In my 12-month Sandwich Year placement, I was engaged as a Brand Assistant at Fisher Outdoor and Leisure Limited located in St Albans, Hertfordshire, East of England. The company is one of UK’s leading distributors in the cycling industry supplying cycles, accessories, components and apparel into the UK cycle trade. Its product range consists of over 30 industry-leading brands, a strong range of services, and spares essential to specialist cycle retailers and a range of house brands available in its nationwide network of stockists.
My duties at the company as a Brand Assistant position were inclusive of communication, corporate brand development, market analysis, operations and brand specific activities. With regard to communication, my job entailed assisting the company’s marketing communications manager to ensure the maintenance of strong communication with trade customers through regular contact and correspondence. It also entailed working closely with Fisher Outdoor Leisure’s brand management team in ensuring timely and consistent communication of brand messages both digital and print which required conversance with the social media platforms, and delivery of general trade events and conferences sometimes with overnight or weekend stays.
Also part of my engagement was Corporate Brand development in which I assisted with sponsorship and charity events which are part of the company’s marketing strategy, ensuring that sponsorship plans were agreed upon in a timely manner and delivered effectively to achieve optimum brand coverage while maximizing cost effectiveness. My duties also entailed the production and supply of all corporate/cross-brand Point-of-Sale, collateral and catalogue to customers that served to enhance the brand presence.
The Marketing and Advertising field requires extensive market analysis and awareness of general market trends and developments as well as trends in the Marketing/Advertising industry (Burgess 2006). The aim in marketing is to create an enhanced presence and to ensure consistent communications through effective designs of advertising campaigns and experiences (Ataman 2008). Success in this field requires an up to date understanding of the market place including the activities of the main competitors and appropriate feedback. The current trends in the Marketing/ Advertising industry include advancements in the social media and online presence including mobile (Delre 2007).
The social media and online sphere is fast growing marketing platform which comprises companies enhancing their branded online destinations and experiences so as to meet customer need. Marketing on the web entails the creation of quality content adding value to conversations and breaking the noise of clutter online, gauging consumer opinions and reputation on the web and through social media, as well as, building a reliable base of brand advocates through quality connections of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, blog subscribers, and LinkedIn connections with brand loyalists rather than large groups of unreliable connections (KTTLC report 2012).
Current trends also include co-marketing in which various brands allied in a particular field come together in marketing campaigns such as consumer, trade and press events for mutual benefit. Complementary businesses create partnerships which enable them to benefit from economies of scale, and enables increased exposure to new audiences (Gruber 2004).
Also included among current trends are in-store merchandising which include posters, branding, brochures, product displays and the securing of valuable shop floor space for merchandise; in-house expos that are used to showcase product portfolio and entire brand to trade and press; product placements in movies, sitcoms, games and other media; direct marketing and public relations; and outdoor media campaigns targeting key commuter areas and areas with greater potential consumer reach which result in increased web traffic and enquiries by consumers (KTLLC report 2012). The traditional marketing platforms such as newspaper ads, magazine placements, and commercials on television and radio are still quite effective but are, however, challenged by the emerging technologies and are slowly losing the significance that they have had in the past (Roberts 2007).
There are contemporary (non-traditional) forms that have emerged with the success of emerging technologies but these platforms are yet to gain prominence and therefore are not yet highly effective though they have huge potential (KTLLC report 2012). These are inclusive of mobile marketing which entails mobile advertising, as well as, the use of marketing apps and branded apps on mobile to reach consumers with brand messages; crowd sourcing which is an open innovative model pioneered by sites such as Threadless.com in which customers are engaged to design and vote on new product designs; and geotargeting which entails the use of popular tools such as local websites offering discounts and review opportunities making it easy for consumers to find deals and engage with the businesses in their neighbourhoods and beyond creating local marketing campaigns which are highly targeted (Ebling 2007).
During my placement, I was also tasked with the management of databases containing customer information while ensuring the smooth and effective operation of general processes and procedures pertaining to the Brand Management team. These processes include the coordination of general Public Relations activities; magazine subscriptions; implementation of new policies into the department; cross-brand trade promotion analysis and the maintenance of cross-brand expenditure tracking tools such as the advertising log, among other expenses.
With regard to Brand Specific activities, I was tasked to assist Fisher Outdoor Leisure’s brand managers with specific brand activities such as the devising of strategy and alignment of messages for the commute and leisure cycling categories, new product launches, overall brand building, trade and consumer communication, and the implementation of an integrated marketing plan.
Various selection methods are used by recruiters, employers and agencies in the search for individuals to form organization’s workforce and to enable these organizations to achieve their success and objectives. The traditional method is the form in which written applications are sent either directly to employers or to agencies which is followed by robust interviews to screen candidates for appropriate fit to the organization’s objectives (Srinivasan 2009).
Registration with job recruitment agencies or job search firms, as well as the personal network/word of mouth is more prominent as employers through their relationship with the agency or its network are able to gain valuable insight into the track record on current or previous roles of a candidate and thereby avoid the rigor associated with screening for appropriate candidates (Jacoby 2005). Temporary staff recruitment by employment agencies is also a method of recruitment in which an agency recruits and offers individuals for employment in organizations on a temporary basis (CBI report 2009). Choice of candidates from work placement candidates and interns is also prominent in some organization’s hiring activity as these individuals are deemed to have gained valuable experience and have been observed at work, tried and tested for appropriateness (Salary & Market Insight report 2012).
Advantages of work placement
The main advantage of a year-long work placement for second year undergraduates is that it gives the individual useful experience of the job market and valuable experience on what goes on in the business environment or in various organizations (CBI report 2009). It also enables an individual to make appropriate decisions on their career path before they actually make necessary decisions regarding coursework paths, the areas that they would like to continue with as their chosen careers. Work placement also enhances the chances of finding work with the respective companies as the individuals who have had gained experience on work placement are deemed more valuable than new recruits who would require extensive time-consuming training (CBI report 2009).
Disadvantages of work placement
A disadvantage arises from the increase in time spent in college, with the addition of a full year to enable the year-long work placement program. Also a disadvantage is the timing, as in second year, a student is not quite adequately informed about their career choices and paths and this might affect their choice of work placement programs (Brown 1998).
Ease of obtaining work placement
Organizations and employers in the modern day are cautious and risk averse, concerned with keeping the headcount within consistent which causes a dip in hiring activity. This caution also affects the work placement programs as these are paid positions which should contribute to the overall objective (Salary & Market Insight report 2012). Getting work placement in this regard is therefore not easy under these circumstances and constraints.
Organizations continue to seek specialist skills that will make immediate tangible impact on their bottom lines fighting for the high calibre, high quality candidates often in a limited talent pool. This has necessitated the use of screening and elimination processes to acquire the best fit with successful candidates often being those who have previous relevant and valuable experience (Salary & Market Insight report 2012). This locks out candidates from the work placement category as this constrains opportunities for entrants into the job market with low skills and a huge requirement for training, therefore, making the finding of work placement opportunities a challenge.
However, employers and universities have a duty to prepare tomorrow’s workforce through the development of their skills and attributes such as self-management, team working, understanding of key drivers for business success, problem solving, communication and literacy, entrepreneurship, and a positive attitude among other skills and attributes. In light of the limited talent pool and the difficulty in finding people with specialized skill sets, it is essential that organizations create work placement opportunities that enable the development of these desired skill sets and traits (CBI report 2009). This endeavour therefore eases the finding of work placement opportunities overall and enables companies attract quality graduates and post graduates with the desired skill and trait sets.
Work placement fit in my career plan
In the development towards my career in marketing, work placement at Fisher Outdoor Leisure Limited fits very well in my plan as it has given me invaluable insight and practical experience with regard to the marketing and advertising field. This opportunity has also enabled me to develop a number of skills and attributes that are often required in the job market and that enhance my chances in the job market upon graduating. The various tasks that I engaged in during my work placement covered a huge part of what marketing entails and were representative of the actual tasks that would comprise my future role in my career.
My intention in preparing myself for the job market and enhancing my chances therefore includes identifying my skills sets and desirable attributes and those that I lack so as to further my personal development and employability. The skills that I intend to develop include entrepreneurship which includes risk taking, creativity and innovation which my work placement at Fisher Outdoor Leisure greatly helped me develop through the engagement in the marketing tasks.
An attribute also developed at Fisher Outdoor Leisure Ltd. is communication through my involvement in developing marketing messages and general communication with trade and customers which required effective listening and questioning; problem solving skills through the situations in my particular responsibility and daily tasks with the requirement for creative thinking in developing advertising programs and strategies. It is evident therefore that my work placement was very important in development towards my future career.
In my development towards my career, I need to develop self-management trait better in terms of developing flexibility, resilience, readiness for any responsibility and tasks, as well as, assertiveness; and to generally develop a positive attitude, openness to new ideas and a drive to achieve that will enable success in my chosen career path and contribution in my particular job.
I would also need to develop number skills and the application of numbers that would be useful in analysis and evaluation of various data and information in the markets and in my particular professional field. This would require that I develop an understanding on the application and use of various Information technology tools and software, as well as taking relevant professional courses upon completion of my undergraduate studies that would build my capacity for such analysis and evaluation appropriate for my career.
After graduation, I would also seek short term volunteer positions or internships that would enable to gain in understanding of key drivers for business and to fill up idle time that will result with the completion of my undergraduate study. This endeavour would benefit me in enhancing practical experience gained, adding on to my track record and overall skill thereby improving my employability and ease in getting a hiring.
This report has detailed my work placement which was undertaken at Fisher Outdoor Leisure Limited, a UK cycle distributor. My tasks and duties as Brand Assistant in the company entailed engagement in communication with trade customers, Market analysis, Corporate Brand development, enhancement of operational effectiveness in the marketing department, and involvement in Brand specific activities generally.
The report has also delved into current trends in the Marketing and advertising industry taking an overview of the various platforms including social media and the online platform, the traditional print, TV and radio and the emerging contemporary platforms such as mobile marketing, crowd sourcing and geotargeting. It has also discussed the ease of obtaining work placement identifying the advantages and disadvantages of such work placement in second year undergraduate; overall employability and the skills and attributes that enhance such employability; and my personal endeavour towards employability and the development towards my future career.
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