The hardest marketing jobs in the world
So you think you’ve got a tough job? Spare a thought for those working in the five sectors that research conducted for Marketing Week identified as the toughest marketing jobs in the world.
Marketers around the world are facing similar challenges – navigating an increasing number of marketing channels and increasing regulation – while trying to differentiate their brand from its competitors. Many are also overcoming sizable budget cuts.
But there are some sectors that go beyond the usual marketing challenges, according to a survey on the hardest marketing jobs in the world, carried out by marketing recruitment specialist EMR, exclusively for Marketing Week.
The research reveals that 56% of marketers think tobacco is the hardest industry to market. Government and the public sector follows with 41% of the vote, while 39% say accountancy and 36% say law are the most challenging jobs. The financial services industry also makes it into the top five hardest sectors to market, as voted for by 34% of marketers.
We take a look at these industries, talking to marketing professionals about their current and future challenges.
The limitation on advertising and the target market makes a marketing role in the tobacco sector unappealing because to a large extent there’s no mass media advertising, explains Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute for Social Marketing at Stirling and the Open University.
He says: “The UK is one of the more constrained markets. TV advertising went out in 1965. Other forms of media, such as billboards and press have also gone. What remains in terms of marketing communications are the pack and the display of that pack at point of sale.”
But even point-of-sale marketing is set to disappear, with cigarettes to be sold from underneath the shop counter if the new coalition Government passes legislation to restrict the sale of tobacco.
A ban on the use of tobacco advertising at Formula 1 grand prix and other sporting events in the EU came into effect in 2005, although Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro, legally extended its financial backing of the Ferrari team in September 2005 to run until 2011, despite not being able to advertise around the sport.
But even this deal that was supposedly without any advertising strings has led to controversy when it was accused of breaching EU rules by using subliminal tobacco advertising.
The red, white and black barcode emblazoned on Ferrari racing cars and drivers’ racing gear prompted this accusation as critics argued that the barcode looked like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes.
Despite denials from Ferrari and Philip Morris that this was the case, the barcode has been removed from the racing car.
However, tobacco companies are putting on a brave face despite such rigid restrictions. British American Tobacco says its strategy focuses on getting the product and distribution right: “We see this as marketing for a new era, where product brand communication is based on one-to-one permission marketing to adult smokers, in much more focused, narrower channels, with tight standards for age verification.
“We aim to be spot-on with packaging, taste and product formats that consumers like, with quality that consumers are willing to pay more for and with availability of our brands in the places where our consumers want to buy.”
Packaging is another area that tobacco marketers have been focusing on – one of the few direct avenues now left to them. “The design, structure and colour of the pack have been made as attractive as possible,” says Hastings.
But the moral issues surrounding tobacco marketing make this a tough sell for the recruitment industry, says Simon Bassett, managing director at EMR. “A position can be hard to fill if it’s deemed socially unacceptable, such as marketing tobacco. We’ve handled brand manager jobs for some of the big tobacco companies and we’ve had to make 20 calls to get one person interested.” (See The recruiters’ view, below)
And the damaging effects of smoking make the “marketing pitch” rather unpalatable, argues Hastings. “The obvious and crashing problem with tobacco is that it’s so terribly lethal. It kills one in two of its long-term users and that’s not a great start for any marketing pitch.”
2 Government and the public sector
Following the recession and a recent change in government, the public sector is undergoing a huge period of change, making this the second hardest marketing job in the world. Marketing jobs and budgets are being slashed and new targets and initiatives put in place by the coalition.
This means increasing the use of PR, word of mouth, websites and other government channels to reduce the expenditure on paid-for advertising, explains Mark Lund, chief executive at the COI: “The biggest challenge right now is trying to establish how we can achieve the goals that we want to achieve against a backdrop of the need to cut the fiscal deficit. We need to look at how we combine the traditional paid-for channels with earned and owned channels.”
The Government is also looking to use partnerships with brand owners, civic groups and the voluntary sector to make public messages go further. Government initiative Change4Life, for example, has corporate partners including PepsiCo and Nestlé.
Uncertainty in the sector, brought on by the impending election, has stalled progress in recent years, suggests Robert Rees, interim marketer and co-founder of marketing consultancy Freestyle.
“A lot of public sector workers have realised that the writing’s on the wall. Jockeying for position and not wanting to take on any big initiatives, nobody wants to start on something big that’s going to be stopped half way through,” he suggests.
Unlike most communications in the private sector, which are about behaviour repetition, government marketing centres on behaviour change, such as campaigns to stop people smoking or to eat more healthily.
“Fundamentally, you’re trying to reverse behaviour and that means changing inertia.
The habitual pattern is to keep doing that thing and we’re trying to stop it, which is hard,” explains Lund.
The amount of public interest and media attention surrounding government campaigns also makes for a challenging environment for public sector marketers.
The biggest challenge right now is trying to establish how we can achieve the goals that we want to achieve against a backdrop of the need to cut the fiscal deficit
Mark Lund, COI
“Public sector campaigns have a very high level of media interest. There’s a lot of media noise against which the marketing has to take place,” adds Lund.
Rees believes that marketing in the public sector is often hampered by process and culture. “The culture of the public sector is not very accountable and action-orientated because they’re not having to create profit. There’s not that cut and thrust of business. A lot of the time your hands are tied with regards to agency and supply selection because you often have to follow EU directives with regards to tendering for public work,” suggests Rees.
The lack of a stable government brand also makes life harder for marketers, argues Lund. “Although facets like the NHS have a strong brand presence, the government as a whole doesn’t exist very strongly in people’s minds in this context.”
3 & 4 Law & Accounting
Marketers say that one of the biggest challenges facing them in both the law and accountancy sectors is that it is about selling a service, not a product, making the sectors third and fourth respectively in the list of hardest marketing jobs.
Selling the people within your business is complicated, explains Ken Fenwick, director of UK sales and marketing at accountancy and professional services firm KPMG. “The hardest sell in the world isn’t accountancy, it’s people,” he says. “If you have a people proposition, you can have thousands of employees and every one of them is different. You’re trying to market all of them together, but you’re also trying to market each one.”
Uniting an organisation in these sectors under one umbrella brand is a tricky but necessary process if the company is to grow.
But presenting a united front often goes against the culture of organisations like law firms where partners each have their own agenda. Elliot Moss, director of business development at London-based law firm Mishcon de Reya, and former managing director of Leagas Delaney, says the challenge facing marketers is how to align partners who own a stake in the business. “The challenge in the world of law is that you’ve got powerful, intelligent partners who are a bit like mini managing directors at an ad agency,” he explains (see viewpoint, below).
Broadly speaking, law and accountancy firms provide the same service as their competitors and therefore differentiation must come, not from the service the business provides, but how it provides that service, explains Fenwick at KPMG.
He says: “We recognise that we’re a provider, but we’re not trying to say that we’re the only provider. We concentrate on the way in which we work and interact with our clients. What we’re doing as a brand is recognising that we have very bright, talented people working for us who are committed to what they do and to our clients. That’s really what we’re selling.”
Moss at Mishcon de Reya agrees: “Our differentiations will not come from what we do because everyone does the same. It’s not that you’re a corporate lawyer, it’s that you’re a Mishcon corporate lawyer.”
The hardest sell isn’t accountancy, it’s people… You’re trying to market them all together, but you’re also trying to market each one
Ken Fenwick, KPMG
5 Financial services
The banking crisis has cast the spotlight on financial marketers, making it the fifth hardest marketing job in the world. They now face the task of repairing the reputation of the industry, says Jeremy Braune, managing director of market research and brand development agency Brandspeak.
He argues: “They’ve got one of the hardest jobs in the marketing industry at the moment because they’re faced with an unprecedented barrage of issues to deal with and the most significant one at the moment is lack of trust.”
Some of the latest entrants to the market, such as Virgin Money, are trying new marketing strategies to build consumer trust. Paul Lloyd, chief marketing officer at Virgin Money, says getting consumers on side is a priority. “The need to rebuild the confidence of customers in the years ahead will be at the front of people’s minds.”
However, Braune believes these new entrants will face challenges in the coming months. “Having built their reputation and their momentum in retail, delivering all the things that financial customers are now really clamouring for – fair deals, lower prices and instant rewards – they face a challenge replicating that throughout the financial sector.”
One of the problems is that financial firms have moved away from segment-driven marketing in favour of a more broad-brush, product-centric approach, believes Braune. “A lot of the sensitivity of marketing towards different segments and their needs and expectations and behaviours has been eroded at the time it’s needed more than ever.”
Anthony Payne, a partner at financial public relations group Peregrine Communications, agrees: “These mass-market solutions need to be replaced with a much more tailored approach.”
An area of concern for marketers in the financial services sector is the Financial Services Authority (FSA) principle of Treating Customers Fairly, which promotes fair treatment of customers by regulated firms. The FSA is responsible for its development and implementation and there are penalties for companies that don’t adhere to it, particularly for promotional material such as marketing sales literature.
In the area of pensions and investments, for example, the FSA has been heavily focused on brochures and pre- and post-sale documents to make sure that consumers are getting a balanced view of the products and services they’re about to buy and can make informed decisions.
“You can’t get away with a lot of jargon,” suggests Payne at Peregrine Communications. “When things have gone so badly wrong, the press and the public aren’t willing to accept broad statements. They want to be educated and understand what they’re investing in. You can no longer rely on brand strength and trust.”
Although there to protect consumers, the new regulations make it hard for marketers to communicate ideas effectively and efforts to simplify any complex idea are penalised, according to Braune.
Payne agrees: “If you start talking about alpha and beta, consumers’ eyes glaze over and they don’t really understand. But if you try and make shortcuts you may be running into regulatory issues because you’re trying to cut short what you’re explaining.”
The recruiters’ view
Paul Sykes, managing director, Michael Page Marketing
The public sector might be perceived as difficult to work in now because there is so much uncertainty, but 18 months ago there was plenty of innovative work going on and a lot of ad spend available. We used to have a lot of people with private sector backgrounds who were interested in working in the public sector.
It’s logical for tobacco to come out top in the research because of the ethical issue. It’s not the place it was 20 years ago with regards to marketing opportunities. However, given the restrictions, it presents a unique proposition. The key is getting the right type of person looking to embrace the challenge.
The challenge with partner-led environments such as law and accountancy is that they don’t give marketers accountability and autonomy. Partners lead the company in the direction that it’s going in and there is not as much input from marketers.
If you’re an FMCG marketer, the prospect of working for an industrial business is probably not that appealing. But there are fantastic opportunities in gas and oil, for example.
Simon Bassett, managing director, EMR
Marketers tend to find a job less attractive if the customer is naturally disengaged with the product or service. Jobs of more interest often involve working with high profile consumer brands, in areas like social media, publishing, leisure and FMCG.
Marketers perceive a job as hard when there’s an inherent distrust of the product. Insurance and estate agents are good examples. It’s a very difficult service line for a marketer to differentiate him or herself in.
A position can also be hard to fill if it’s deemed socially unacceptable, such as marketing tobacco or gambling. The online gaming companies are recruiting quite heavily at the moment because it’s a big growth market, but it’s deemed socially unacceptable to promote gambling.
People are more interested in working in the big consumer brand product areas, but equally, working for a bank like RBS can be quite attractive because there’s so much work that needs to be done with the brand.
Roy Hoolahan, managing director, Ball & Hoolahan
Some people shy away from marketing roles in sectors like financial services or pharma health because they’re quite regulated.
Marketing tobacco can be quite a sexy job because there are still a lot of people out there who enjoy smoking. But some people find it unattractive for personal reasons and because it’s very regulated. The closedown in advertising is also occurring in sectors like children’s confectionery and alcohol.
Any job that doesn’t have any above-the-line ad opportunities could be hard to do but marketers just have to be more creative.
If you’re a consumer-trained marketer, you might find business-to-business marketing less interesting. Professional services are potentially unattractive because it’s essentially about B2B.
It’s also challenging for a marketer to try to persuade the financial sector to think about the consumer and to deliver profit through understanding marketing insights. As a sector, they’re far more obsessed with working out what their products should be.
Viewpoint: Elliot Moss, director of business development, Mishcon de Reya
Law firms are bad at marketing because they don’t identify what makes them different. Law firms often have no understanding of their messaging, of design or the power of integrated marketing programmes.
The underlying challenge in the legal sector is you’ve got powerful, intelligent partners who are a bit like mini managing directors at an ad agency. They’ve all got their own practices and they’re all smart and egotistical.
But marketing a law firm is not difficult if you’ve got a management team that says: “This is what we are going to do. We’re not going to have partners dictate their little agendas.”
There is also an issue in that the difference is not what most lawyers do, it’s the way that they do it. Our differentiation at Mishcon comes from our point of view, our attitude.
Mishcon de Reya stands for private client and family law, but 90% of our work is business law. So, we decided to reposition the firm for the business world. The selling line was “Mishcon de Reya: It’s business, but it’s personal”. That became the calling cry for everything we do.
We decided that if we were going to really propel our positioning as a law firm for the world of business, we needed a big partner.
At the centre of our programme and my budget is an integrated marketing programme with the Financial Times. We’ve created a property called Deals and Dealmakers, which is all about celebrating the entrepreneurial nature of deals.
Every three months we come out with a [branded] supplement within the paper and every week we advertise in the FT. The FT also does email marketing for us to audiences we’ve identified that we want to be involved with. There’s also going to be an event for relevant people, such as chief financial officers, chief executives, and chief operating officers.
That £300,000 programme embodies the whole idea that we’re a law firm for the world of business. That singularity and focus is very uncommon in a law firm.
Our partners and fee earners have been indoctrinated with this new messaging. In any pitch, in any meeting they go to, at any event that they attend, they know what to say about the firm and what makes them different. If you get that right, then you’ve got advocacy, which is critical in any service business.
If you take this approach, then marketing in a law firm is actually phenomenal because suddenly you’ve got the power of 266 people going out into the market and talking about your brand in the same way. That differentiates you from any other law firm.
The partners understand that if they focus on messaging, they will get more business.
Case study: Virgin Money
In a bid to set the business apart from other financial institutions discredited by the banking crisis, Virgin Money – a relatively new entrant to the banking sector – is thinking laterally.
The Richard Branson-owned business is attempting to gain consumer trust by breaking the rules of traditional financial services marketing, says Paul Lloyd, chief marketing officer at Virgin Money.
“We don’t have a legacy from the past and people expect us to simplify and make things easier for them. Even with these new challenges, the age-old one remains – engaging consumers in a category that many find confusing and have a low interest in.”
Virgin Money has developed a marketing strategy that centres on fairness to help rebuild much needed confidence among customers. The policy of fairness, says Lloyd, is not just a marketing strategy, it runs through every part of the business. “Everything we do at Virgin Money is underpinned with the ambition to ‘make everyone better off’ (EBO). By everyone we mean customers, staff, society, partners and shareholders.”
New entrants like Virgin Money have been quick to distance their business practices from the underhand motives many consumers believe to be at the root of the banking crisis. That’s what EBO is trying to show consumers, claims Lloyd. “It is the guiding principle for everything we do as a business. We are looking for positive outcomes for all stakeholders, not just the single-minded pursuit of profit maximisation.”
To counter the image of banks as heartless institutions ruthlessly in pursuit of profit, Virgin Money has taken steps to demonstrate to consumers that it is not only fair in its banking practices, but also that it is giving something back. The company invests some of its profits in not-for-profit online fundraising website virginmoneygiving.com, which has helped raise more than £15m for good causes.
As the official sponsor of the London Marathon, it also hopes to help runners raise more than £250m over five years.
Virgin Money believes this type of initiative will help to win over cynical consumers who have negative perceptions of the financial services sector. Lloyd says: “UK plc needs to build a sustainable banking sector, focused on delivering value to the economy outside its own financial bubble. To do this requires significant reform of the structure, regulation, governance and culture of the industry.”