Brandt on Leadership -- You, Too, Can Be a Marketing Consultant

The road to obscene riches begins with learning the Four "Rs" of Marketing.

Many people mistakenly believe that a career as a highly paid marketing professional is beyond their reach, assuming that they could never be creative or brazen enough to craft (and charge for) a global marketing plan full of meaningless buzzwords, at least not without extensive training, years of experience and a slightly warped sense of ethics. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth; here at the University of Pennsylvania and Youghigheny Marketing Entrepreneurship (UPAYME) program, we can teach you everything you need to know to become an obscenely compensated marketing consultant in just four weeks:

Week 1: Reinvent. No matter how well-educated or competent you may be, you'll never make it as a big-time marketing guru without repackaging yourself into something so avant garde that insecure executives will assume you must be a genius. During your first week our on-staff stylists will create a new you with such time-tested techniques as hairstyle (really long or nubbly short); eyeglasses (plastic frames that show you're artistic, as opposed to those practical types who wear contact lenses); and thrift-shop clothing (nothing says "desperate trendsetter" quite so loudly as an out-of-date tie or jacket). At the same time, our communications staff will rework your skimpy resume to morph vaguely related projects into transformational market initiatives and enormous screwups (think New Coke) into explorations of the marketing frontier. Remember that it's not nearly as important for you to be smart as it is for you to appear smart -- or, at the very least, smarter than your client, who's about to pay dearly for trusting his business to a guy with a bad haircut and funny glasses.

Week 2: Rebrand. The only negative to getting a highly paid marketing gig is that you'll be probably be expected to do something. Week 2 will teach you that the easiest way to make a big splash quickly (without having to do real work like reconfiguring a distribution channel) is to throw up your hands in disgust at the stupidity of your predecessors and announce a corporate-wide rebranding effort. You'll live the high life as overpriced ad agencies wine and dine you for the chance to do your job ("I think I like the blue design... no, the red...") even as you maximize your retainer thanks to a years-long implementation of ridiculous new brand guidelines (reprinting all letterhead, business cards, building signs, etc.) Best of all, even if sales completely tank, no self-preserving CEO will admit to his board that he should have asked you to sell something instead of commissioning goofy new logos. Sweet!

Week 3: Repurpose. Eventually even the lengthiest rebranding effort will end, meaning that you'll start hearing impertinent whispers about results (or lack thereof). Now is the time for a fancy strategic plan, one that sounds bold (to silence your critics) without actually being ambitious (so as not to terrify your bosses). In Week 3 we'll teach you how to create a presentation full of spiffy charts, meaningless graphs and concepts shamelessly stolen -- er, repurposed -- from your predecessor's files. Our staff of moral relativists will coach you on how to pass off previous strategies as your own by using Orwellian slogans such as Building on the Past to Create a Brighter Future. Remember, too, that whatever plan you create can be used again and again by changing the names of the company and products -- which leads to...

Week 4: Renegotiate. The most important skill of all to a marketing consultant. Let's face it: You're not enrolling here at UPAYME to spend the rest of your life worrying about how many SKUs this stupid company has at a Bulky-Mart in Nowheresville, USA. That's why Week 4 is all about how to get paid, here or elsewhere, regardless of whether you succeed. We'll teach you how to describe marketing as "more art than science" as well as providing a list of other departments to blame should revenues collapse (Note: Sales is always a good place to start; just say they're lazy and didn't put in the time to learn your new program). The good news is that even if you do get fired by this company, there's always another one standing in line, just waiting for a smart guy with cool glasses and a fancy PowerPoint deck.

They might even be ready for a rebranding!

John R. Brandt, formerly editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek, is CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, a research and consulting firm based in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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