Is Marketing a Challenging Career? = Solutions

Link to the student activity: Is Marketing a Challenging Career?

Note: This is a FREE solution – which is provided for instructors’ review when considering a GITM Membership.

Suggested Solutions/Teaching Approach

Teaching Note

My solution notes below are based upon my corporate experience, where I worked for six corporations plus founded/ran a small business.

In a large organization where there may be 20+ marketing employees, it is likely that marketing staff will specialize in aspects of marketing, such as communications, research, new product development. However, in small businesses and small organizations, marketers are expected to be across all aspects of the marketing function.

Therefore, the discussion of the broad skill set of a marketer may vary depending upon the organization’s size as well as its industry.


1 = Review the above conversation and list all the challenges discussed by these marketing professionals.

Britney = indicates more scrutiny, critiques and comments from colleagues.

I have found in my experience that because marketing is a “public” profession, where many of the outcomes (products, pricing, promotions, and even sales results) of marketing have high visibility both internally (other staff) and externally (suppliers and customers and retailers) – often there is discussion and criticism of the marketing approach. This is unlikely to be as common in other functions of the company, with the possible exception of senior management overall?

Peter = almost everyone has an opinion about marketing, especially new products and promotional tactics.

Peter continues on reinforcing Britney’s above point, especially the marketing aspects that are more easily seen.

Sara = the number other managers and employees who are nit-picky about an image or some piece of copy, without understanding the essence of the brand position or the intent of the campaign. 

Sara clarifies that the comments tend to be based around individual tactics, without reference to the overall strategy. This would be relatively common criticism, as it is easy to have a negative opinion when you don’t understand the full intent or the for/against arguments for the alternate approaches.

Tommy = the pressure that is placed on us as marketers, what is my salary’s return on investment for the brand.

Some marketers will have the additional pressure on having to pay for themselves. Marketers are expected to produce a financial return to the business and improve sales and profitability. A small business in particular will be looking for a marketing manager to bring in more than the cost of their salary.

Taylor = marketers are expected to “pay our own way” and bring in more than we cost in salary.

Taylor reinforces Tommy’s point, and makes the additional point that this higher standard is unlikely to be applied to staff another functional areas.

Steve the dynamic environment that marketers operate in.

In particular, Steve notes shifts in competitors, innovation, new products, consumer behavior, economic factors – and highlights that it is usually not possible to rollout the same marketing program each year. As we know, a central focus point for the development of marketing strategy is a review and assessment of the internal and external marketing environment, and the identification of key long-term trends.

Zane = we need to test and experiment and to learn.

Zane builds on Steve’s point and highlights that marketers are expected to work out why/how things have changed and constantly improve them. As noted, marketing performance will vary over time as it is impacted by the marketing environment, yet marketers are expected to continually analyze and be aware of key changes and how that may impact marketing programs. And if something goes wrong – that it’s their responsibility to fix it quickly.

Yvette = there are so many approaches and tools we could use.

Yvette rightly points out that every marketing mix configuration is different for each company, primarily because there is so many ways of structuring a marketing program when you get down to the individual tool level, not to mention creating the content approaches, pricing, and product mix design.

Gail = no two firms/brands are ever in the same marketing position. There is no one set solution for any marketing challenge.

Gail builds upon Yvette’s point of the marketing environment. Unlike what may be portrayed by some marketing consultants and advisors, each marketing solution/plan needs to be individually tailored for the brand/firm – there is no simple generic strategy to implement. Otherwise, many competing firms would not be uniquely differentiated if they followed the same strategy exactly.

Harry = needing a broad range of skill sets.

This is part of my teaching note at the start. Depending upon the company and the structure of the marketing department, the individual marketer may need skills in…

  • Strategy development
  • Project management
  • Interpersonal, relationship sales and negotiation skills
  • Writing ability; reports to promotional pieces
  • Presentation and persuasion skills
  • Understand consumer psychology
  • Research, analysis and statistics
  • Financial knowledge
  • HR, training and staff motivation
  • Design: function and style
  • Communication, mediums and social networks
  • Store layout, merchandising and staff process

Marty = the field of marketing keeps changing, e.g. data and analytics.

Marty’s Point is a combination of skill set in the dynamic environment, with skills in marketing not only need to be deepened in certain areas, but new skills need to be developed. A good example is marketing’s expansion into MarTech tools and detailed analytics.

Further reading: MarTech website

Emma = as marketers, we have to “talk the language” of every other discipline.

This is a somewhat similar point to above skill sets, but it means that the marketer needs to have the necessary jargon of finance, IT (etc.) in order to gain credibility with these other departments and functional areas.

Kylie = convince senior management and the CEO, pitching for spending millions of the company’s money.

There are two parts to Kylie’s point – the first is that marketers often have to do stressful and important presentations to senior management, usually based on future plans. And second, that they have the responsibility for spending/investing significant sums of money, for which a positive return on investment is usually expected.

Summary of the above points

  • More public scrutiny, potential criticism, other managers critiquing their work or their reputation
  • Negative comments directed toward individual components of the marketing mix, by others who do not have an understanding of the overall strategy
  • Expected to produce a positive financial return, including covering more than their own salary cost
  • Operating in a dynamic marketing environment
  • Need to constantly test and experiment, and ultimately understand the new marketing conditions/environment
  • Having so many choices of marketing mix configurations to choose from, with no one best solution
  • Needing to have a broad range of skills
  • Keeping their skill sets up-to-date as new techniques and tools emerge
  • Needing to understand the basic jargon of other functional areas in order to improve inter-company communication
  • Convincing senior management of an appropriate strategy to improve the brand/company
  • Being responsible for large marketing budgets that are expected to produce a positive return


2 = In your opinion, which of these challenges would be the most difficult for you to overcome (or mitigate)?

This will vary a little bit by the list that your students have compiled.

They then need to go through their key list and reflect upon themselves = skill sets, working preference, level of self-confidence , etc. and identify which ones would be most challenging to them. Therefore, this activity acts as a reflective exercise.

Obviously, without work experience and understanding of the corporate culture it is difficult to reflect on some of these, but most of them they should be allowed to have an understanding of.

In my experience, working in a dynamic environment, with constant marketing challenges, and the need to develop new skill sets – is what made marketing exciting and interesting to me. I essentially looked at marketing as a series of puzzles to be solved.

For example, sales are down? Why? What’s changed in the marketplace? What does the research tell us? What about competitors been doing? How have we changed our marketing mix? And then using this information to solve the marketing problem and then implement a fix or solution.

You get used to the negative comments over time, particularly with experience and success. Initially, in the early part of your career, it can knock some of the self-confidence out of you. But this will vary by the personality of the student. And as you build a track record of success, you always have that to rely upon.


3 = Do you think that these challenges make marketing more or less interesting as a career option for you?

This is a important reflection question for your students. Some students may be attracted to marketing because it sounds like a fun interesting profession. In reality, it is. But there also the challenges listed above.

Some people might be suited to a more stable and predictable career path, where as others enjoy the challenge of change and problem solving.

Further Reading = For/Against

8 Signs You Might Be Destined to Work in Marketing

Marketing is a Terrible Career Choice and Here’s Why

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