Life after brand management: Elizabeth Ball
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?
From 1992-1993 I worked as marketing co-ordinator at The Targeted Approach in Paddington, NSW, working on the British Airways Executive Club account.
From 1993 to 2003 I worked in a range of roles as both copywriter and editor, finally launching a communication portfolio website for communication professionals. I finished up that part of my career at Red Balloon in Sydney, a specialist occasion and experience website.
Highest marketing level reached?
Marketing manager at RedBalloon (www.redballoon.com.au)
What do you do now?
In December 2006 I launched my website business ‘It’s In The Stars’ where I create luxury astrology reports for couples (LoveStars) and parents (BabyStars) as personalised gifts through my website www.itsinthestarsonline.com and through 25 gift websites across Australia and New Zealand.
Did you choose your path or did it choose you?
A bit of both. One of my responsibilities at RedBalloon was to work with businesses to provide prizes to create opportunities for our business development team and I was approached by a MGSM student to offer a prize for the MBA Graduate dinner. I attended the dinner to present the prize and instead was inspired to do an MBA to further my career development.
I had helped grow RedBalloon through client case studies, events, speaking engagements, sponsorships, structured PR campaigns and member subscription drives, but it was no longer the small company I wanted to work for, having grown to 27 people when I left and changed premises.
While at RedBalloon, I noticed a niche in the market for luxury astrology reports that people could give as unique gifts for anniversaries, babies, birthdays, Christmas, engagements, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and weddings, and wanted a robust business plan and a chance to upgrade my skills. The MBA gave me that structure.
What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?
Distribution is key. And being aware that the brand is everything your customer experiences from the first point of contact.
If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?
No, I’m inspired by my grandfather, who was an entrepreneur, to create my own empire!
What were the best and worst parts of your role as BM?
Best – seeing a fledgling business grow in consumer awareness through many of my own efforts.
Worst – Not having a share in the company’s profits!
What career tips would you offer an aspirant or current BM?
I’d thoroughly recommend you first read What Colour Is Your Parachute? before you apply for any role. This amazing job psychology book has you rate and rank your career strengths and workplace preferences to help manifest your dream job.
I did all the book’s exercises and identified my creativity and resourcefulness would work best in a small company in a terrace [yes, you can be that specific!] in a cosmopolitan setting with workmates who would also be friends. Within two weeks I saw a product manager’s role advertised for RedBalloon on Seek and filled out the application. My interview was at Naomi Simson at her terrace in Balmain, and she decided instead to make me the marketing manager as she saw I had a lot of experience to offer.
Whatever brand you’re representing, it is so much easier to jump out of bed every morning when you treat it as if it was your own product that you began from scratch. If the company workplace doesn’t “speak” to you that you were meant to join them, when you enter the door for your first interview – walk away.
Passion is a boring cliché but people really know if you love what you’re marketing as if it were your own child. When I left RedBalloon to do my MBA I felt as if I had given up my “child” for adoption and found it surprisingly sad.
Now that youve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?
Yes, I have been studying astrology since I was 12 and love how it helps people understand themselves and others, so once more, I have a dream job!
I hope one day that ‘It’s In The Stars’ brand recognition will get to the point where people will ask if you got a BabyStars report on the birth of your child or for Mother’s Day, or a LoveStars report for your anniversary, engagement, Valentine’s Day or wedding.