the stripes you may be wearing today, whether they like younger people or older, have a hang-over or need sex. Your life is constantly in a state of flux. You have to be a chameleon, constantly adjusting your personality and your values system to fit the other person’s possible wants. Reading their minds before they open their mouths. Yep, some can say fuck it and are themselves, warts and all. They just roll through the day being the blokey pig or the fey designer and it works for them. But it’s rare. You can’t be yourself in some industries unless that industry has moulded you that way. And they do affect you. I’ve known people who were one way 5 years ago who are completely different today. But it does pay well. And if you like a challenge….
Nice thing to do when you’re old and grey and like talking to people who only feel entitled to ask you the very occasional question. You probably need good marks in a relevant degree and a masters would help a lot. A PHD in something very relevant would be outstanding, but how often is a PHD relevant to life? There’s not too many people floating around who’ve done a PHD in a marketing related discipline so it’s not like they have many to choose from. Relevant business experience is very rare in the Uni/Taafe lecturing world but desperately wanted by the better Uni’s. Even though the pay’s not exactly fantastic, it would be a good thing for you to do to help younger marketers if you’ve had a well rounded career.
Marketing is the most interesting career you could have chosen. It’s more diverse, more challenging and more rewarding both in an intellectual sense and a sheer remuneration sense.
Hopefully I haven’t forgotten too many positions above. If yours has been left out, send me a note.