Friday, August 17, 2012

So You're Thinking About A Marketing Career

by Joe Feczko

Congratulations.  You've chosen to explore a career that offers some of  the most  diverse challenges in the job world.  Sit back, relax, and by all  means, read on!  This is  going to be fun. You've heard it before--opportunity abounds; you can do anything if you put your mind  to it.  This is especially true of marketing.  Sales, advertising, management, finance,  creative design -- if you've listed any of these jobs on your "things I want to do when I grow up list," you have already expressed an interest in marketing, maybe without even knowing it.
Marketing encompasses all of these fields and more.  Plus, within each of those fields  is a broad range of places you could work.  Marketing professionals work in large corporations and small companies, ad and PR agencies, government and consulting.  In all, government statistics show about one million persons last year worked in jobs defined as "marketing." Best of all, a career in marketing is anything but a stodgy desk job.  You might be a graphic designer, a political consultant or an online media specialist.  Indeed, marketing is a major interchange on the information superhighway. 
What Marketing Means to a Company
Today, no product, service, concept or idea can be successful without marketing savvy  behind it.  In the 90s, marketing executives sit at the table alongside a company's board  members, president, chief financial officer and chief information officer in key company  planning and decisionmaking.  In an age of fierce competition, marketing is the rock on which differences between a company and its competitors is built.  Let's face it -- how a company positions itself is what makes shoppers, clients, patients or customers buy what a business has to offer.
For a company like mine--Federated Department Stores--marketing consists of more than  selling merchandise off the racks and shelves.  For us to succeed, we must develop creative, recognizable brand images for our stores, as well as of the merchandise we sell. When you think of brands, you probably think immediately of products like Charmin, Nike, Pepsi and Ford. All companies have a brand image of sorts.  For us, Macy's is a powerful brand of retailing. Goods we sell--with labels such as I.N.C. International Concepts, Charter Club and Arnold Palmer--also require marketing to support a brand image.
These brand images are not things that marketing people sit around over coffee and  dream up.  Certainly, marketing entails creative, out-of-the-box thinking beyond the status  quo, but brands are, at their core, a compilation of global issues and happenings, consumer  needs and expectations and detailed statistics.  How to market a company, product or service is based as much on research as on experience.  Marketing managers must consider initiatives that deliver the best return on their investment.  If you put all of these factors together, you have a marketing plan that mirrors a company's principles and goals and objectives.
A Marketing Campaign That Worked 
One example of a successful marketing campaign at Federated Department Stores is Badge. Last fall, we launched Badge as a totally hip clothing line for kids from kindergarten to college.  But Badge Streetwear is more than baggy jeans and retro-striped tee shirts.  After extensive research conducted among young people, Federated returned to school this year with a brand image that was more than a "look," but is truly an identity. Federated named BudoVooba, a talented band of college-age musicians from New York University, its ambassadors.  BudoVooba came on the scene in Badge ads, Badge posters, the Badge web site ( and is the feature story for Badgezine, a magazine available in department stores where Badge Streetwear is sold. The response to Badge so far has been, well, totally cool.  Badge is a strong brand image geared to what kids and young adults in major cities relate to, think, feel and buy.  That's what marketing is all about.
Great!  Now How Can I Do This?
You've got a great head start in marketing because, like all of us, you are a consumer.  So start by focusing on what interests you--music, sports, the Internet, environmental issues, or whatever.It is pretty standard that future marketers will have taken some general business courses in accounting, finance and management, but those are just the basics.  You'll probably want to enroll in other courses based on the area of marketing that you want to go into. Just as important as the classes you attend, is the personality you bring to the job.  Marketing takes into account a holistic approach, one where you bring the world around you to your job.
To enter a career in marketing, you are not only a student of business or communications or English, but also a student of life.  You bring to your job the ability to visualize, communicate and analyze ideas psychologically.  Marketers also are leaders with broad range of skills, and as such, are flexible, energetic and empowering. They possess an intuitive sense and are highly creative risk-takers. 
In addition to these essential leadership qualities, you also must realize you'll be part of the workforce of the 21st Century.  This group embodies an entirely different set of ideas and ideals than the traditional workforce.  Gone are the days of guaranteed, 30-year careers at the same company.  Come are the days of the professional who is loyal, but also accepts change well and responsibility for one's own career. The focus now is on career security rather than job security.  Combining leadership qualities with a modern-day approach to work produces a marketer who is often highly entrepreneurial.
"In particular, African Americans have an important role to play in marketing fields today," according to Kim Hunter, president of Lagrant Communications, a Los Angeles-based African-American-owned advertising and public relations firm representing a wide range of major corporations.  "As our society becomes more diverse, African-American marketers provide valuable insight into the customer's mind.  Providers of consumer products and services in particular want and need African Americans, as well as talented individuals of all backgrounds, at the table.
"As a result, marketing is wide open for African Americans.  There is opportunity to be  creative, to be energized, and to be highly effective," Hunter said.
Segmented Marketing Services has built a successful 20-year business by helping Fortune  100 companies target their products to African-Americans, Hispanic and Asian consumers.
"Our programs help major corporations reach African Americans and other ethnic  consumers where they live, work and play," said Lafayette Jones, the company's chief executive. "With ethnic consumers expected to represent 33 percent of the United States population by the year 2010, many companies and marketing agencies are looking for talented marketers who understand what motivates ethnic consumers to buy.""The same way teenagers and young adults are put off by parents who don't understand them, ethnic consumers react negatively to ads and other marketing materials that don't 'speak the language,'" he said. Jones advises students to choose courses that will give them a strong business foundation and courses that focus both on traditional and non-traditional marketing. He also recommends students pursue a master's of business administration degree (M.B.A.)According to a recent article in the New York Times, the term M.B.A. has become synonymous with raw business talent and attractive salaries. The median offer for a new M.B.A. from Stanford University was $120,000 salary, more than the double the first-year salary at the peak of  the 80s, and more than five times the 1978 figure. At the top 25 schools, the best compensation packages offered to new M.B.A.'s are well above $200,000. This year, the typical M.B.A. with some work experience will earn almost $60,000.
The Marketing Job Market
All of this exciting career talk is well and good as long as you can find a job. Recent labor statistics indicate that there aren't enough marketers, so there is a strong likelihood that there will be job openings in the field.  Marketers are needed in particular in the western mountain states, Midwest and South.  And believe it or not--employers are in greater need in cities and suburbs than in smaller towns.
Consider, too, what parts of the US are growing most rapidly, and producing some of the  greatest ideas and innovations.  Great marketers tend to cluster around those companies that show leadership and creativity in marketing.  So it's no accident that high-tech marketing today is hot in Silicon Valley and surrounding Microsoft in the Pacific Northwest.  If you're "into" consumer marketing, look to Oregon, where Nike is based, or Atlanta, where Coke hangs out.  If fashion interests you, New York City is the place to be.
If you walk away from reading this article with no other thought, remember that marketing crosses diverse industries.  If you're not intrigued by a career in retail marketing, you could investigate marketing research, advertising, fashion design, insurance, media buying, or even law firms.
Down the road, you'll find that a career in marketing has many benefits.  You will have  honed your leadership skills and become an even more learned student of life.  Because you needed a broad range of skills to enter the marketing field, you'll be able to use that same  set of skills in other careers if you choose to move on.
So, you're pursuing your degree, you've conducted a personal-skills inventory and are  ready to pursue a career in marketing.  One major question still looms in your mind: how much will I be paid?  Of course, your salary will be commensurate with your skills and educational background, your work experience and the industry and region of the country in which you work, but in general, starting salaries in marketing range from $18,000 to $25,000.  Successful marketers who produce results tend to move through the ranks quickly, and often up in six figures before long.
Getting Ready for the Interview
You are now entrenched in marketing and you're preparing for your first interview in the marketing field.  Remember: you must market yourself.  Package yourself as an enticing  "product" that a prospective employer can't live without.  Make yourself into a brand, if you will.  Hone your skills and create disciplines within yourself that differentiate you from other job applicants.
What Next?
To find out more about marketing and potential careers, do what you'll be encouraged to  do throughout your life and career--network!  Your greatest resources are the people closest to you.  Talk to professors, family and friends for more information.  You may be surprised to learn that a relative or acquaintance has a job related to marketing.
The American Marketing Association, the largest professional organization devoted to  marketing, is also a good source of information, as are such groups as Marketing Opportunities for Blacks in Entertainment (MOBE) (, the National Association of Market Developers (NAMD) ( and the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) (
Look at brochures or surf the 'Net for information on companies you know, like and respect.  You'll learn not only how they market themselves, but also what marketing careers they might have to offer.
The possibilities in marketing are endless.  As you embark on a journey to discover  them, keep in mind one of the slogans we used to introduce Badge: "Imagination is your passport to the real world."

Other Career Readings of Interest

Joe Feczko is executive vice president of Federated Marketing Services. The Federated stores include Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Rich's, Stern's, Burdines, Lazarus, Goldsmith's and The Bon Marche.  Federated also operates two national fashion catalogs and an Internet commerce division. 

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