College VS Corporate: Marketing

This is a repost from a blog that I’ve shut down!

My exposure to marketing in college was very broad – one could say it was comprehensive, covering functional aspects from advertising and packaging, to pricing and distribution. Yet it lacked coverage of the day-to-day skills required – from industry knowledge to project management.

Consequently, I had glitzy, glamourous associations with a marketing job. In my mind, it was all about creative advertising, great brands and sell-out products. Turns out, that deviated a little from the truth:

1. Marketing isn’t just advertising. I love good advertisements, so it’s no surprise that my favourite brand stories and case studies are those involving creative work. Reality check though – the larger the company, the more specialised you become. A marketing job scope isn’t the same as a creative’s. You’re probably an initiator, providing direction and approval – but it’s likely the great advertising ideas won’t come from you. On the bright side, you do get to go to nice events – if you’re with a nice brand 😉

2. Project management is probably about 70% of the job. Or more. It’s the same whatever size the company is – the biggest difference is how much of the work is done by you, and how much by others. It’s different from what you did in college. And it’s critical to getting the job done. Sometimes painfully so. Pick it up as early as you can, and convince remind yourself that the journey is as rewarding as the result.

3. Numbers and data matter. In most cases, you’re the strategist. Strategy and numbers tend to go hand in hand. So if you thought you could escape the math completely, think again. The good news is, you’re not a data scientist – plus, minus, divide and multiply are probably all you need. I’m not too bothered by this, but some are.

4. Tried ‘n’ true will probably be outdated by the time you graduate. Academia hasn’t yet evolved to match the speed of technology. How our world has changed since the first iPhone was launched – business models, advertising, distribution… though not always for the worse. Take from your education the principles, not the methods or formulas, and even then season with a pinch of salt. Pick up new trends, especially if you want to stay on top of the game. Giants who are too cocky may one day fall.

5. You may be more executor than dreamer. It’s quite likely, being in a corporation in Asia, you’re a satellite operation. Brand guidelines and global direction still emanate from HQ somewhere hours away by plane. Be prepared to have less control over branding than you may have wanted.

That sums up some of my soul-searching as a fresh graduate and marketer. I hope it gives you a second perspective beyond the optimism of a college education. After all, that’s what will test and build your conviction.

What else about your marketing job was a reality check for you? Or perhaps you disagree – let me know in the comments below!

If you liked this article, you may have liked another in the series – College VS Corporate: Projects.

Photo by Christina Saint Marche


One comment

  1. Asher · August 12, 2015

    Totally agree with the last point. After many conversations with both my peers and juniors, I have come to realise that one of the most difficult hurdle is to convince them that “strategy work” in the way that we know it hardly gets done at a young career level. Worse still, hardly in Asia.

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