A - Those of us in marketing or advertising are also consumers, and I relate back to the part of me who is a consumer and who is at times frustrated with the unresponsiveness of big business. In my role, I am clearly a liaison between business and consumers, and I feel that I am helping to make business more responsive. That is very satisfying. It is also very satisfying to realize that in research we are brought in to make sense out of something. It is very rewarding to know that people value what we do.
You get a tremendous variety each day. You deal with many different types of companies; some are very sophisticated, and some are very unsophisticated. They also have very different styles and represent a myriad of products and services-durables to services to packaged goods. It is a tremendous learning experience.
The nice aspects of research with an advertising agency are that you get to see so many different marketing problems in a relatively short period of time and that you get fairly deeply involved in each one. There is a lot of freedom in how you do what you do.
Q - What do you dislike about your job?
A - There are some people in business who really fit into the stereotyped ideas that people have of business people. They are very self-interested and care very little about the people to whom they are marketing, and they are really only interested in the "almighty dollar." The people for whom I have the most respect are those who can sacrifice bottom-line concerns for long-term gains, which you only achieve by being concerned about quality and audience. The people who see nothing but the next financial report are the ones with whom I find it very difficult to work. That is frustrating. That goes for some market researchers too, by the way. They're ready to sell out in the short term and say only what they think the client wants to hear.
There are times when you wish there were more hours in the day to get things accomplished.
At times an unnecessary deadline is a real frustration that causes me to work inefficiently. We have to throw too many resources at one problem all at once, because we have to have a solution in the very near future. If we had a little more time, then we could do it in an orderly fashion and not have to search down all paths simultaneously. This would save time and money and do a better job.
A lot of times you don't get all the information from the client, for one reason or another. It's frustrating to try to come up with a solution to a problem when you don't have all the facts.
Q - Is there a lot of pressure?
A - I'll say this, if you don't like pressure, you should not be in advertising.
Q - How much time do you spend at work?
A - Sometimes I really do put in a forty-hour week, but other times I put in sixty to seventy hours. Focus groups can't all happen during the day, in fact rarely do they take place during the day. So I do a lot of evening work and get up early the next morning. It's pretty exhausting, but I don't have to live like that all the time. I gather up the energy to go through the crunches, knowing that in a few days or so I will be able to slow down again and not have too much to do, at least working normal hours.
The minimum amount of time we work is nine to five. The maximum is six days a week. Within a month there might be a thirty-five-hour week, and there might be a sixty-hour week, and a couple of weeks in between. Forty-five hours a week is fairly typical. In general, higher positions imply longer hours.
Q - Do you have any advice to offer to someone considering marketing research as a career?
A - I think that it is easier to pick up the business-oriented skills in the real world than it is to pick up the technical skills. You don't need to have a tremendous amount of technical training to be successful in research. You do have to understand business, and you have to be able to provide the information needed.
My background did not include formal training in business. I have attended three-day seminars to learn more about the business environment. The one problem that many researchers have is that they don't learn enough about the basic principles driving business in terms of finance, competition, planning, and things along those lines.
Today, as firms have expanded their product lines, the product manager's role has changed to one of planner, communicator, and coordinator, indicating the necessity of securing aim maintaining the cooperative efforts of the many different Functions of the firm (production, "sales, research and development, and so on. The product manager's responsibility for decision making has been partially removed to upper-level management. Profitability remains an indication of a product manager's success, and has been supplemented by sales volume and market share.
Product management is an organizational form that is common to both consumer and industrial businesses. Many of the duties and responsibilities are the same tor product managers in consumer and industrial settings. The major differences are that consumer product managers tend to focus more on one product, devote more attention to advertising and promotion, and operate on a shorter planning horizon. Industrial product managers generally oversee more than one product, focus more on the sales force as the dominant promotional tool, and devote more attention to the technical aspects of the products. The career path for an industrial product manager is likely to have begun with a successful tour of duty in sales.