January 2012

A New Job Path Away From Marketing Services

by Susan Zweibaum on January 23, 2012

What happens to all those professionals who lose their jobs as marketing services teams disappear?

It’s something I thought about as I reread a post of mine from last year. I wrote then about how companies, particularly CPG companies, are getting rid of their in-house marketing services teams, and I recommended ways for companies to better manage without those teams.  This time I want to focus on all of those marketing services professionals who find themselves looking in the mirror and wondering where their careers went.

Ok, I realize this sounds a bit negative, and truthfully it isn’t all dire for marketing services pros.  Those focused in digital or PR still have a strong role and often find roles in the corporate sector.  It is those in more traditional roles (consumer promotion, corporate design, etc) that are having a harder time rebounding.  Let me say candidly that I fall somewhere in the middle, and this Nowhere Land predicament has led me to think long and hard about what comes next.  See, I am one of those people with broad expertise and not focused in the areas that are considered “hot” and my knowledge of the “hot” specialties (i.e. digital) is not readily seen as expert enough.

So then, fellow lost marketing services professionals, what comes next? 

Go into Brand Management

It is true that many of the marketing services people came from brand management at some point or decided that it wasn’t their cup of tea.  However, there are always positions for good brand managers at all levels, and marketing is marketing regardless of the industry.  The hard part is convincing the hiring managers that you are capable of doing the job since you haven’t come up in the ranks of brand management.  In the right company you will be able to convince them as long as you have participated in enough brand initiatives to give you “brand” experience.

Change Industries

Marketing services is something that is needed in all sorts of industries.  While it is something that is synonymous with CPG, these kinds of skills are useful and needed in other industries as well.  In fact, my skills in sponsorship and endorsements is much more usable with companies such as American Express and Bank of America where they have sponsorship departments to manage all of their sponsorship deals.  Healthcare is growing and they need to advertise and create selling collateral just as much if not more than CPG companies.  Look outside your comfort zone and you might be surprised what jobs are available. 

Move to Trade/Shopper Marketing

Before going into marketing services, I spent a bunch of years in sales and trade marketing.  The experiences were similar, and most internal marketing services folks have worked on customer specific programs as part of the larger marketing plan anyway.  You will likely continue to manage agencies and you will be developing customer specific promotions and programs.  The key here is embracing the idea of working with the retailers and sales teams and being a willing go-between between the brand and sales folks.

 Go Work for an Agency

Okay, this is not for everyone.   In fact, I spent 8 years working for agencies and determined that it is not for me.  It takes a specific kind of temperament to work at an agency.  However, all those skills, all that knowledge of marketing vehicles, profitability and what a client wants can be valuable insight for an agency (as I’ve written about in previous posts.)  Working internally at a company, you have your internal clients, so the concept shouldn’t be that different.  Clients don’t always make good agency people, but the skills are definitely transferable if you want to be on the creative side of things.  I have two warnings: 1) Make sure you are okay taking orders and working for the client vs. being the client as it is a whole different ballgame; and 2) Realize that agencies are all about the “big idea” and get frustrated when you try and throw reality into the mix.

Rebrand Yourself

This is probably the hardest one of all and that one that I have been drawn to most often.  Can you parlay your experience into another type of job or industry?  Can you do something completely different that isn’t exactly marketing?  I always considered going into theater marketing or management and have explored ways of utilizing my CPG knowledge for local theaters.  Don’t get me wrong; they are mostly looking for people with theater experience, but I am trying to get in by consulting or volunteering and letting them see what I can do.  Training is also a interesting alternative and a way to translate all that marketing knowledge to those not as experienced.  If you choose to rebrand or change direction, just realize that you might not get paid what you once were paid in marketing services.   Then again, you might be paid more!   The trade-off, however, is something new and interesting that is not a dying profession.

 I have to admit that the dearth of good client side marketing services roles is frustrating and that the knowledge we bring is not always appreciated.  However, I have seen a number of my friends succeed by doing one of the above.  For instance, a director of integrated marketing left CPG to be a V.P. of Marketing at a healthcare company, another colleague left to run a creative management team at a hospitality company, and still another left to open her own franchise business.  I have no doubts that they will all be highly successful even though they have changed their original paths.

 And I have no doubt that you can too. You might even like that reflection staring back from the mirror.

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Strong Partnerships Can Drive Sales

by Susan Zweibaum on January 11, 2012

Yesterday, while reading my New York Times I came across an offer that just blew my socks off and made me wonder if it wasn’t almost too extreme.  However, upon further thought I realized that this promotion was perfect for a few reasons that I will get to shortly.

So, what is this amazing offer?  How about a free Nook?  Seriously.  It was a full-page ad offering a free Nook Simple Touch (the basic, not color) with a full-year Nook subscription to the New York Times.   The offer also showed up in an email offer from Barnes & Noble.   And for those wanting the more tablet style product, you could also get $99 off a Nook Color instead.   What made this offer so interesting was the partnership between the New York Times and Barnes & Noble and the way that the New York Times was leveraging their digital assets, something that has been key to their recent success in the marketplace. 

Truthfully, this isn’t anything new.  Think of getting discounted or free phones when you sign up for mobile phone service.  However, this is the first time an e-reader and a digital content provider have linked together to create such an offer.

Let’s take a closer look at the offer and why it makes sense from both the Barnes & Noble and the New York Times standpoints.


This is the key to the whole story, and while I still want to talk about the marketing side, none of that matters if the ROI isn’t there.  A Nook Simple Touch costs $99.  A one-year Nook subscription to the NY Times is $239.88.  It is likely that the cost of the Nook is being funded by the New York Times and likely at a discounted rate, but I don’t know this for a fact.  I can also tell you that People Magazine is doing a similar offer, but their subscription is only $119.88 and I read that People and B&N are sharing the cost.  This makes sense as the ROI wouldn’t be there for People if it hadn’t shared the expense of the e-readers.   No matter how you slice it, this becomes a win-win for both parties, although an expensive initial outlay for the New York Times.  While not knowing the costs associated with the digital subscription, I am venturing that the New York Times is still making money.  Additionally, most people will likely renew their subscription once they have it, leading to a more long-term proposition and repeat sales (the key to any promotion).  From the B&N standpoint, a person who has an e-reader is going to continue to buy books and other subscriptions, which in turn drives their revenue up as well.

 The Buzz

Somewhat surprisingly, B&N beat Amazon to this kind of offer.  The reason I see this as surprising is that Amazon has historically been the innovator in this market and has the greater marketshare.  How likely do you think Amazon will construct a copycat deal?  Fairly likely, especially if they see it working in terms of an increase in Nook sales.  They will do anything to make sure they continue to be the leader.  Nook is behind in overall e-reader sales, but the kind of buzz this offer generates can only help them grow sales and market share.  Combine that with the good reviews the Nook has gotten and you have a winning formula.   Let me state, however, that there are some blog posts and news items taking a slightly cynical approach to the offer.  For instance, they suggest you would only take advantage of this offer if you were already thinking about a New York Times e-reader subscription.  Others have pointed to the fact that B&N has hinted of spinning off the Nook to a separate group citing lower than expected sales.  They all may have a point, but the partnership is the key here and it is a good strategy for both to attempt this kind of promotion.  Brands in second place often need to step out of the box to generate attention and sales when they are competing with such a behemoth as Amazon.

Let’s not forget the buzz this offer is creating for the New York TimesThis offer is another example of how they are utilizing their digital content to reach more customers and in a different way.  What’s more, there are a myriad number of stories on the Net talking about this offer.  It is all positive buzz for B&N and the New York Times.


Good partnerships drive good promotions.  Why do you think companies sponsor events and teams and have endorsement deals?  In this case, the New York Times is looking to grow their digital subscribership and need a partner to deliver it.  You can get the NYTimes.com on any computer, but an e-reader is different; you need a subscription.  Giving the consumer the reader if they get a subscription is a great way to drive subscriptions.  Sort of like when razor companies give away the razor handle in order to drive razor blade sales (which is where they make all their money anyway).    

Only time will tell if this is successful and if Amazon will follow suit.  In the meantime, I hope the winning formula proves itself to be a way to drive long-term sales for both B&N and the New York Times.