So many candidates with excellent marketing backgrounds tell me they want to move into the FMCG sector. My heart always sinks as I have to be the voice of doom explaining why this is not an easy move and certainly not a move a recruiter is very often able to facilitate.
As a recruitment consultant with a background in FMCG marketing, I do have to wonder why the FMCG sector is viewed by so many as being the ultimate sector to move into. Of course, I am slightly biased and I do believe FMCG is a fabulous sector in which to develop your marketing career, but only if you already have the right grounding. Working in financial marketing or telecoms, is just not going to cut it.
What is the essential experience a Brand Manager needs?
Brand marketing is about dissecting the brand DNA, unlocking consumer insights and then developing compelling concepts and propositions, that not only consumers want to consume, but that the factory can actually make.
So, it’s finding that balance between factory capabilities and consumer demand – can that production line switch from roll wrap to flow wrap, or will reducing saturated fat create the same texture of product?
And even before the product is made, the Brand Manager must consider the consumer benefits. Unlocking the emotional benefits of a brand are equally important to the functional benefits and Brand Managers spend ages pondering brand diamonds and brand pyramids to find that perfect brand “essence”. This will sound alien if you’ve never been exposed to this kind of marketing exercise before!
Brand marketing is not product marketing – it is a never-ending stream of brief writing for R&D teams and flavour/fragrance houses. It’s also about packaging and design, working closely with repro houses and attending print runs at 3 o’clock in the morning.
It’s about pouring over Nielsen, IRI and Kantar data, as well as Millward Brown image measures; brand equity studies, concept tests, in home tests, consumer immersion days, segmentation and U&A studies. It’s about ad pre-testing and NPD trackers.
Then there is the trade sell typically for the multi grocery channel. The Top four demand deep cut promotions, whilst the Brand Manager is fighting to build brand equity. The FMCG Brand Manager’s challenge is to encourage repeat purchase when not on deal and to ensure volume targets are met. When a price increase is forced through, how do you, as the marketer, justify this to the consumer?
Then there is the creative and media briefings where experience of media laydowns and TVRs are key, as is knowing how to constructively feed back on TV or press creative.
And let’s not forget the P&L experience you need, and by P&L, I don’t mean being responsible for the marketing budget. It’s about understanding revenue, cost of goods, gross contribution, profit and EBITDA. It’s not scary, but it’s something that even junior FMCGers will be exposed to.
Whilst it isn’t impossible to make the move into FMCG, just consider the challenges you pose to marketing recruiters and do try to listen and take in the expertise of a recruitment consultant as to how this might just be a little harder than you think.
Janine Darley is a marketer turned recruitment consultant now specialising in FMCG marketing jobs at Tarsh Lazare.
Image – Canvas