I studied physics in Valencia and then worked for 4 years at Arbora&Ausonia, the Procter&Gamble joint venture that produces and markets in Spain brands such as Evax (sanitary pads) and Dodot (children diapers). I was responsible for market and consumers research for diaper products. I resigned from that position when I obtained a grant from the foundation La Caixa for an MBA at CEIBS (China Europe International Business School), which is my current occupation. During the MBA I have been working at Nielsen, in the consultancy department dealing with the launch of new products. I participated in three projects for Unilever. Once graduated, I plan to continue in the same line of work, market and consumers research for mass-market products.
In this sector one could be employed directly from a manufacturer (in Spain Arbora&Ausonia, Sara Lee, Unilever, P&G etc.) or work for a market research company (Nielsen, TNS, Ipsos, Milward Brown etc.), which in turn provides services to manufacturers. When working for a manufacturer, my role would be to provide answers to the company’s market questions, i.e. to be part of the brand project team and plan research and studies to fill in the information gaps. We might need various type of information, e.g. “what price range should the new product have?” or “what is the meaning of motherhood these days?” or “What feedback did the specific TV ad campaign obtain?” or “How will be the new ad campaign be received?”. A market researcher designs the study and selects a market research firm that will perform it and return the results. He/she is then in charge of analysing the results and communicate the conclusions in the organisation. It is a job that provides a high degree of motivation, because one clearly sees the results of one’s work (the products in the shops, the ads on TV etc.). Furthermore after a few years in the company one acquires enough experience and flair for the subject to be consulted on a wide range of topics, which makes one feel sort of an academic in an industrial context.
On the other side by working for a market research company one carries out the studies requested by the costumer. In large firms a lot of different studies are performed (some numerical, other psychological etc.) and very different job profiles are offered (some more operational, other more analytical). This context is stimulating because one gets to work daily on very different projects, one day on a deodorant product, next day on a car, then on a new perfume. It keeps your curiosity alert. Sounds a bit like lab research, right?
Is a physics degree useful? Knowing your maths is an obvious advantage and what statistics you may need you will learn pretty quickly, if you don’t know it already. What makes a physics graduate interesting for these jobs is that we are used to solve problems and provide answers to questions, which is the main skill here. To be really good in this field one needs to understand the specific market at hand (brands, consumers, organisation) and have good technical skills (understand the underlying maths). We are usually well prepared on the second item, the first one learns it on the job.
More details if you’re interested in this post:
- How do you apply for this kind of job?
Usually you can find these positions advertised on the company web pages. They mainly don’t publish them on job portals like Infojobs or Monster, but rather have their own careers page. Generally these companies are willing to hire new graduates and train them internally. Once you are in the system, it is quite easy to change from one position to another since you get to know the main actors.
- What is the typical salary level (before taxes) in the first 5 years?
That’s difficult to say. Bigger companies usually pay better salaries. At A&A my salary was quite good and I got significant pay rises in the time I worked there. On the other hand I heard of very low salaries in smaller firms.