For me as a young marketer, there is often a lot of doom and gloom around my chosen career path. It is just not cool anymore to say you are in marketing. Almost on a daily basis I am bombarded with the bad news.
According to the Brand Council SA’s recent Brand Marketing Barometer Survey, the local marketing industry lacks “professional appeal and the ability to show tangible value.” Just last week the Australian website CMO posted an article asking “Why more CMOs aren’t becoming CEOs”. A recent Harvard Business Review blog title reads: Marketing is Dead.
Add to this my own experience working in various marketing departments where a perpetual doubt hangs over the function like a subtle stench – and I have been ready to slit my wrists many times. 
Why, o why, did I not choose one of the classic career paths that is always the sign of good marriage material? Bernard the engineer or chartered accountant. The pilot or the ultimate: Dr Bernard. These are all jobs with a certain eternal appeal to them. People give you that firm nod of approval that comes with the territory.
Calling yourself a marketer, to my dismay, just does not carry the same weight. It is almost as tainted as saying you are a consultant. Both are viewed with suspicion and explains why I am at pains not to call myself a “marketing consultant” – which is like saying I am a “corrupt murderer” – a double whammy!
On this note, I am still trying to figure out the best translation for “Brand Manager” in my native Afrikaans? Just how should I introduce myself to the tannie asking what I do for a living? Somehow saying I am a handelsnaam bestuurder sounds wrong. Not to mention that once I have managed to explain what I do, the natural conclusion often is that I am a Sales Rep. Definitely not good marriage material.
It is with this cloud hanging over a career in brand marketing in mind that I watched a short video clip yesterday with an intriguing title: Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts to join Apple. I say intriguing, because why would the boss of a clothing company move to a technology company? But the answer is soon revealed, providing me with arguably the most powerful affirmation of what a career in brand marketing should be about. Here is the summary:
  • Angela Ahrendts is moving to Apple where she will be the senior vice president for retail and online stores.
  • In the 7 years she has been at Burberry she lifted sales by a whopping 250%, making her the highest paid boss on London’s FTSE 100 stock index. 

And now for the good stuff – how did she do this?
  • She transformed the brand, elevating it to the point where it became aspirational.
  • She embraced technology, extensively using it in the company’s internal operations as well as how it interacts with consumers.
  • She pushed Burberry into new, fast growing markets, such as China.

Listening to this, I was stunned. Here, in a single 2 minute clip is all the evidence of what brand marketing can – and should be! Angela Ahrendts did not primarily grow the Burberry business through the usual suspects of Cost Cutting; Mergers, Acquisitions and Divesting Non-core Assets. She nearly tripled the business and became one of the highest paid CEO’s in Brittain….by focusing on the brand!
She aggressively positioned the brand, embraced technology and entered new markets. She primarily used marketing – not accounting or engineering or logistics – to turn Burberry into one of Britain’s biggest success stories.
I say: Boom! Thanks for coming!
You see, I am beginning to think the marketing fraternity can be divided into two groups. We are like a bunch of kids in a play pen. The majority of us are unhappy because we don’t get to play with the nice toys. We are hoping someone will give us a fun toy to play with and make sure nobody takes it away from us. I call these the whiners – those that wish the title of brand manager, marketing manager, CMO – will give them automatic and immediate status in the way that “Chartered Accountant” does. Then there are the few playing with the best toys – the Angela Ahrendts and Steve Jobs of this world. These are the marketers who don’t need external affirmation of their chosen career path. They don’t need someone to kindly listen to what they have to say; invite them to board meetings and thank them for their contribution. They are not bothered by the sceptics calling what they do “smoke in mirrors”. 
No, these are the marketers that take action! They reposition a brand. They incorporate technology. They push – PUSH – into new markets! These are the doers. Not the whiners.
These are the marketers that become legends. Not just legends in the marketing playground, but legends across all the playgrounds – all industries and all professions. But they are few and far between. They are marketers with guts that don’t believe the world owe them something.
With this in mind, I now take a new look at the Brand Council SA’s survey conclusions. Maybe the local industry is in a tailspin because most of us in the industry don’t have guts.  Maybe most of us in marketing are whiners. Not doers.