A marketing executive directs the marketing of a company’s products or services. Marketing executives know the company’s product line, historical market, potential market, media costs, media response, and budgeting issues. Marketers often have to be intimate with a number of advertising media, such as radio, television, phone solicitation, mail campaigns, and promotional events. Their most difficult task is determining how best to take advantage of any or all of them to promote their product. In addition, “You have to know when to sell your own product, and when to mow down the other guy’s product,” said one New York marketing executive. Marketing takes three basic forms: Positive marketing (the benefits of your product or service), educational marketing (developing a demand for your product by educating people about their needs, such as mouthwash marketers talking about gingivitis), and negative marketing (revealing the flaws in a competitor’s product). Knowing when to do which and how is both the science and art that marketing executives practice.
Most marketing executives spend significant time analyzing demographics, regional sales figures, and the competition. However, more than one marketer told us that in the end, marketing is all about “common sense.” Many said a general approach to the industry is useless each product has one specific trait, detail or role that is unique and valuable, and all the marketing executive does is apply common sense to the promotion of that trait. Another marketer put it this way: A marketing executive has to be able to recognize “unexplored potentialities” that can turn a low-selling item into a large-selling item, and a large-selling item into a mega-hit. The pressure is significant, but it has one advantage: Marketers always know how they’re doing, as tracked by an increase or decrease in sales. External events may drive demand for a product in one direction or another; it’s the marketer’s job to respond to these shifts and take advantage of them. Excuses for low sales don’t go over well.
Marketers often work hand-in-hand with developers, advertisers, and production managers to ensure a product’s successful promotion. However, a number of marketers mentioned that although they are called in to consult on production decisions, such as product design, color, and even box shape, “many of the decisions are made without our consent anyway.” A marketer has to be creative, confident, and thick-skinned-marketing personnel get fired at an above average rate. Nevertheless, creative thinkers with the ability to analyze statistics and work out long-term logistical plans find sound homes in marketing divisions, where all their skills are needed to successfully launch a product or maintain a product’s sales.
Marketing executives have no formal educational requirements, but most employers require a college degree. Valued courses include marketing, statistics, advertising, psychology, sociology, business, finance, economics, and history. Communication skills are very important, so any writing experience is appreciated. Marketing executives need know their product line and its unique features, so special requirements may apply for those in science, mechanical, medical, or computer-based industries. Professional education is the norm in this occupation, with many marketers attending at least two seminars or lectures a year. Certification is available from a number of professional societies (such as the American Marketing Association and Marketing Executives International), but employers do not require it.
Marketing executives often are promoted to strategic planning positions. Others take their skills to advertising agencies, demographic research firms, or public relations firms. Many return to school for M.B.A.s. Upon completion of their degrees, many head up marketing departments or move into positions of management. A notable few work for consumer advocacy groups and are vocal participants in the debate over fairness in marketing and advertising.