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?


Who? 

John Parker

When and where did you work in marketing?

After graduating from university in 1991, I joined Nestles pet care division as a graduate trainee. Starting in sales, I spent a year travelling through western NSW selling 20kg bags of Lucky Dog to blokes in riding boots. Eventually found my way into marketing, spending another few years with that division before moving to confectionery where I looked after the candy roll portfolio that included brands like Lifesavers, XXX Mints, Fruit Tingles and Steam Rollers.

Highest level reached?

Brand manager.

What do you do now?

Today I run Headhunter Pty Ltd, a company dedicated to helping the world’s most creative businesses attract, select, optimise and retain the world’s leading advertising and marketing talent.

Did you choose your path or did it choose you?

It chose me. A sequence of experiences led me to what I am doing today.

When working as a brand manager I realised my passion was for storytelling. So I matched my passion with my skills and found my ‘element’ in the agency world.

I joined Leo Burnett working to develop compelling stories for brands such as Kellogg’s, Heineken, Procter and Gamble, Panasonic and Optus. I then did some time with Lowe working on HSBC, Burger King and later with George Patterson Y and R working on new business development.

I then went in search of a new advertising role and the recruitment firm I had approached in London offered me a job. That was my introduction to recruitment. I later left and started my own recruitment firm which has now stretched into corporate training and employer branding.

What’s the most important skill that you’ve taken from your marketing days?

Ability to manage a profit and loss.

If you had your time again, would you climb the corporate marketing ladder?

No. I don’t feel by having not climbed the corporate marketing ladder I am disadvantaged if I ever had the burning desire to return. I think the diversity throughout my career has strengthened my marketing credentials.

What were the best and worst parts of your role as a brand manager?

There was nothing I disliked, just parts I liked better.

As a discipline marketing needs to encourage greater entrepreneurial capability, reward risk and challenge conventions to create bigger futures for business.

What career tips would you give to an aspirant or current brand manager?

Brands are nothing more than products wrapped in a story:

  1. Find the story that makes consumers feel there is no substitute for your brand,

  2. Most great brand stories challenge conventions about consumers, the brand or the category,

  3. All great stories embody conflict so embrace it,

  4. Let your brand story take your customers on a journey, rather than your customers take your brand on a journey, and

  5. Tell your story where your customers are.

If you want more tips on storytelling do our training course!

Now that you’ve left the world of brand management, are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what are your future career aspirations?

I really enjoy what I do and I think it enjoys me.