The Career Choice for Millennials Doesn't Have To Be 'Left Brain' Or 'Right Brain'
Is being trapped inside an Excel cell the best way to influence a company? What about wandering lonely as a cloud? As someone who wants to help clients change their companies, I’ve entertained careers on both sides of the spectrum.
After I completed my law degree and realised that pure rational, rules-bound thinking wasn’t for me, I took an English Literature degree. Which is when I was urged by my long-suffering family to choose one side of my brain and follow it into management consultancy or advertising.
However, the more I looked into the two industries, the more I felt that their models were broken. Management consultants ultimately want to produce long-lasting transformation in a client company, but after reading an article that referenced a Cranfield Business School study claiming only a third of companies that hire management consultants were satisfied with the results, it got me wondering: how can you alter the course of a company’s strategy if the CEO isn’t moved by your insights? And, as a millennial, I’d also like to know: if you’re the CEO of one of those firms, how can you inspire your people if their work isn’t making an impact?
But it’s not just a question that millennials are starting to ask. It’s why average staff turnover for the management consulting industry is 15-20%. That’s a lot of people who want more from the business they’re in.
Ad agencies could have been the answer. At their best, creative agencies craft something absolutely essential for the brands they serve, and it’s something which isn’t generally associated with management consultants: charisma. But, too often, the emotive connection that they try to build between brands and consumers doesn’t translate to the way they behave. Pepsi’s cringeworthy ad campaign is a case in point.
It’s why Accenture have been buying up ad agencies and design firms. It’s not just a bid to give themselves more ‘jooj.’ They see the gap. It’s a ‘trust gap’ between brands and agencies. But it’s also a gap between the brand’s owner and their employees. It’s patently obvious, even to someone just entering the workforce, that there’s a greater need for left-brain and right-brain thinking.
CMOs aren’t interested in just bumping sales: if they are, they’ll stay CMO with an ever-decreasing ad budget. They’re interested in influencing the company’s performance, product design, P&L and the people that make it all work. They need a brand identity that’s rooted in commercial understanding, not existentialist purpose.
So where does that leave you if you’re an aspiring marketer that wants to transform brands and the lives of the people that work for them? I was lucky - my career found me. I didn’t know that a third option existed until I was contacted by the brand strategy consultancy I now work for. There are an increasing number of innovative, imaginative, rigorous brand consultancies, like Prophet and Saffron and Verbal Identity where I now work who are approaching things in a different way.
Their approach is informed but collaborative. Imaginative but rigorous. I’m immersed in the commercial side of our clients’ businesses. But I also write brand books, workshops, guidelines, posters, coasters.
I’m lucky enough to be working directly with CEOs of some of the country’s most interesting brands and our unique combination of thinking and doing is respected by the client teams we work with. I once got to see a CMO literally clap her hands with joy because we took the vision for her brand that was in her head and translated it into something that could be shared with everyone else.
It’s that ‘hand-clap moment’ that I couldn’t see happening if I’d gone down the traditional route. And I think it’s what a lot of people are looking for in their careers. They don’t want to create another PowerPoint. They want to create a success story.
Sophie Mullen is associate strategist at Verbal Identity