Why marketing matters most

In the country of the consumer, the marketer is king. Richard Cook looks at new horizons opening to those with the right experience, and how the profession has become the fast track to the top.

During the height of the United Nations peace-keeping operation in Bosnia, an American college conducted a worldwide survey to find out the difference that marketing the organisation might make. It found that, helped by the television exposure of the blue berets, but without any real marketing effort, a respectable 40 per cent of respondents could identify the UN logo.

The UN was relying simply on its long history and on near-blanket coverage of its operations in the world media to help get its message across. But if the researchers were surprised by that level of awareness there was a bigger shock to come. The same survey, which covered countries as disparate as Guatemala, India and the former Soviet Union as well as the UK, found that by contrast 82 per cent recognised the Coca Cola logo. Coke did not just rely on its own long history - it had the world's most efficient marketing machine fighting its corner.

But if, as surveys like that prove, the power of marketing is no longer in much doubt, it is only recently that the status of its practitioners has started to keep pace. And the consumer's dim view of the marketing profession is proving slower still to change. According to a survey by Marketing magazine last year, marketers are still viewed by the public at large as only slightly more trustworthy than MPs, journalists and estate agents.

But there is evidence that that is about to change, as more marketers take their place at the head of the boardroom of some of the UK's biggest companies, ranging from Tesco to Grand Metropolitan.

"You have to remember that marketing is a relatively young profession," explains Roy Hoolahan, joint managing director at the specialist marketing recruitment consultants Ball & Hoolahan, and a former graduate marketing trainee at Unilever. "We're only now getting a proper idea of how a marketing career path might develop, because the graduates that started out when the profession took off in the Sixties are now getting to the peak of their careers." Certainly the experience of those marketing pioneers is more than merely encouraging. A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the marketing recruitment company Korn/Ferry International concluded that marketing was perceived as the fastest single route up the corporate ladder. Jobs in other words that had once been seen as the preserve of businessmen trained in accountancy or the law are increasingly being occupied by those with pure marketing backgrounds.

"There's no doubt that marketing has really blossomed as a career in the last few years," explains Ray Kelly, managing partner at Korn/Ferry UK. "Which I suppose isn't that surprising when you consider how business as a whole has changed. Once, the decision on whether a company should set up in a new location would be a manufacturing-led one. Now marketing dominates. Similarly new products are no longer devised in laboratories, they are devised by marketers. Marketing has become the most important function in many areas and has consequently become more and more satisfying as a career."

Certainly the rewards have now started to keep pace with the increased importance of the role. A graduate trainee at one of the blue-chip fmcg companies - the likes of Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Mars which effectively provide training for the industry - can expect to earn around pounds 17,000. They will probably start out by helping to steer the fortunes of one of the company's bigger brands, before, after a year or so, getting responsibility for their own product and their first pay rise.

Progress from there will depend on the performance of the brands they are responsible for, but typically they can expect to be earning around pounds 35,000 at age 30 and maybe twice that once they reach the position of marketing director in their mid- to late-thirties. And firms will tend to pay more in areas like financial services which have a lower profile, and are presumed to offer a tougher challenge.

Overall, according to the annual survey into rates of business pay conducted by The Reward Group, marketing is comfortably ahead of the average in all junior, senior and middle management positions, and consistently pips traditional high payers such as computing and accountancy at all but the most senior levels.

"Marketing does pay well, but one of its greatest advantages as a career is that there are now so many opportunities to diversify into other fields once you've spent a few years getting experience," points out Steve Ingham, managing director at the recruitment specialists Michael Page Sales & Marketing. "You don't have to stay in any one area of business. There are the opportunities offered by the Internet, which are growing all the time, then areas like telecoms, retail and the media, all of which are increasingly looking to recruit trained marketers, and especially those with a good fmcg background." Indeed, one thing that has not changed is the importance of the big fmcg companies in the training process. Getting onto the training schemes offered by those companies, though, can be a real challenge, as more and more high-powered graduates come to appreciate the opportunities that a career in marketing offers.

"If graduates came to us with no experience, it would be difficult to place them," Ingham admits, "but many are taking up the option of taking a year out of their university courses to gain some experience. This one step can make them immensely attractive to employers, and once they have received a training in marketing from one of the larger companies they are in an enviable position."

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
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

Web Analytics Manager / Optimisation Manager

£50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Analytics Manager / Optimisation Manager ...

Graduate Sales Executive

Up to £24k + Commission: Sphere Digital Recruitment: Premium Ad Verification C...

Agency Sales /Senior Sales Manager

£40,000 - £65,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Great opportunity...

Marketing Manager

£26 - 32k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Manager is needed to join a unique and ex...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style