Quick buck marketeer

You've got to think fast and talk fast to survive a career in marketing. Nick Walker reports

The area of fast-moving consumer goods is often the glittering prize for the graduate who hankers after a future in marketing. Big may be beautiful, but fast - and functional - is more fun.

David Jones, director of management training at Unilever's training centre in Kingston, knows why: "Markets that are moving faster are by nature of that fact going to be more interesting." For the experience-hungry freshman, it can be argued, there can be no more better training than selling and marketing the quick-moving consumables, the ice-cream and margarine that Unilever's companies produce. Overtly seasonal goods with a high turnover are going to provide more interesting markets, perhaps even more malleable ones. The nervous newcomer can hope that mistakes will be quickly forgotten, and, if you're good, there's the hope that you can not only make your presence felt, but also do so more quickly.

According to Jones, among the 500 or so companies that come under the Unilever umbrella both in the UK and abroad, those dealing in fast-moving consumer goods also reflect broader movements in marketing. "Principles that were being applied in fast-moving consumer markets are being taken from the manner in which we would market to industrial markets some 10 years ago. In the degree to which you have to approach business in partnership with the consumer, this is very clearly the case."

A partnership-based relationship with the consumer, even for goods with a quick turnover, has been increasingly evident post-recession, says Jones. "You have got to know the industry inside out. Marketing now is about working to bring in as many links with the consumer as possible." The role of those in marketing and their importance in establishing and maintaining brand loyalty has never been more transparent, making this idea territory in which to cut your teeth.

But that's not where the attraction stops. At Unilever's training centre, a year could see anything between 300 and 400 fresh faces pass through training in sales and marketing. Big is not only bountiful; it promises diversity, too. "Not only are you dealing with personal care products, tea, ice cream and so on, but also our consumer marketing trainees will consist of some 20 different nationalities. I think there's a question of critical mass when it comes to training."

Making your first move in a career in marketing has never been easy. Like breaking into any industry, entry-level candidates face a Catch 22: you can't a job without experience, but you can only get experience on the job. Despite a generally sunnier outlook for graduates - graduate unemplyment is at its lowest since 1990 - marketing is still an employers' market. Mars, one of the biggest trainers in the competitive area of fast- moving consumer goods, has noted an important shift over the the past few years. It is a move that doesn't bode well for those looking for that all-important entree.

"Compared with five to 10 years ago there has been a general movement away from graduates towards people with a two or three-year track record," says Gordon Storey, external relations manager for Mars. A glut of candidates made Mars look for anything that made an applicant stand out: experience was an obvious asset. "Someone with a couple of years' experience is someone with a track record. It is simple less of a risk."

For some the message is that you have to be flexible if you want to remain in the fast lane. Roly Cockman is chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters: "Marketing is still one of the most sought-after careers, and that is reflected in a higher-than-average starting salary. But here has also been a shift away from long-term training periods. A few years ago, you wouldn't have been expected to contribute to profit until you had finished your training. Today you're expected to hit the ground running."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: PR Account Director / SAM

£50 - 60k (DOE) + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A PR Account Director / SAM ...

Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Insight Analyst

£32 - £37K + extensive benefits: Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Ins...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to...

Guru Careers: Project Manager

£30 - 40k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Project Manager is needed to join a leading s...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral