Integrated Marketing

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.

{ 1 comment }

This is Part One of a two-part post.

The phone rings.  You look at the number and don’t recognize it.  You are desperately trying to finish a presentation your boss wants by tomorrow.  You decide to let the call go to voicemail.  At 5:35 p.m., you finally find time to listen to all 12 messages, but really are ready to go home. 

Message 1 –  “Hi, this is John Brown, and I am calling about a great sponsorship opportunity that will be a great fit for your brand….”  You delete John Brown’s message without even thinking about returning the call.  Why?  The sponsorship was for a women’s tennis tour, and your brand’s target audience is teens.  It’s not a fit.

You take a quick look at your desk’s in-box and all the mail the mailroom has dumped there.  A big white envelope containing information about a concert tour sponsorship is buried on the bottom.  You decide this deserves a deeper look, as it could be interesting given that your target audience and the concert tour audience are the same demographic.  But after a cursory read, it goes into the garbage.  Why?  It’s January, and the concert tour starts in May.  Your budget is done, and this won’t fit into your marketing plans that were completed six months ago. 

To someone making those phone calls or sending the envelope, the above scenarios will seem very discouraging.  The reality is that selling sponsorship and endorsement packages is really hard and the success rate low. 

That said, the callers and senders could make their lives easier and improve their success rate if they would just stop throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping a strand will stick.  I can’t tell you how many times I have deleted those messages and thrown out that envelope.  I probably got at least three a day as a promotion director for a variety of CPG companies with some very well-known brands.  What I learned from talking to friends selling these sponsorships is that they just don’t understand what the brand teams are thinking and how to approach them.  They think that if they keep calling, eventually the brand will talk to them.  All they need to do is make the pitch and voila.  These brand managers might listen if they pick up the phone, but it will be a short conversation if the property isn’t a fit for the product, etc. 

So how can you end this frustrating back-and-forth for both sides? Based on my experiences, I have put together some key strategies for properties to make their sales efforts more productive.  It takes more upfront research, but it increases your chances of being listened to and not ignored.

 It’s All about the Target Audience

Every brand has a target audience, and that includes the brand’s psychographic as well as the demographic.  The key to getting a brand interested is making sure your property and its target audience resonate with the brand’s target.  If it doesn’t, that phone conversation will end before you even have a chance to describe your program.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, too many salespeople tend to cast a very wide net.  They have a list of all these big brands which the property thinks will have the dollars to spend against the sponsorship.  They call the brands, thinking this property is a great fit for the brand because this is just the best property and will get the brand so much in return.  What I wanted to say so often was, “Have you seen our advertising?  Our target is moms with kids, and your property is a monster truck rally!  Do you really think that’s a good fit?”

It’s ok to make a list of target brands, but make sure you do your research about those brands and then call.  Look at their advertising, read their Facebook page, follow their Tweets.  See what promotions they have run in the past and how they connect to their consumers.  Determine if they have invested in sponsorship in the past, and don’t assume that because they sponsored tennis, they will sponsor tennis again.  Are they sampling product and does your property have the vehicles this potential sponsor will want?  You should only contact those brands which truly will be open to a property such as yours.

 Timing is Important

As a general rule of thumb, marketing plans are developed starting eight to 12 months prior to the new fiscal year.  In some cases, especially with a new product launch, that window can go as far back as 18 months.  There are exceptions and sometimes money does become available during the year, but it is unlikely those dollars will go to a sponsorship.  When a property is looking for a sponsor for a program that is just six months away, it is going to be difficult for the brand to activate it.  A strong strategic plan will have integrated components that fit a common idea or theme, and the chances that your property fits into an established theme are slim.  The easy rule is to make sure that what you are selling is something that has at least a 12-month window before activation.  That way, either the property can become part of the big idea OR the property becomes the cornerstone of a larger integrated plan.  Also, these decisions are ones that companies take their time making and you generally can’t expect to get quick sign-ons.  It just doesn’t work that way.

 It Rarely is a Single Sport Platform

When I worked on a suncare brand, we sponsored beach volleyball, which was a great fit for the brand at the time.  However, every property having to do with beach volleyball or another beach sport (beach tennis, anyone?) started contacting us.  The pitch was the same – “We see you are sponsoring beach volleyball, and we have this volleyball tournament …”  The reality was that we sponsored that specific tour for specific reasons and our overall platform was not beach sports or beach volleyball.  The sponsorship was a means of promoting the efficacy of our brand, and it did not mean we were committed to volleyball or any other beach sport.  If you look at brands that have large sports or entertainment sponsorship sponsorships (i.e., Amex, Bank of America, Nike), they usually have a broad platform because they are looking for ways to reach their target audience and one sport won’t reach everybody.  The exception to that rule is a product designed specifically for one sport.  While your property may be the perfect brand fit, you will also be competing with all the other properties in that sport.  Alternately, a brand will sponsor one big tournament (US Open Tennis) or concert tour (Lady Gaga) because it is nationally reaching and part of an integrated program.   

 Local vs. National

Many companies have a different attitude toward local and charitable sponsorships in the community in which they have their headquarters or production facilities as opposed to big national sponsorships.  Cost comparisons aside, companies like to give back to their local communities, whether financially or through the donation of time.  If you are a local event without national reach, then focus on the companies nearest to you.  I live in the same town as a national tea company.  They are always sponsoring charity and local sporting events, but never a national program.  For them, it is about giving back to their local community.  I have also seen companies participate in the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, but not participate at the national level.  Again, take a look at what the company has done in the past to get a sense if they will even be open to your property.

It Has To Be More than Impressions and Media

Once upon a time, it was all about media impressions.  Not anymore.  In fact, I would argue there are more important considerations for a company, even though a company participating would see overall reach as very important.  In evaluating a property, how much media supports it is less important to me than how I can leverage the property with my retail partners, how can it help me get product samples in the hands of consumers and how many of those going to the event are in my target audience.  Many brands use sponsorships to get products in the hands of their consumers and will evaluate success based on the number of specific touchpoints the consumer has with the brand.  So, does your property have sampling opportunities, is there a place for an interactive booth or vehicle and how will the consumer experience the brand other than seeing the logo?  Don’t get me wrong, seeing the logo everywhere is great, but it is about connecting the experience and the brand to the consumer.  Additionally, is there any way to conduct market research to help determine success?  Can I link to a website? Can I develop an integrated program to support it? How much access will I have to performers or participants to visit retailers?  All of this becomes important as I evaluate ROI.  Media impressions are only part of that ROI equation, since it is hard to equate impressions to sales. 

In Part Two I will address some specifics in the presentation itself and some direction in approaching the potential sponsor.

If you are a property looking for some help or guidance on how to develop effective sponsorship packages or a company needing help evaluating properties, please contact me at szweibaum@marketing-smith.com.

{ 3 comments }

“Would You Like to Try One?”

May 12, 2011

Keys to Developing a Successful Sampling Campaign Sampling is an important tactic within marketing and there are a variety of sampling types and vehicles you can use to distribute your product to a target audience.  Additionally, there are many times within a product’s lifecycle that you may want to sample, including a new product launch, […]

Read the full article →

Inside scoop – What Agencies Really Need to Know About Their Clients

May 6, 2011

Recently I was catching up with a former agency partner and we got into a conversation revolving around two specific points:  1) The ability of midsize agencies to survive in these tough times; and 2) How to grow the business at a particular client who has never retained an agency or spent consistently.  In my […]

Read the full article →

The Lessons of the Aflac Duck Voice – Part 2

April 25, 2011

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons” Turning a Potential PR Disaster into a Great Consumer Promotion In my previous post (click here to read Part I) I talked about the perils of a celebrity endorsement, using Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of the Aflac duck as a jumping off point.  In this post I am going […]

Read the full article →