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November 4, 1998

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Subject: Re: What to do....
Author: laopera

Suesan, I'm sure others will give you general advice on how to approach the problem. Take tests, seek counseling, whatnot. No, no, no. I'm going to give you some specific advice. Locate the nearest Fortune 500 company, and see if there is a job open as a Marketing Analyst. You have the perfect background for it. I'm not kidding.

First of all, these companies are looking for a very lugubrious quality called "intellectual capital", and the only place it fits into is in the marketing department, where nothing is ever really sold. You have an arcane educational background, and that is the perfect background for a Fortune 500 Marketer. The more arcane the better. Folkloric Anthropology, you say? That is almost too general. Most Fortune 500 companies are looking for someone with something a little more specialization, say Early Norse Folkloric Anthropology. That indicates to them that you have had the ability to pursue a field to its full known extent. The more adjectives to the subject domain of your study, the more you look like intellectual capital to the intellect-starved corporation.

Secondly, you have probably never seen a marketing textbook. Perfect! There is no more useless thing to study in college than marketing. You will not have been corrupted by any completely erroneous information that comes your way from a marketing textbook.

You see, all college marketing textbooks make it look like marketing runs the company. This is what most marketing analysts believe when they first hire into a firm, and you will have an edge up on everyone because you have not been taught this. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth than this. Marketing textbooks suggest that marketing runs the company precisely because they are written by aged marketers, some of whom hung out with people who ran the company. They have glossed over this fact over time. When they have put their experience to paper, they actually believe that they ran the company, even though on any company's org chart marketing is a curious dotted line radiating from some very high-up person's office and not quite connected to anything else, and which changes connecting points to different high-ups every time the company has a flat quarter.

Thirdly, you do not have an MBA. Now we are getting into an area I know very well, because I myself am the only Marketing Executive at my company without an MBA. Because you do not have an MBA, you will be depended on to do many things that MBAs cannot do. Chief among them will be the employment of common sense.

Oh, yes, Marketing MBAs know how to operate Lotus and Excel, to a limited degree, anyway. But they do not know how to use common sense. For instance, sometimes the Vice Chairman of a company says that Marketing should spend $1,000,000 dollars this year on advertising. Then a Marketing MBA will contract an ad agency for $1,000,000 to devise ads, and then, after having spent all the money devising the ads, will ask the ad agency if by the way there is there any money left to purchase ad space. Then the Vice Chairman will send the Marketing department $3,000,000, and the VC and the Marketing Department will call this a branding campaign. Then in two years everyone in Marketing gets laid off.

But most seasoned senior marketing executives have learned this behavior, and they prefer to keep budgetary matters out of the hands of Marketing MBAs, and they actually look for people like Folkloric Anthropology majors to watch matters like this, because the Folkloric Anthropology majors are so much more in tune with the real world than Marketing MBAs.

To cover the rest of what you do not know about marketing: if you are asked any question at all about marketing, you should say, "I think we should further segment the market," and you will be correct 85% of the time. Never mind what it might mean. Just say it. You are right. Say it in your interview over and over. Your firm will wonder how you got to be such a marketing wizard. For your signing bonus, as a rule of thumb, you should ask for $5,000 for every time you have said it in your interview.

Suesan, I hope this helps. I have spent some time in marketing, and it is a very rewarding profession. And take inspiration from this awe-inspiring dictum, which I have heard at every ad agency at which I've ever worked: "If the client wants you to mow the lawn, mow the lawn!"

Yours truly,

laopera
Marketing Executive at the nation's 35th or 36th largest bank


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