In this careers feature, Liz Foster asks the question, with the number of corporate marketing roles shrinking as you climb the ladder, where do all the brand managers go?
When and where did you work in marketing?
I started my career in London working on the 2004 BRIT Awards (the UK equivalent to the ARIA Awards) as an event coordinator. Then in 2005 I moved to Sydney to work for MTV Networks Australia, where I planned and spearheaded the team that launched two new local channels in New Zealand, MTV and Nickelodeon. Then in 2006 I moved to Auckland, where I managed the launch of MTV into New Zealand.
Highest marketing level reached?
Most recently I was head of Marketing for MTV Networks New Zealand where I managed all areas of marketing activity including traditional and digital B2C marketing initiatives, online and offline public relations and events. It was incredibly exciting working on a high profile international brand launching into a new region.
What do you do now?
In 2008 I quit my dream job at MTV to launch The Loop (www.theloop.com.au), a career networking and portfolio-building site for creative professionals.
Did you choose your path or did it choose you?
A bit of both! The Director of Digital at MTV, and my great friend, Matt Fayle approached me with the idea for The Loop. Being the digital guy he was constantly being asked by friends & colleagues for advice on the best way to build their own websites to showcase their portfolio of work and promote themselves to potential employers and clients.
On the flip side I was finding it increasingly frustrating finding fresh creative talent to work on campaigns. I always had a clear vision of the type of photographer, designer, stylist etc I wanted to use but there was no easy place to search and identify upcoming talent. We were overly dependent on word of mouth – and incredible people were slipping through the net.
We brought these frustrations together and the idea for The Loop was born.
What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?
Marketing budgets at MTV weren’t huge, so the most important skill I learnt was creativity. I thrived on coming up with low cost, high impact campaigns.
For example, in 2006 I came up with the concept of The MTV Mile High Gig, the first ever in-flight gig onboard a commercial airplane. We flew hip-hop artist Dizzee Rascal in from the UK who performed at 37,000 feet onboard an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Sydney.
It was a logistical nightmare. We had to rehearse in a grounded airplane in a deserted airport hanger at 3am, borrow a battery pack from the then Prime Minister John Howard (his private jet had the only battery pack powerful enough in Australasia to support all the sound equipment) and navigate the endless layers of red tape that is understandably in place when you bring massive amounts of equipment, and potential rowdy passengers, onboard a commercial flight!
It was incredible and terrifying all at the same time, a real career high. The entire event cost me only $10k and secured millions in media coverage. The event also bagged me an ANZ PROMAX for Best Innovative Idea.
Being able to successful market a brand, on a frugal budget, has been invaluable while starting my own business. The Loop currently has over 6500+ active users and over 750 amazing brands onboard – including the likes of Network TEN, Frost Design, Pacific Magazines, Animal Logic, Discovery Networks, SBS, Frankie magazine and more – but our marketing budget currently sits at $0 as we leverage partnerships, contra and other social media platforms to drive traffic back to the site.
If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?
Absolutely. I could never have started my own business straight out of university. The skills I learnt along the corporate ladder have been invaluable. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?
When you’re young and hungry – MTV is an incredible brand to work on. Being a youth brand it was constantly reinventing itself and every day brought a new challenge. I loved that about MTV, life was never dull.
However, there comes a point where staying out all night attending gigs and events, an endless supply of free alcohol, freebie CDs and living on a not-so-great salary starts to lose its appeal. I guess thats why my business partner and I jumped ship. We both left on a high before it started wearing us down. We’re still very much part of the MTV family, and regularly pop by for the freebie drinks!
What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?
Love the brand you work on. When you’re passionate about the work you do its infections. All the truly great BM’s I know, are an extension of the brand they represent. Don’t settle for middle ground – go for the best you know and love.
Now that youve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?
In many ways I feel that I am still a BM, it’s just the brand I manage is my own brand!. As a BM you’re meant to help steer the 4P’s (Product, Price, Place & Promotion) but invariably promotion is the only aspect you have 100% say in. With your own business you can ensure the brand is at the forefront of all business decisions, which is how it should be but rarely is. I can’t tell you how magic it is to wake up every day and not only work on a brand you love, but a brand you own. I feel really lucky!