First of all, how did I land the corporate life…
I have always been a ‘marketing’ guy. But when I went to college, marketing = sales and believe me, I wasn’t a sales person. So, this new fangled internet thing was just taking hold and everyone was lining up to be the next Network Engineer, or if you were me…. you saw the opportunity going into development. With that stage being set, I started college as a Computer Science major. But when second level C++ programming came up on the list, I quickly changed paths. Going back to my roots, I moved to Business Management, where I saw myself eventually owning or running an agency full of brilliant ad men & ladies and dominating the branding world. Marketing FTW!!
However, risks of owning and running an agency when you have NO REAL WORLD experience was just a bit much and my interests were forced to change again. I did my time working for small organizations, single handedly running marketing departments and I did quite well for myself. This work netted me a brand development role with a medium sized multi-national. This was it… this was the realistic dream I have been searching for: Becoming a brand manager with a massive multi-national conglomerate. Seeing myself being the next Brand Manager to bring to market the likes of Swiffer, Axe Body Wash or Google Glass invoked a sense of anticipation that I have never experienced before. Walk into every store in the country and see your products = perfection.
As I continued down my destined path, I grew in the role and it landed me a Product Management role in a massive multi-national conglomerate.. This was it…. I was now responsible for launching some of the greatest products the world has to offer. I launched products and the sense of pride/accomplishment/ego that came over me everytime I walked into a Home Improvement store was the reason I did it! This would be my career and the fire burned super bright….
Until the fire went out…
The further I got down the path, I couldn’t get away from my fascination for the internet and this unbelievable mystery about the agency life. Being in brand management kept me away from the one thing that continued to burn through my heart and mind. I was working 60-70 hours weeks consistently and still caught myself digesting everything there was to know about what is happening on the web. Knowledge Graph, Hummingbird, Panda 2.0, Penguin 2.0…. all happened and I stalked/observed from the outside like a jealous ex boyfriend on Facebook. This job I thought was my passion just wasn’t… Every night, I went home and read all night about what was happening with winners and losers on the web.
And then the decision was made…
I was going to do it…. Leave my dream job and long term sustainable career with upward mobility to join the crazyness of an agency? The unpredictability, the long hours, the crazy clients, the ticking time of the ‘clock.’ All of these items got me fired up, instead of invoking the typical reaction, which was run for the hills. The question is why? Ultimately, there were several factors that led to my decision to throw away the dream career that I have been working so hard for and enter the throws of the agency life.
I feel the decision I made isn’t necessarily unique and feel that the below thoughts are indicative of how corporate america burns out their greatest assets, and is forced to supplement this talent void, with none other than agencies. Which is why driven, infovore marketers such as myself are making the leap to agency life. All of the joys of corporate marketing, but on a macro scale surrounded by droves of brilliant marketers like yourself.
Without further ado.. here are the reasons I left Corporate America for the agency life.
- You can’t win the race while sitting at the starting line: A hyper speed product development and launch is 6-9 months. Then you have corporate red tape, constant meetings about meetings which involve additional meetings, countless number crunching in attempts to find a way we can squeeze that additional .25% margin out of the product, the constant raw material rodeo to find cheaper materials, various design iterations, in which every C-Suite member instantly becomes an acclaimed product designer, the projections, the retail partners and their constant foot on the throat power grab, and o yea… meetings…. all items that lead to delays, and more delays. To top it all off, delays caused by the C-Suite, followed shortly by the inevitable ‘walk to the principal’s office’ to get the ‘YOUR LATE’ tongue lashing by the same C-Suite who delayed your project. Joys!
- Red Tape is the only color tape the Office Services team can’t order in bulk: Everyone knows about the infamous TPS reports but seriously…. Red Tape is the cornerstone of Corporate America. Before you can do anything, fill this form out, get it approved by these 25 senior members (who are never in the office…sorry) and then run it back through those who didn’t see the change approver #24 made. Sorry about your timeline friend.
- You can’t shoot the gun with the safety on: Fear…. what drives corporate america. We can’t launch this product because it loosely infringes on a sister company’s product. We can’t make the product in this new innovative package because the staff is trained on the old manufacturing equipment. Everyone LOVES the current product offering available today. Why would they want innovation? The incumbent organization, for which your product directly competes is the preferred brand, your product has no chance. All questions that show Corporate America’s greatest trait…. Fear. You think that Square was concerned about the incumbent credit card companies when they launched?? You think that Amazon believed everyone who thought people wouldn’t buy books, lawnmowers, and costume sunglasses from the internet? The constant second guessing never allows you to make your profit goals.
- Group-think is the only kind of thinking allowed in our meetings: Here is a wonderful idea…. break away from your plugged in and efficient productivity mode, sit in a room with 10 other people and recap an email that was sent to all 11 of you. Then lets go back and forth on discrediting every line in this email to why it doesn’t pertain to my department, why I have done everything in my power to make this correct, and end the meeting concluding that John in accounting (who is the only person not invited to the meeting) was to blame for this issue. Agree to meet back in 1 week, just to rinse and repeat. That my friend…. is how great products are launched.
- Projections are made to be unattainable: Why would we create a goal that can be reached? What is a great marketer, manager, contributor, if they have accomplished their goals?? Who wants an accomplished employee?? Not us…. unattainable goals are what keeps employees motivated to do more. And when they fail, we squash their ego like bugs and increase the goal by 20% next year. Good luck employee, enjoy the free coffee.
- Research can tell you anything you want to hear, but most of all, it is wrong: The mind of the consumer. The holy grail of any brand marketer. Brands spend six figures plus to get into the mind of a consumer. They achieve the exact results they are looking for and when presented to the C-Suite, they punch as many holes as possible to discredit the research that you do not even believe the research. They decide the product needs to go against the research, and when it fails, you didn’t follow the research.
As most brand marketers, I could go on and on. But these 6 suffice why many of the most gifted brand marketers leave Corporate America and contribute their knowledge to agencies. And these are the reasons why I left my dream job (and corporate america) to join the agency life. Corporate America will not listen, change, do anything but continue to drive their biggest and brightest across the sound to greener pastures of the agency. And now fully entrenched into the agency life, I would say, that I have found my niche and enjoying every second of this.