We’re all aware of the ongoing efforts of marketers to gain our attention—and our business. But what do marketers really do? How do they add value to their organizations? More, how should an aspiring marketer go about entering the field, and what might a successful career path in marketing look like?
It was these questions that were answered with wisdom, insight, and enthusiasm by some 14 outstanding marketing professionals during McIntire’s inaugural Careers in Marketing Forum, held Oct. 8 and 9, 2015, in Robertson Hall. The Forum marked the first such large-scale initiative of McIntire’s new Marketing Advisory Council, which aims to promote marketing career and networking opportunities for McIntire students, as well as to help ensure that the School’s marketing curriculum stays abreast of the relentless evolution of the dynamic field of marketing.
“The Careers in Marketing Forum offered students a fantastic opportunity to really start to understand not only what kinds of marketing jobs are out there, but also just how creative and rewarding those jobs can be,” says McIntire Marketing Professor Rick Netemeyer, who played a key role in organizing the event. “We are extremely grateful to all of our panelists for taking the time to share their wisdom and expertise with McIntire and UVA students, as well as to Altria for their generous sponsorship of the Forum.”
Event participants included:
Brad Barnes (A&S ’00), District Manager for Altria Group Distribution Company
Dilianna Bustillos (McIntire ’11), Business Development/Partner Marketing at MarketBridge
Mickey Cloud (McIntire ’07), Vice President of VaynerMedia
Siobhan Cooper (McIntire ’07), Engagement Manager at Prophet
Sydney Davis (McIntire ’11), Senior Assistant Brand Manager for Altria
Keith George (A&S ’93), Chief Merchandising Officer at Gilt
Alison Hillhouse (McIntire ’99), Vice President of Insights Innovation at MTV
Shannon Hoyer (McIntire ’10), Senior Associate, Campaign Manager at 84.51˚
William McComb, former CEO of Fifth & Pacific Companies Inc.
Jordan McDaniel (McIntire ’12), Digital and Social Media Manager at Hilldrup Companies
Brian Paul (McIntire ’12), Assistant Brand Manager at Altria
Owen Rankin (McIntire ’82), President of Over the Horizon Strategies
Lee Susen, Senior Director of New Business Development at E&J Gallo Winery
Mark Walin, Vice President of Sales at the Perrigo Company
To Market to Market
The Forum kicked off with McComb’s colorful and comprehensive summary of what marketing really entails; the indispensable role it plays as a driver of value for firms; and the sorts of skills, strengths, and interests that are required for success in the field. (The former CEO of Liz Claiborne Inc., McComb led the company’s remarkable turnaround and transformation from Liz Claiborne, to Fifth & Pacific Companies, to Kate Spade & Company.)
McComb stressed the increasing importance of outstanding marketing and its critically important subset, brand management.
“Brand management has become so important,” McComb told the audience, “because it helps cut through all the clutter.” Indeed, he explained, brands play a fascinating role in consumers’ minds, taking on human characteristics and representing the promise of certain relatable values—and it’s the intriguing and endlessly creative challenge of brand managers to maintain, cultivate, and strengthen such brand personas.
Working hand in hand with brand management, McComb went on, is the artful science of marketing—that is, figuring out what new products the market needs; where, how, and at what price to bring those products into the marketplace; and whom the products are likely to interest.
“Marketing attracts customers; brands create value,” he told listeners. “In a world that’s becoming ever more commoditized, the need for great marketing and brand management presents some really tremendous career opportunities.”
The Right Stuff
McComb then went on to discuss what he considered to be the requisite traits for success in marketing. In addition to having an “obsessive” interest in customer needs, he said, successful marketers must be externally focused; able to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty; have an entrepreneurial spirit; and have the will, energy, determination, and courage to take vigorous creative action. “Marketers drive innovation,” McComb told the audience. “If you want to be successful in marketing, you must be a great innovator.”
Many Paths to Success
Students were then treated to a lively panel discussion featuring Barnes, Cloud, Hillhouse, Hoyer, and Rankin, each of whom outlined for students their less-than-straightforward—but invariably interesting—career paths in marketing. Stressing the need for flexibility and the ability to make the most of opportunities as they present themselves, the panelists emphasized their tireless enthusiasm for the field, as well as their willingness to follow a less-than-traditional—even seemingly unglamorous—career trajectory.
“It’s a fascinating career track that involves ongoing learning and the creative use of a huge range of different skills,” said Altria’s Barnes, making a special note of the tremendous business, communication, and leadership development opportunities inherent to working in sales. “But if you’re going to be successful in marketing, it really has to be your passion.”
E&J Gallo Winery’s Susen led the Forum’s second day of presentations, offering students a fascinating account of the birth, genesis, and stunning success of the trendy new Gallo wine brand Dark Horse. Explaining to students how the brand’s appealing promise—that of an “unexpected winner”—was clearly and appealingly communicated, and then consistently delivered upon, Susen offered a textbook example of how smart branding coupled with savvy, customer-centric marketing and analytics can lead to runaway success—even in a market as highly commoditized as that of wine. “You have to remember that you’re selling a brand, not a product,” Susen told listeners.
Where We Go from Here
After an impassioned presentation by Gilt’s George, who advised students to seek out careers and organizations that reflected their “core essence,” the Forum wrapped up with a series of intensive small-group advisory sessions in which students were able to find out more about specific career paths, as well as about the current role of data analytics in marketing; merchandising and e-commerce; sales and integrated marketing; brand management and brand positioning; and adverting, public relations, and digital media. The event wrapped up with two high-value seminars in which audience members gained valuable tips on marketing and communicating their own strengths and skills, as well as mastering the sometimes overwhelming job-search process.
“It’s okay if you don’t find your dream job right out of school,” George advised students. “Just remember that you learn something from every experience—and that everything is a bridge to something else.”
By Mary Summers Whittle