Choice: A Brand Career…
By Rod Brooks
For years, PEMCO has employed college students as Summer interns. This year, at least four of our 12 interns are majoring in marketing, advertising or communications. They look forward to beginning rewarding careers when they graduate next Spring. Choosing the right career path is top of mind for all of them.
So, how do students or seasoned workers choose a career path? Agency or brand? Product or service? What critical success factors should they consider?
My advice always begins with identifying passion. I learned early on that going to work was exactly what we call it—a lot of work. Athletes get paid to play the game they grew up loving. Why shouldn’t the rest of us? Why go to work when we can go to fun?
What’s fun, for me, has little to do with the name of the company on the building or what they do inside of it. If it did, I seriously doubt I’d be in the insurance industry today. It’s more important to find an environment that reflects the way I like to live, encourages and enables me to do the things I love and shares my core values. When you overlay those three considerations, they create the space where passion lives.
Coming out of college, my point of reference for an advertising career largely was influenced by classroom instruction, a semester’s internship at a small-two-man agency and the memory of Larry Tate and Darrin Stevens, TV’s original Mad Men, on the hit TV series, Bewitched.
From there, I embarked on a quest to become the creative director at any one of the West Coast’s many agencies, Fortunately for me, that never happened.
Now, after nearly 40 years, I see differentiators and key reasons why a career inside a variety of Northwest brands has been an excellent choice for me.
- Brand marketers focus exclusively on one company’s issues and opportunities. Our view is narrower but much deeper than our agencies’ view. We see the whole picture and we live it every day. No one can be closer to the customer or know more about the brand than we do.
- Brand marketers are able to be more richly aware and intimately involved with customers and the target market. If your passion includes making a difference for the consumer who buys a product or service, brand marketing is the place to be.
- Brand marketers spend as much time determining how best to influence and deliver the brand promise from the inside as determining how best to make it on the outside. We communicate on several levels—to consumers, employees, distribution partners and, potentially, to stockholders.
- Brand marketers hire agency partners. We fire them, too. I’ve never worked for a brand that’s been fired by their agency. I like being the general manager of the team.
- Brand marketers call the shot. In the end, we control our destiny. We measure risks against rewards. We consider the opportunity, muster the required courage and make the decisions. I like that too!
By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that it’s great to have agency partners who are a few steps removed. Agencies are able to stand back and observe from a broader perspective when we get too close to our work. There’s room in the equation for all of us.
Rod Brooks is the VP/chief marketing officer of PEMCO Insurance. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
…Or An Agency Career
By Bill Fritsch
Few young people going into marketing have a clear sense of exactly what they want out of their careers. Heck, many are happy to simply find a job and to get on their own two feet financially.
In my view, at the outset of a career, the choice between brand or agency is not nearly as important as finding a good environment with a leading organization. There’s plenty of time for young people to choose a specific direction, once they gain their confidence and begin to understand that they actually can shape their careers.
I’ve worked on the brand side for about a quarter of my career. The rest I’ve spentessentially on the agency side. The first six years, I worked inside one of the world’s greatest companies—Walt Disney. And I was lucky to work at the headquarters on amazingly big ventures, both of which eventually became multi-billion-dollar divisions.
I also got to meet and work with people, who alongside Walt, created the animation industry, founded the theme park industry and did exceptional things in almost everything they undertook. OMG! What I saw and learned has filled a lifetime. And I loved every minute of it.
But one day I got bored and realized that I didn’t want to be a small cog in a mighty machine. I traded my big title and career at Disney to come to Seattle to work for a tiny ad agency. Frankly, I took the job because they paid moving expenses and I figured out that I would go to work for a real company once I got my feet under me in Seattle.
Well, 30 years and a few of my own companies later, I’m still on the agency side of things. I’ve loved the diversity of work and the immensely creative environments. I’ve served more than 60 major brands and have gained a perspective on a wide array of brand and communication issues. I like change and get bored quickly and the agency side is anything but static or boring.
So, with 40 years and lots of jobs behind me—here is my counsel to young people on choosing a career direction:
- Choose wisely the kind of environment you work in. Look for leadership qualities, superb ethical practices and teamwork. Even more importantly, look for places that foster real innovation and creativity.
- Pay attention to the quality of the people you will work for. We all need mentors. And encouragement. Great people encourage you to do your best and provide help when you need it. Look for people who understand what branding and powerful communication is really about.
- Gain broad perspective on our industry early in your career. Today’s communication world is complex. There are many choices ahead as to which areas to focus upon. The broader your exposure, the better equipped you’ll be to choose a specific direction in the future.
- In general, I counsel working for an agency first. This gives young people a much broader perspective on marketing and better training in solving communication issues. It also allows people to see inside major industries, which helps in making a wise choice for career focus.
Most important of all—make your career what you want of it. Make choices that bring you happiness. Love going to work. Money and opportunity will abound if you do.
Bill Fritsch is the CEO of Digital Kitchen. He can be reached at email@example.com.