Marketers: It's Time to Leave a Safe but Stagnant Job

Five Success Situations Smart Marketers Should Look For in 2015

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With a new year, new budget, and maybe even a few new ideas after catching up on reading over the break, many marketers have high hopes this month for making an innovative impact on their brands. But smart marketers do more than bring big ideas -- they realize that choosing where they work is the most important key to success.

Take a look at the most successful marketers you know or have read about. Nearly all of them have seen their careers defined by an industry-recognized innovation story. Careers are made by the big brand turnarounds, Cannes-winning campaigns, and killer new product launches.

If you want to make a massive impact in your marketing career, you're going to have to leave the "safe" but stagnant desk you are sitting at now and look for a company that desperately needs your innovation. Here are five success situations smart marketers should look for in 2015.

1. New, growing brands

There's nothing more fun than getting on a rocket ship as it's about to take off, and this is one of the places where you can provide the fuel and enjoy the ride. Here, great marketing can be the ingredient needed to win in a crowded marketplace. Dollar Shave Club was an interesting startup, but would have been unknown without a launch video that had everyone clicking and laughing.

In other cases, a brand starts growing because of a disruptive product, and marketing is encouraged to keep up by defining the brand with advertising innovation. Look at how Chobani burst onto the scene by creating the Greek yogurt category, leaving its huge competitors in the dairy-aisle dust.

2. True turnarounds

Smart marketers learn something early in their careers: It's best to join a business when share and sales are down. Why? Well, that's when the company needs change and leadership the most. This can be the "burning platform" where bureaucracy is swept aside and everyone on the team is keyed up and feeling the pressure that can lead to improvement.

My favorite example here is Old Spice, a brand that was as ineffective as day-old deodorant for years. Then Axe invaded from Europe and disrupted the market. Armed with a new leadership team, creative agency and freedom to let go of the bureaucratic brakes at P&G, the Old Spice team began building and buying the big ideas that eventually led to, you know, that guy.

3. Small brand within a big marketer

Another great "big company" situation can occur when you grab the reins of a small brand. In the right situations, management is too busy worrying about the larger brands and products in the portfolio, so they give you more decision-making freedom to go for it.

I was lucky enough to be in such a situation as the brand manager at P&G's Mr. Clean about a decade ago. It was small and declining in sales, but still important -- just not as important as Swiffer and Tide. We had a tiny budget but complete freedom to launch Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. We got scrappy by using almost our entire marketing budget on internet sampling. As a result of the word-of-mouth seeded by the sampling campaign, Magic Eraser quickly blew away customer and sales expectations.

4. Led by an innovator

There are certain leaders at large companies who make it much easier for their entire marketing organizations to win with innovation. These are the men and women who publicly encourage new ideas, break through the barriers, create structural improvements, and get out of the way when it's time to recognize others. But most importantly, these leaders stick around for years instead of skipping around from one sexy title or bigger paycheck to the next.

You don't have to work with a brand-name leader, but make sure you find a place where the marketing lead wants to innovate as much as you do.

5. Culture of living the brand

Not many companies get to this, unfortunately, but the best example I've seen is Red Bull. The brand starts by only hiring people that personify every single one of its brand equity characteristics. Once on board, their job is to do very, very cool stuff that only Red Bull would and could do. Red Bull marketers don't write briefs and hand them to agencies to come back with ideas -- the Red Bull team itself comes up with, and executes, the ideas. The results speak for themselves.

If you are not currently sitting in a job that fits one or more of these five scenarios, and you want to make a noticeable difference in your marketing career, it's time to start the job search. Seriously. For those who truly want to innovate and lead, life is too short to sit through hours of soul-killing business reviews and endless Powerpoint presentations in hopes that one day you will have the freedom to try something new.

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