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Traditional Marketing Careers
Check out the four most common career paths within marketing.
Market Research: Market research is where the marketing industry begins. No product can be released before its manufacturer knows that a market actually exists-and the job of researchers is not only to locate that market, but to discover how consumers and competitors specifically define it. Market research tends to fall loosely into two categories, the collection of "hard" (quantitative) and "soft" (qualitative) data. With traditional means like surveys and particularly with new analytic software and ever-expanding access to sales figures online, quantitative data is more accurate, quickly moving, and potentially useful than ever before. But it still only paints part of the picture. Aptly described as a kind of sociology, market researchers must also use every possible kind of "soft" information-seeking to get insider their target consumers-heads- from personal interviews and focus groups to staying plugged into current trends through industry studies, publications, and the Internet. Both statistics and psychology are great backgrounds for market research, though beginning analyst positions will be largely quantitative. These can lead into market research director and manager roles.
Brand Management: When you think marketing, brand management is almost definitely what springs to mind first. (In non-consumer goods, this position may be known as product management or development.) More than most areas, branding allows marketers to have their hands in multiple company cookie jars, so to speak- holding direct responsibility for a product's identity brings together the research, strategy, and implementation aspects of production. Charged with refining a brand's meaning and how to best communicate it to the market, brand managers can choose the angle of market research. Then, once data is in, they form an analysis and target a new vision for the brand, making sure that the corresponding ad campaign, promotions, packaging, or public relations work is carried out. Starting salaries are good on this track- and while you'll probably start out as a marketing assistant or analyst, brand management offers awesome opportunity for leadership development and general management training.
Advertising: Advertising within a marketing context means either overseeing a company's in-house creative staff or serving as its liaison to a contracted advertising agency. (It is also fairly common for professionals to move between the two.) But in either setting, the advertiser puts ideas into practice. Advertising managers supervise the financing, production, and distribution of a company's message to its audience. This process is typically broken down into three subdivisions: the account department, which figures out the available financing and need for new advertising; the creative department, which is in charge of developing the content and designing the look of ads; and the media department, which selects the outlets - television, magazines, the web, radio, billboards- in which ads will run. Each of these departments is supervised by its own director. A fourth area, sales promotion, also falls under the advertising umbrella: promotion creates all the price-related advertising programs that can reach out and grab customers, like discounts, coupons, free samples, rebates, gift-with-purchase, and sweepstakes.
Public Relations: Though it isn't commonly associated with marketing, public relations is actually a crucial part of marketing strategy, particularly in a consumer culture that encourages such intense scrutiny of corporations. Public relations managers make sure that management is connected to marketing, by cross-checking branding and advertising for consistency with a company's PR image, and then link the company to the community by expressing and clarifying policy to the press and special-interest groups. Public relations staff also keep up-to-date with changes in the wind of public opinion and taste, recommending marketing approaches that will keep the company or product in consumers' good graces.
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