What is Product management?
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Product Managers are responsible for the marketing and development of products such as boring products like insurance policies and yogurt. But it gets more exciting too given the need to manage brands like BMWs and Cornpops.

Product managers are both strategic and tactical. Strategic because they are responsible for positioning a product, assessing the competition and thinking about the future. Tactical because they are in the field developing appropriate promotional campaigns, talking to reps about what customers want and think and doing the day-to-day sales tracking that's required for any major product category.

The work of a product manager involves positioning a product relative to the competition and consumer interests; developing a product to keep up with technology, trends and new ideas; promoting a product to make sure that consumers understand its benefits; analyzing data on sales of a product in order to understand where it's doing well and where it's not and monitoring the competition to understand what consumers are buying and where the market is going next.

Product management professionals are excited about their ability to manage and strengthen brands. They are at the vortex of company life because their decisions directly affect the success of a business. Examples of what a product manager might do include:

intel1.gif (2770 bytes)Positioning a new Intel microprocessor in the marketplace by talking to customers, computer manufacturers, professionals in the sales channel and advertising agencies. Your job will involve looking at market research, talking to engineers and attempting to understand what the competition is getting ready to do.

wendys.gif (8575 bytes)Introducing a new type of sandwich at Wendy's--the fast food chain. You'd be responsible for developing what is essentially a new business with all of the planning and frustration that this might entail. There's lots of product testing, planning and shmoozing required in this job. Along the way, you'd get the opportunity to interact with senior managers, restaurant franchisees, suppliers, advertising professionals and consultants.

pic_techspec01a.gif (14465 bytes)Being responsible for a video game system such as the Sony PlayStation in a given market. The product manager is responsible for coordinating and allocating marketing dollars and is also a prime consumer of market research, attempting to understand who is buying a product, at what price point and why. Pricing decisions have been crucial in the home video game system market.

Skills and Requirements

People Skills - Medium

Sales Skills - Medium

Communication Skills - High

Problem Solving abilities - Very High

Analytical Abilities - Very High

Creativity - Medium

Initiative - High

Presentation Skills - Very High

Team Work - Very High

Leadership Abilities - High


Analysis is key. Product management is less a people job than many of the other marketing careers. Product management and marketing research require high levels of problem solving skills and analytical abilities.

Learn to present. As in most marketing careers, presentation skills are a necessity. Both jobs will require presentations to others in the company and for marketing research to clients. The ability to be persuasive will prove to be highly beneficial in building a coalition supporting your position and ideas.

The ultimate marketing job. To many marketing people, a position as Product manager is the ultimate marketing job. You are managing the entire marketing operation of a product from inception to final customer distribution.

Experience required. To become a product manager you must obtain years of marketing and selling experience. Most product managers have spent some time in the salesforce. A product manager is not a job that typically goes to someone in their twenties.

A good MBA helps. It is becoming more and more important to obtain a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree to become either a product manager or marketing researcher. A masters combined with marketing experience is a powerful combination. Schools that are well-known in marketing and product management include Northwestern, Georgetown, Dartmouth, Ohio State and IMD.

Huge international potential. Product management may provide the best opportunity to move into international marketing. Gaining experience on domestic US products provide a great training ground for expanding products internationally. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Unilever are well known for moving people around the world to develop knowledge of specific markets and understanding of product reach and potential.

Fast track pay scales. Because of the requirements for substantial marketing and selling experience, and the growing need for a masters degree, pay for product managers and market researchers can be very high. Many regard product management as the "fast track" career in the marketing area.

High entry hurdles. It's not surprising then that jobs in product management are more difficult to obtain than other marketing careers. By definition, the number of product manager types is limited by the number of products that generate sufficient revenue to support a full-time product manager.

Key Jobs

Product Manager. The product manager has responsibility for several brands within a product line or product group. Some organizations may have brand managers that report to the product manager. The product manager is responsible for developing marketing strategies for the product. The manager also determines extension or deletion of products within the product line.

Assistant Product Manager. Most entry level jobs in the product management category will begin at the assistant product manager level (this may occur after two or more years of selling). The assistant product manager is responsible for various strategic components of the product.

Product Category Manager. The product category manager is responsible for multiple product lines in the product category. They manage multiple product managers and are responsible for the organization's product offerings.

Market Analyst. The market analyst is responsible for researching the market and providing important strategic information to the product managers. The information may come from salespeople, customer research, or databases.

Project Director. The project director is responsible for collecting market information on a given marketing or product project. They direct others to gather, analyze, and report market research.

Market Research Director. The research director is responsible for the planning, gathering, and analyzing of all organizational research. Non independent agency directors may also be in charge of managing market intelligence which is everyday market information about the marketing environment.SalariesIn general, salaries for product managers and market researchers are relatively high in the US market. Since this category of job encourages or requires a masters degree, starting pay will be somewhat higher than other marketing categories. However, some entry level jobs particularly in market research can be low. The following chart lists representative salaries for talented marketing professionals in large corporations in 1998 and 1999.

Product Manager

$60,000 - $120,000

Assistant Product Manager

$40,000 - $60,000

Product Category Manager

$60,000 - $130,000 +

Market Analyst

$24,000 - $50,000

Project Director

$45,000 - $70,000

Market Research Director

$75,000 - $140,000

Market Intelligence
Product manager salaries run between $40,000 and $87,000 at AT&T. Procter & Gamble reports Brand Assistant salaries of $45,000 (plus $25,000 for an MBA); General Motors pays $70,000 in the same title while Pepsico pays its marketing managers between $60,000 and $90,000.MBA level salaries for product management and research types are as follows for 1998/1999:






Consumer Marketing/Brand Management





Industrial Marketing





High Tech Brand Management





Market Research





*Plus $10,000 signing bonus.


Associations and Organizations:

American Marketing Association, 250 South Wacker Drive, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60606. The AMA represents the interests of marketers throughout America and offers a variety of services, including a well-established system of student marketing chapters. If you are a college student and are interested in marketing, you should definitely join your campus' AMA chapter. If one isn't set up, start it yourself. They also publish Marketing News, a widely read publication that follows change in the fields of product management and marketing strategy.

Business Marketing Association. Focused on business to business marketing. Offers seminars, awards, resources, certification and a career network.

Facts and Trends

It would be difficult to think of any job which is more in the heart of the company than that of product management. Product managers are the key bridge between the innovators in a corporations and the marketplace. Product managers will always be important and face a great future.

Be ready for failure. Not every product does swimmingly. The key is to experiment by test-marketing new ideas, understand customers and risk losses. Great companies like Coca-Cola have had their share of belly-flops such as New Coke.

Product management developed in the 1950s and has been most closely associated with early developments by Procter and Gamble. Originally, P&G had products competing against other competitors and against sister P&G products. Today, organizations are more likely to have their products working as a team and less as competitors.

In late 1998 Procter and Gamble held one of the most important summits in the history of marketing where it invited top marketers from a wide variety of multinational corporations (e.g. McDonald's, Coke, General Motors) to discuss the future of online marketing--particularly through web-based advertising. P&G's vice-president of advertising argued that "The web has the potential to be a dramatically more effective for us to communicate with the people who buy and use our products." The big names attending the conference joined in announcing "We all have a vested interest in making the web the most effective medium in history."

The lessons from the P&G summit for those looking to careers in product mananagement are self-evident. Ability and talent with technology will be a primary driver of career success in the future. Today's marketing graduate needs to have a comfort level with web-based marketing techniques, demographics and potential. An understanding of potential means to deliver online messages be they through PC's, handheld devices or television derivatives will be vital. Closely-related, of course, is the exploding area of using data warehouses to better meet customer needs. Databases and marketing messages easily meld on the web and create enormous opportunities for the web-savvy.

wpe1F.jpg (2006 bytes)Product management is becoming more and more an international or global concept. The 1990s have seen a dramatic increase in international product management, although much of it may occur locally in international markets. A key strategic decision facing many corporations is whether to integrate their product management efforts.

nestle.gif (4698 bytes)For example, Companies like Nestle have artfully combined global and local brand management. In Australia, for example, Nestle markets global brands such as Perugina chocolates, Nescafe and L'Oreal cosmetics. At the same time, it has developed local brands attuned to the local market. In time, some of the local brands may be exported elsewhere should market research indicate a broader potential.

Computer and statistical skills are vital. Product managers are big-time consumers of research. As a result, they must be good with basic math, statistics, and computer analysis. Problem formulation, data collection, data analysis and interpretation, and communication abilities are skills that will be necessary every day in marketing research.

The world of the product manager is changing with economic growth as well. As the economy grows there is increasing specialization and competition in each market niche. While this can initially complicate the matter, specialization opens great opportunities to target specific demographic groups. This idea has gained currency in the concept of mass-customization where a company targets products down to the level of the individual. Levi-Strauss, for example, has begun selling blue jeans fit to each individual customer.

Gathering secondary research used to be an arduous task with hours spent in libraries searching through government documents and other resources. Today, the data is much more easily accessed through on-line data bases. The ability to scan information, drill down for detail and identify relevance is a key skill in the work of today's product manager.

Consumer research can be gathered in in-home interviews, shopping mall intercepts, mail surveys or by telephone. Because of the rapid increase in home solicitations market research is becoming more difficult to gather. We are also seeing increasing use of relational research where a customer agrees to be paid to be a long-term research subject. Nielsen, for example, has put viewership monitors on some homes. Other companies send out surveys each month along with product samples, coupons and promotional ideas.

Generational marketing is gaining currency. Companies like Levi Strauss and Daimler-Benz are acutely aware of which demographic group they are targeting with their marketing campaigns be it members of the Depression Generation, the Baby Boomers or the so-called slackers in their twenties. Segmentation of markets is huge. An extreme example is Absolut Vodka, which tailors ads to magazines targeted at specialized demographic groups. An Absolut ad in a golfer mag may feature grass inside the Absolut shape. In upscale mag's there's an emphasis on Absolut, art and creativity. In funky mag's there's a focus on Absolut, cool and sex. For example, the company recently attached black latex Absolut cutouts in a sexy mag aimed at twentysomethings.

Market research is increasingly focusing on customer satisfaction with products. Did you like the product as opposed to would you buy this at X price? Market researchers are also focusing more on micro-issues like do our customers really want restaurants to be non-smoking. The focus on consumer preferences has recently driven major changes in airline service, for example.

guin.gif (4063 bytes)A critical task of any product manager is understanding the receptiveness of customers. Companies such as Guinness (part of brand giant Diageo) have become far more effective in recruiting drinkers by identifying customers as being available (potentially interested in Guinness), sympathetic (drink some Guinness but not yet fanatics) and supporters (enthusiastic about Guinness and willing to ask others to try a drink).

Believe it or not, there is increasing interest in marketers who understand anthropology! Heck, they're even hiring anthropologists. And, why not? These anthro people uncover myths in focus groups and bring an understanding of civilization and culture to product management efforts.

The discipline of marketing is continuing to evolve. The heart of a product manager's job has historically been illustrated with the four P's, devised in the mid-1960s by Harvard Business School Professor N. Borden. The P's are product, place, price and promotion. Today, this basis marketing theory has been challenged to include 3 other P's including people, process and provision of customer service. Ken Hudson of the Original Thinking Company has suggested instead the five i's. Ideas, imagination, intuition, interruptions and interactions. Ideas are transformed information with the intention of creating profit. Imagination drives the future of products. "Brand imagination", for example, involves envisioning where a brand could be in 5 years time and thersn acting today to make the vision happen. Interruptions refers to the need to disrupt familiar patterns of thinking and behaving. Growing market share involves bringing customers around to your way of thinking. Interactions involves the crucial importance of listening and understanding what customers want.

Some Top Brand Companies

Coca-Cola, Owned by Coca-Cola Co., PO Drawer 1734, Atlanta, GA 30301, 404-676-2121. Employment Contact: Staffing Specialist.

Marlboro, Owned by Philip Morris Cos., Employment Contacts: Manager, Employment (MBA Development Program), Philip Morris USA, Box 26603, Richmond, VA 23261 or Manager Sales Recruiting, Philip Morris USA, 120 Park Ave., 13th Floor, New York NY 10017, 212-880-5000.

IBM, Old Orchard Road, Armonk, NY 10504, 914-765-1900. Employment Contact: College Recruiting or IBM Staffing Services, D/1DPA B/A P.O. Box 12195, Raleigh, N.C. 27709 [Employment at IBM]

Motorola Inc. 1303 East Algonquin Road, Schaumburg, IL 60196, 1-708-576-5000. Employment Contact: College Recruiting Coordinator. [Employment at Motorola]

Hewlett-Packard, Owned by Hewlett-Packard Co. 3000 Hanover Street, Palo Alto, California 94304, 415-857-1501. [Careers at HP]

Microsoft, Owned by Microsoft Corp. One Microsoft Way, STE 303, Redmond, WA 98052-8303, 206-882-8080. [Jobs at Microsoft]

Kodak, Owned by Eastman Kodak Company, 343 State Street, Rochester NY, 14650, Employment Contact: Placement Services, 716-724-4000. [Jobs at Kodak]

Budweiser, Owned by Anheuser-Busch, One Busch Place, St. Louis MO, 314-577-2000, Employment Contact: Manager of Employment.

Kellogg Co., One Kellogg Square, P. O. Box 3599, Battle Creek, MI 49016, (616) 961-2405. Employment Contact: Senior Employment Representative. [Careers at Kelloggs]

Nestle USA Inc., 800 North Brand Blvd., Glendale CA 91203, 818-549-6989, Employment Contact: Attn: College Recruiting Department, 7th Floor.

Procter & Gamble, The Procter & Gamble Company, PO Box 599, Cincinnati, OH 45201 [Careers at P&G]

Leading Market Research Companies

Dun & Bradstreet Marketing Information Services (Nielsen Marketing Research, Nielsen Media Research, and IMS International), 16 Progress Dr, Wilton, CT 06484.

Information Resources Inc. (InfoScan, InfoScan Census, BehaviorScan, Towne-Oller, IRI Logistics), 150 N. Clinton, Chicago IL. 60661. 312-726-1221. Information Resources, Inc. is the largest provider of UPC scanner-based business solutions to the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. IRI's business solutions help clients more efficiently and effectively market, sell and distribute their products worldwide. [Careers at Infoscan] Recruiting e-mail: [ irirec@infores.com]

The Arbitron Co. (Arbitron Radio, Scarborough Research, LocalMotion Retail Ratings, Arbitron NewMedia, Media Marketing Technologies), 142 W 57th St., New York NY 10019. (212) 887-1300. The Arbitron Company is an international media research firm providing information services that are used to develop the local marketing strategies of the electronic media, and of their advertisers and agencies. The company's marketing and business units are supported by a world-renowned research and technology organization located in Columbia, Maryland. The company employs 530 full-time employees; its executive offices are located in New York City.

Westat Inc., 1650 Research Blvd, Rockville MD 20850. Phone: (301) 251-1500. [Careers at Westat] Recruiting e-mail: [hr@westat.com]. WESTAT is an employee-owned research corporation known for the quality of its statistical design, data collection and management, and research analysis work. Headquartered in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area, our diverse staff of more than 1,100 enables us to assemble project teams to meet the challenges of complex research projects. With a more than 30-year history of technical and managerial excellence, Westat has emerged as one of the foremost statistical research and evaluation organizations in the United States.

Maritz (Maritz Marketing Research Inc., Research Business Group, London UK), 1297 N. Highway Dr., Fenton, Mo. 63099. 314-827-1610. [Careers at Maritz] Our mission is to help our clients improve their performance in critical areas such as sales, marketing, quality, customer satisfaction, and cost reduction by influencing the behavior of our clients' customers, employees, and channel partners. Emphasizing excellence and value, we will create, develop, and implement the best possible action plans for our clients through a unique combination of our worldwide resources that includes marketing services, employee involvement processes, and travel services. 

NPD Group Inc. (US Syndicated Services, U.S. Custom Services, ISL Canada, NPD Worldwide, NPD InfoTech), 900 West Shore Rd., Port Washington, N.Y 11050. [Careers at NPD]. Recruiting e-mail: [hr@npd.com] As one of the nation's largest marketing information firms, The NPD Group helps companies around the world answer these questions in order to better market their existing products and services and develop more successful new ones.

NF0 Research Inc., 2 Pickwick Plaza, Greenwich CT 06830. (203) 629-8888. [Careers at NFO] Founded in 1946, NFO Worldwide is a global provider of marketing information to the world's major corporations. With extensive operations located in 24 countries throughout North America, Europe, The Middle East and Asia, NFO is well positioned to provided its clients with outstanding global research capabilities on an unprecedented scale. We are the largest US based custom market research firm and rank among the top 10 research organizations worldwide.

Market Facts Inc., 3040 West Salt Creek Lane, Arlington Heights, Ill 60005, (847) 590-7325. [Careers at Market Facts] Recruiting E-mail: resume.mfinc-ah@marketfacts.com. Market Facts' primary activity is the design, execution, and interpretation of market research conducted on behalf of its clients, which include a majority of the largest 100 multinational consumer products and services companies, as well as many government agencies.

Data provided by M/A/R/C Group, 7850 N. Belt Line Rd, Irving, Texas 75063, 214-506-3400.

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