From the bright orange walls to the neon green nose above boss man’s desk, Cranium 360 is a culture shock compared to every other business I’ve ever worked for. Working for a marketing agency means days that go from discussions about industrial insulation to blogging about interior design, to calling Google to fix a client’s address listing. It may be a whirlwind but it’s the most fun I’ve had in a job.
Most students in the CMU business school see marketing majors as creative, “artsy” people who didn’t want to work hard enough to get a degree in fine arts. Or maybe that’s just what my fellow students say to me when they hear that I was once a fine arts student. In truth, most good marketers have their feet planted firmly on the ground, which means the dollar value of each action is budgeted and each step to the target goal is mapped. I get to work with Bridgett and her calculator every day and I’m starting to see just how cost analysis goes into every decision we make here.
Art in its classic form is stagnant compared to the rest of the world. Basic art classes teach drawing, oil paint, pottery and sculpture the same way it’s been taught for centuries. Charcoal pencils are likely to never go out of fashion and knowing how to use them is a skill that will be useful for a lifetime.
Marketing is a completely different beast. As an intern going to school for marketing and working in the real world for a marketing agency, I see a huge disconnect. The skills today’s marketing experts use haven’t hit the textbooks that were published last year (the same textbooks every student paid full retail price for this semester). Subjects such as search engine optimization (SEO) and the importance of social media scheduling are either brief or non-existent topics in every book I’ve purchased for a marketing course. Don’t get me wrong: Professors try as hard as they can to equip students for the world of digital media that is already saturated with messages and guerilla marketing campaigns for which some companies pay millions. They just can’t keep up.
The only way to have a real handle on the world of marketing today is by immersion. To be marketing professionals in the twenty-first century, we have to be lifelong learners. Some tasks that seem easy, such as getting Google to recognize a business’s change of address, are much more difficult in reality. Online marketing is such a fast-paced, ever-changing field that marketers in Seattle have a Search Marketing Expo (SMX) to discuss changes, updates and new findings every year. Writers of college textbooks simply can’t turn the new techniques into relevant course material as fast as the techniques change.
In the real world, marketers are problem-solvers more often than they are creators. In college classes, students often get to create marketing campaigns, design events and create marketing materials for whatever company they choose or a fictional company they create. In this way, students can often manipulate the company, product or target market to match the type of marketing campaign they design. The real world doesn’t often have that luxury.
At Cranium 360, we get to design marketing campaigns for the products our clients sell, not whatever we want them to sell. There are four “Ps” in marketing: product, place, price, and promotion. As an agency, our clients tell us what the product and price are and usually where the place will be. The means that our job is to create promotional materials, plan events and create campaigns to connect an existing product at an existing price to a target market. Connecting the two is (almost) our whole job – that’s where the problem solving starts.