Published Sep 19, 2004

One of the best uses of my time this year was the Graduate Marketing Association’s Marketing Institute. I’ll admit, I was pretty skeptical at first; the GMA has a reputation for being very CPG-oriented, and I’ve publicly declaimed my tech marketing orientation. After a week of midterms and Strategy projects, the 5:45 wakeup for six hours of presentations didn’t seem like the most fun. Happily I was proven quite wrong!

There were a few particularly good speakers, one of whom fortunately presented first. Greg Pollack from PBM Marketing. In my first job, at Pacific Visions, we built strategic partnerships between government and non-profits; PBM marketing does the same for commercial entities. It was fun to think that something I understood could be applied in more ways then I’d known.

But that wasn’t the speaker that made the most impact on me. Rusty Ortiz from Nestle really blew me away. He was a personable man himself, but what was important was the story he told; for the first time, brand management and CPG sounded like a good idea.

In all of my jobs since PVC, I’ve been a bit dissatisfied that we in marketing were running to catch up with everybody else in their departments. We couldn’t drive what happened; we could only follow. But, in CPG, marketing is the driver. Rusty told fascinating stories of moving brands forward with thoughtful consideration, of being in the driver’s seat, of being able to look into the consumer and act on what’s out there.

An earlier speaker, Nancy Zwiers of Funosophy, made a very cogent distinction between marketing-driven companies and sales-driven companies. Sales-driven companies look for marketing to change sales numbers; marketing-driven companies use marketing as a lens through which to see the world, and marketing drives planning and sales. What marketing wouldn’t want to work in a marketing-driven company? Nestle — and Dial, for which Rusty had earlier worked — seemed just that kind of a place.

A few speakers after Rusty came Ned Ward from Mattel. Now, when a toy designer gets up to speak you know you’re going to have a good time, and Ned didn’t disappoint. Funny, with great stories, Ned again showed the value of working at a marketing-driven company.

There were other speakers, and they were all good; but Rusty and Ned, and, to a lesser extent, Nancy, turned me around completely on CPG. I’ll certainkly be seriously considering a CPG internship for the summer, probably more seriously than an internship in tech marketing. Yes, those were six well-spent hours.