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by Marco Protano | March 10, 2009


If you're thinking of going into marketing, then know that all marketing programs - and professors - aren't created equal. Here, Vault gives Marco Protano, a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, the opportunity to explain just what makes his class and teaching philosophy tops.

The first step towards a successful marketing career? Make sure you're a strategist, not just a tactician, says Professor Protano.

Protano teaches a class in brand planning, where he's seen increasing interest in marketing. "Class enrollments have more than doubled over the previous two years," says Protano of his marketing classes. Protano's classes are known for the hands-on, real world nature of the material - and for bringing some of the best speakers to campus. Protano's biggest recent success - bringing publicity-shy Wal-Mart, the largest company in America and an acknowledged king of marketing strategy, to campus.

Protano speaks highly of his students, who often have internships in the marketing field and a varied work history. Protano pushes his students to focus on the strategic aspects of marketing. Over the years, the Professor witnessed both marketing practioners as well as students confuse strategy with tactics. "The brand manager needs to remember that the goal is to develop a sustainable, profitable business built on a competitive advantage that changes over time yet always delivers superior value to customers." The "keys to achieving the goal include anticipating competitors' moves and customers' demand shifts, mobilizing internal and external resources, positioning competitively and planning for the effective intensity and timeliness of competitive market moves."

Why the misguided focus by marketers on tactics? Because that is what is demanded of the job most. The daily operational demands of running a branded business increasingly consume the bulk of a manager's day. Protano also claims that marketing strategy is increasingly being dictated from senior managers many of which are frustrated by the strategic caliber of available marketing managers. Marketing's halcyon days were back in the 1960s through early 1980s. Over the last 10 years, most top-tier MBA students have eschewed marketing for more lucrative careers in consulting and finance.

What's left for the marketer is more of the executionary details of marketing - packaging or promotions. "I'm not belittling details - they're important," says Protano. "But while you're dickering over FSI details, do you know how your competitors (both existing and newly emerging) are planning to battle your brand and capture your customer and value? Much of tactical planning is now on software, with significant advances to come. At NYU, we teach generals, not foot soldiers," advises Protano.

There are still many companies that value truly strategic marketers. Protano cites marketing powerhouses Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble as well as Microsoft, bleach king Clorox, shaving giant Gillette and toothpaste leader Colgate-Palmolive as companies that make the effort to find the best and brightest.

The real marketer

So what does it take to be a truly strategic marketer? Check your brain. Marketers need to draw on both the analytical and creative sides of the brain. "It also helps to be intra-preneurial, passionate, tenacious and a great chess player."

The rewards can be great. "It's exhilarating to build a brand business. As the CEO of the brand, it is the responsibility of the brand manager to lead a cross-functional team -- including R & D, finance, operations and sales -- to strategic victory and delivering the promised value to stakeholders. On the micro-side, yet of incredible personal impact, is witnessing consumers vote their acceptance by hand-picking your brand off the shelf. If you think that marketing might be your field, you could do worse than to check out Marco Protano's jam-packed classes at NYU.


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