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Leader of the Brands

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By Jim Stengel, Photos by Gregg Segal

Published Jan 1, 2010 8:00 AM


UCLA Anderson Adjunct Professor Jim Stengel, a UCLA parent and husband of an alumna, spent 25 years at Procter & Gamble, the last seven as global marketing officer. One of the most respected and admired change agents in communications, Stengel offers unparalleled advice for Bruins building a career in this most glamorous and critical sector of the business world.

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Marketing as a career

[Business thinker] Peter Drucker said it about as well as anyone, "The purpose of business is to create a customer." So marketing is central to any business, either explicitly or implicitly. It is also the right place for idealistic people who want to change the world for the better. Brands that improve life, such as Zappos, Toyota, Natura (in Brazil) or Pampers, are not just great leadership brands — they're also great places to work.

What to look for in a prospective employer

The first question I would ask is whether marketing is important and central to the company. If it is, you will find you learn more and the career opportunities will be many and varied. Also watch what the company does in addition to what it says, because actions speak far louder than words. Does the firm invest in marketing? Are marketing people in leadership roles within the firm? Do measurement systems reward behavior that grows brands? These are all important questions. The final characteristic is whether the company and its brands have an ideal or purpose that is aspirational to you. You will find it far more rewarding day in and day out if your brand has at its core an idea that is uplifting to you. Brands like Harley-Davidson, Lindt and Google embody this.

If I were starting my career today

Any questions?

Learn even more about marketing and branding at Stengel's website, www.jimstengel.com, or get tips from @JimStengel on Twitter.

I would hope P&G would hire me again! Beyond that, I would look for brands that are seeking to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve — a big and genuine difference. To me, the industry matters less than the ideal driving the brand.

Connect with the tech

Digital technology has changed everything. It has affected what marketers work on, how they work and, obviously, how marketers think about consumer research and consumer communication. But it also has affected where marketers work. For example, I have used collaboration technologies to have "face-to-face meetings" with people all over the world in a natural, intimate, human way. I also used technology to help create one global marketing community/culture at P&G. I did live quarterly webcasts called "The Stengel Marketing Hour" to inspire, teach, share and showcase the best ideas in the world. I held monthly global teleconferences/live chat sessions to learn from each other, share priorities and answer questions.

Integrate and Lead

A young marketer needs to understand that he or she needs to be comfortable with all of marketing, not just marketing communications. She must be comfortable with design, external relations, innovation and research. At P&G, the chief technology officer, Gil Cloyd, and I tackled the company's innovation process to improve results. We were successful beyond our expectations because Gil respected and understood marketing, and I valued the R&D talents and culture. I would also emphasize that great marketing people need exceptional leadership skills. You cannot lead an integrated marketing effort without inspiring people, setting standards, and unifying diverse talent around a big goal. That takes true leadership.

Make use of emerging media

Marketers need to understand how people develop opinions, why they advocate certain brands and not others, how people get information, and how people build relationships with each other and with the people behind brands. So it is absolutely critical that marketers not only understand emerging media like social networks, but also understand what's driving the behavior.

What a young marketing executive absolutely has to do

Understand, empathize with and serve your consumers or customers. A young leader has to continue to learn and to always be seeking to lead and make a difference. Beyond that, a marketing executive also needs to be accountable for results in business and organization, and to set high standards for him or herself and those around her. These are the kinds of things I always looked for in young talent when I was at Procter & Gamble.

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What a young marketing executive absolutely should never do

This is easy. Never compromise your ethics or your ideals. If a company or your brand asks you to do that, move on.

What you'll do on your first job

This obviously depends on the company and your assignment within that company. I think a great early assignment is something that helps you understand the business and the brand and gets you involved in executing plans with excellence. Too many young marketers enter a business wanting to impact strategy before they understand what is driving the brand and the business. On my first day at Procter & Gamble, I was asked to provide management with an analysis of our market share performance in a test market of a very important new company brand. I cannot imagine a better way to start learning about a business and what drives the ultimate measure: market share.

The difference between client and ad agency

If you watch Mad Men, you begin to get an idea of the differences. Many things have changed, but a few have not. Let's start with similarities between agencies and clients. Both should be working on creating something very special for the people they serve: consumers. I think Apple and its relationship with its ad agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, is a great example of that. Both clients and agencies need to create a relationship of trust or great breakthrough work will not happen. And both clients and agencies need to be constantly focused on understanding the people they serve, to inspire innovation.

From a career perspective, there are some differences between agencies and clients. On the agency side, you will likely see more companies and more brands in a shorter period of time than you would with a client. On the client side, you will likely work more on product and service innovation and bringing this to market.

Market Yourself

Got a brand plan of your own? The UCLA Alumni Association can help. Visit the UCLA Alumni Networking & Careers page.

What about digital ad agencies?

The best digital shops are great places to be. Fortunately, there are many examples here — R/GA, AKQA, imc2, Digitas and Bridge Worldwide (I work with Grow Marketing and Bridge Worldwide on my digital platform). I would also add that more established agencies that embrace digital are also great places to work. With any of these choices, you still need to decide if your passion is creative work, account services, strategic planning or business development.

The best and worst thing about being a marketer

The best thing is there is no better place to transform a business or brand than in marketing. So if you like making a difference in people's lives, I can't imagine a better place to work. The worst thing is that everyone thinks they're an expert in your field. This means you have to have greater conviction in what you do than anyone else — and that's not a bad thing.

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