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New Trends Seen in Sales Promotion Jobs

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Q - What trends do you see in the field?

A -  I believe that a major new industry will come into being promotion consulting. Right now there are a few in marketing consulting who deal with promotion services. There's really not a good solid foundation in academic theory or in the business community that deals with sales promotion. And I think that is going to be changing. Couponing has increased from $20 billion to $100 billion from 1973 to 1980.

At one time, if there was some promotion to do, it would go to a junior copywriter or a junior art director. There was a little negative stigma there. In the last ten to fifteen years, promotion has steadily grown in terms of total share of the marketing budget. Advertising has declined, but the promotion share is growing at a steady pace. Marketing managers and executives have started to look to promotion, because it easily measured, gets fast action in the field, and has become more of viable tool. Money is getting tight, and they have made more demand for a more professional approach, something closer to what an advertising agency does in terms of developing advertising.

I don't think that in the next ten years we're going to see the spectacular growth in terms of promotion that we've had in the previous ten, but until promotion gets more professional, it's going to keep climbing and be increasingly easier to sell and to justify to the client. But can't grow forever.

Q -  What advice do you have for someone considering a career in sales promotion?

A -  I suggest that to prepare for a career in promotion, focus o courses that encourage the student to be the most creative, such as creative writing, acting, journalism, or sociology. Find a way to be creative I believe very strongly that people are not necessarily born creative.

Don't take too many courses where there is no room for discussion, like calculus. That does not allow you any room for creativity. Find things to do in addition to your curriculum. Think of yourself as creative person.

You can become skilled in promotion, but the promotion community is a very small one. There are only a couple hundred promotion experts in the world, maybe even fewer than that. Make marketing you focus, and once you get into marketing if you find that you love promotion, make yourself a promotion expert. If you are interested in promotion, look at advertising agencies as well as promotion agencies or companies that are large enough to have a promotion department.

Q - What about the job do you dislike?

A - Because I can only recommend, I can't legislate what happens. I get frustrated when I can't convince people to accept and us what I think are good ideas. When I make a recommendation to a brand replying to a request from them, suggesting what I think is the best way to handle a problem or improve business, and they either ignore it c decide to do something radically different, that is frustrating.

I sometimes feel deadline pressure, and that is stressful for me. I panic when I think that unless I get brands to agree to something we are going to throw off the timing. That makes me uncomfortable. There is stress, but I manage it well. I don't think I'm victimized by them. When you're in the field, you are one of the gang. When you get taken out of the field, then you are put into what they consider the ivory tower. Once you leave the field, you're no longer one of the gang anymore, you're one of office people, even though you spent all that time in the field. You lose a little credibility because you're not out there "fighting the wars" every day, now you're telling them how to d "This is how I think we should sell it," there's a tendency for the field people to resent that a little.

Q - What skills are important?

A - You have to have extremely good communication skills. You have to think and speak on your feet very well, and you have to be smart to persuade in a positive manner. You also have to be able to quickly grasp the elements of a problem, understand what the objective is and figure out solutions. In other words, you should be able to identify a problem and be decisive in moving to a conclusion.

Giving people an idea to execute that is not their own isn't easy. Because we have so many "achiever" individuals here, if they haven't thought of it themselves, they have less commitment to it. So, you need be diplomatic.

For creative people, it's a fairly easy adaptation from an advertising agency. The one difference is the pace; it is far more hectic at promotion agency than at an advertising agency. The pressure is on all the time, because projects are shorter term than those of an advertising agency. You may have a big crunch once or twice a year. The other thing that you have to have a little more marketing knowledge in terms of the basic techniques of promotion, and you must be a little more interested in the figures. For example, if you decided to do a coupon drop in newspaper, it's fairly cut and dry creatively, and the media choice is more creative than the execution. It may be far wiser to do a coupon drop than a sweepstakes, where you get to have some fun and do some ling very imaginative. You have got to learn to dampen that productivity take the most fun job. You've got to pick the smartest way to go in firms of marketing.

Another section in our organization is largely concerned with analysis and research. They've got one supervisor who concentrates on promotion analysis and research doing studies, looking at results, and analyzing different types of promotional events. Another supervisor does the same thing for broader market issues, particularly new brand introductory type things.

Testing services is like market research, but it is done in a more controlled environment. It is a prescreening promotional tool. Our international liaison collects information and data from our international companies for our use and circulates our information to them.
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