Marketing is a Terrible Career and Here's Why

Have you ever heard the song lyrics, "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys" by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings?

It is time to update those lyrics, don't let your babies grow up to be marketers. Marketing has become a career choice where only a few survive. Hours are long, timelines are short, resources are few, and campaigns never end because the world is connected 24/7.

It really is a terrible career choice . . . with one exception . We will get to that later.

You might be thinking, wait, isn't this the guy who challenges people to be their ideal professional self? Guilty, I do have a strong calling on my life to encourage others.

Also, isn't this the guy who owns a marketing consulting business? Um, yes that's me as well.

All that means is I have firsthand experience to the dangers of marketing and can explain why you should run from the industry. I have made my life choices and am here to warn others unless you are part of the exception, again we will cover this soon enough. 

But first, we need a little background. 

What is Marketing?

Most people do not know the fundamentals of what marketing truly is and what it is not.

Marketing is a complex science.  

Creating beautiful images is called art, developing captivating content that leads to sales based on data is called marketing. The more you learn about the field, the more you realize marketing truly is a science. Don't believe me? What does one of the all-time great marketers say on the subject? 

"Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals." ~ David Ogilvy

Research is a foundational aspect of, you guessed it, science. Need more evidence? 

Market research, globally, surpassed $40B in 2013 and continues to grow. That's just the research, next steps in a marketing campaign include strategy, execution, analytics, and maintenance. Marketing campaigns are scientific experiments.

Remember back to learning about the scientific method? The same approach is taken with marketing campaigns. A hypothesis is developed, e.g. buyers will purchase X product because of Y campaign. 

The campaign is continuously monitored and variables are altered to see if the hypothesis is either validated, people spend money, or invalidated, people don't spend money. Afterward, it is adjusted and tested again. This is a very rudimentary explanation, but get's to the point on how marketing mimics the scientific method (here is more information on the marketing process).

Now we know, marketing is a science, it is not art. There are artistic elements to marketing but the essence of marketing is scientific. 

Why Marketing is a Terrible Career

We understand marketing is a science, that actually sounds fun for many people. They can use their scientific talents and throw in creativity for businesses to test campaigns which increase profits. What is terrible about that?

Let's start with pay. 

"Marketing graduates earned the lowest starting salaries of $51,900 among business graduates, according to the September 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey -- a 2.8 percent decrease from 2012."

Similar stats are shown for graduate students. Many MBAs sign large offers when they graduate for consulting, banking, and management roles. Marketing . . . not so much.

Alright, pay isn't great. But, as a marketer you will be able to create amazing campaigns that are both scientific and creative! Sometimes. Speak with any marketer and ask them how many of their campaigns have been constantly edited to the point of being unrecognizable to the creator. 

If you spend any time in marketing, others will critique your work constantly. Many people cannot handle this pressure and criticism. Deadlines are short, resources are scarce, and you will be expected to produce something that looks like a mixture of Apple, Nike, and Facebook.

Good luck.

What most companies don't understand is the best marketing campaigns take months, if not a year+, to develop, test, alter, and improve upon before being launched. You will be expected to accomplish everything the top companies do with a fraction of the budget and timeline.

Moreover, marketing is the only industry I know of where everyone can have a say in a campaign. Marketers spend hundreds of hours researching, creating, improving, and polishing projects. Then when they show a sample, everyone has an opinion on how to improve.

These same people don't understand all the components that go into a campaign, yet they are now experts. Could you imagine someone with no background in accounting going and suggesting improvements to a balance sheet or income statement? Of course not, that would be ridiculous, but marketers deal with this daily.

Marketers quickly learn you can't take criticism personally and you must possess the memory of Dory. Just keep marketing.

Now you know, as a marketer you won't make much money and all your campaigns will be criticized. Yet, I did say there is an exception where marketing can be amazing. 

You are the Chosen One 

I generally like cliches, they have made it to the realm of a cliche for a reason. Many times there is a truth in them even if they are not 100% accurate. 

Have you ever heard the one, a career chooses you? I did not choose to be a marketer, the industry chose me. As much as I have tried to pull away from marketing, it keeps pulling me back.

I have a confession, I love marketing. It can be the most enjoyable career if you are willing to put up with the difficult aspects. Conducting research, taking an abstract idea and creating a tangible item (website, brochure, etc.), and then releasing it into the world for others to enjoy is an indescribable feeling. Making something unique and new for thousands or millions to view and judge is something few will ever experience. 

Once it is out there, people will ridicule it, trash it, and say they could do better. Yet, these people have never shown the level of vulnerability a marketer has. We bare our life's work on the most public stages. Releasing campaigns is exhilarating and can be used for great causes.

One of my clients is a nonprofit organization. Any successful marketing campaign we do equates to orphans receiving clean water, proper food, education, healthcare, job skills training, and a loving home! How awesome is that!?

Another one of my clients is a local medium-sized business. When our marketing campaigns succeed, more people have jobs to care for their families. Small to medium businesses hold a special place in my heart because they are the backbone of our economy and I enjoy seeing them do well. 

Marketing can be a fantastic career if it chooses you! You should not be a marketer if you are unwilling to do research, can not put up with criticism, nor start on the low end of the payscale. Yet, if those things do not bother you and you feel a draw to create, you may have found your professional calling.

Oh, and to clear the air, one of my mentors who was a marketing executive said, "never look at starting salaries in marketing." High-level marketers easily make six-figures and the best in the world top seven-figures (sometimes monthly). I put in the starting salary above to scare away the people who should not be in marketing :) 

Is Marketing Terrible or are You the Exception?

This is a question only you can answer. For most, marketing is a terrible career choice and they should stay away. Yet, for the brave few, it can be incredibly satisfying and enjoyable. If you are the one, keep pushing forward and become the best marketer you possibly can.

To learn more about marketing, feel free to contact me and if you are a small to medium business owner who is looking for a talented and passionate marketing consultant, I am only a click away.

Matt Avery