By: Katherine Raskob, Director, Communications & Customer Experience, ADMA
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol.
It isn’t often that I start an article about marketing with a quote from Andy Warhol but in today’s rapidly evolving media and marketing sector this quote rings true both for established marketers and those entering the profession (and let’s not forget that Warhol spent his early years illustrating for ad agencies).
Because the reality is that wholesale technological change has transformed the marketing function of today and the rules of the marketing game are continuing to change as I type.
We now live in a post digital transformation world. What do I mean by this? Well we only have to look at our own reflection to see how technology is changing consumer behaviour. Its highly likely that in the course of reading this article you may check your phone – or that it is within a hands reach. The vast majority of Australian’s now browse and research products and services online via mobile (along with tablet and laptop devices) and this is changing the way marketers market to their target audience.
Of course the fundamentals of marketing remain the same. It requires creatively getting the right message to the right person at the right time. But the plethora of available channels and the fact that the consumer journey is rarely linear – switching from mobile to laptop to physical retail stores via peer recommendations and review sites in a complex path to purchase – means that the skills required to execute an effective marketing strategy have changed.
The changes that have and continue to disrupt the traditional marketing function have been so rapid that traditional professional education has struggled to catch up. This is significant for two reasons. Firstly, there is a significant skills gap in the Australian marketing industry. Recent research from AIMIA (the digital industry association in Australia) tells us that the number of 457 visas issued in Australia’s digital industry are ten percent higher than average and Global DMA research has also found that one of the key inhibitors to advancing data-driven marketing is the lack of appropriately trained professionals. Secondly – and consequently – it is incumbent upon marketers to ensure that they continue to evolve and up skill themselves.
What skills are the most important?
In some ways this is the sixty four thousand dollar question. In an industry that is moving as fast as ours it is hard to precisely predict what marketing will look like in five years’ time. But we know that it is going to be even more personalised, integrated, data-driven and mobile than today – and that is before you factor in the impact of AR, VR and iOT which some of the large global marketers are already beginning to toy around with (Pokémon Go anyone?).
But irrespective of what medium and channel becomes dominant what is clear is that marketers will be required to be more data driven and technologically literate than ever before. They must become adept at what would traditionally be defined as ‘left brained’; number crunching analysts and even actuaries whilst combining these with the typical ‘right brained’ or soft skills like creativity, intuition and the indefinable alchemy that result in memorable and successful campaigns.
And the brave new world of marketing also requires an entrepreneurial and risk taking mind-set. In an always-on world it is no longer tenable for marketers to sit back, watch and wait for new mediums to become mainstream. Instead marketers must be much more nimble and immediate and embrace testing, trialling and tweaking executions in real time.
The new era of marketing professionals
The shifts in the industry mean that there an increasing number of marketers who arrived in their roles without ‘traditional’ marketing skills. Take Tom Goodwin, the US based SVP of Strategy & Innovation of Havas Media. The native Brit has a Degree in engineering and Masters in Architecture from where he is sitting he considers this an asset. He says: “In retrospect, it was about the perfect degree for marketing. I didn't realise that at the time. It wasn't part of some incredibly smart way to be good at marketing. I was just as lost and confused as most 20-year-olds are.”
Going in, Goodwin wasn’t entirely clear what his intentions were for his career but when he fell into advertising, something clicked. He says: “In essence, my degree spans everything we need. The engineering side has done a really good job of making me think logically, and I've got a robust and innate understanding of maths, percentages, logic, and all that rational stuff. The architecture was very much about a design process, a brief, constraints, and an iterative way to ideate within parameters.”
Ultimately, Goodwin’s education helped him to marry the right and left sides of his brain, which as referenced, is now perhaps the number one skill for anyone working in the marketing industry today.
Goodwin is also a firm believer in the need for today’s marketers to display empathy and intuition: “The most important skills are empathy; understanding the client’s situation and their business strategy. It's about understanding the modern world and how things are changing. It's much less about knowledge and much more about values and attributes like curiosity and relationship building.”
The marketers of the future, according to Goodwin, are more likely to skip their gap year and form a start-up as opposed to committing to studying. He says: “Rather than going to Peru or something, people will go to a co-working space and make an app.”
Knowledge is power
Whilst a degree is always a good place to start it isn’t necessarily a perquisite. As Goodwin points out: “It sounds like a really obnoxious thing to say, but I wouldn't necessarily think university is the only choice,” he says. “I probably have learned more from my Twitter feed than I have from university.”
His last comment encapsulates the crux of today’s marketing reality. Marketers – and would be marketers – have the power to shape their own destiny and professional success if they are willing and able to take responsibility and develop their own skill set using multiple and diverse resources.
This can be achieved by taking a three point approach to upskilling:
1. An education
Sure there are many successful marketers out there who have segued into the profession from other disciplines (like Goodwin) but often the best way to get a foot in the door is to be armed with some form of degree. But as outlined, marketing degrees are struggling to keep up with the pace of change so for my money ongoing industry training like ADMA IQ, powered by the largest media and marketing association in Australia, which is taught by some of the most senior working marketing professionals in Australia, can be the most relevant.
2. Peer-to-Peer Learning
Goodwin’s comments about learning more from Twitter than his degrees (whilst perhaps a little exaggerated) are absolutely correct. Every marketing professional today needs to ensure that they curate a network of real world and online experts to provide inspiration, learnings and best practices. This means following thought leaders on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn as well as taking advantage of the numerous networking meet-ups and virtual communities that are out there. For example I’ve personally learned a huge amount about the emerging practice of virtual reality and augmented reality – more than I could have possibly learned by any current courses on offer - by following futurists such as Robert Scoble who is at the coal face of this technology. Peer-to-Peer learning can also be an excellent way to keep up to date with the latest technology. In my own network I can think of at least half a dozen CMOs who have been able to fast track technology decisions via informal meet-ups with their industry peers.
3. Fortune favours the brave
This is less tangible but nevertheless imperative. Marketers must cultivate a fearlessness in addition to their relentless pursuit of knowledge. It can be terrifying, but today’s marketers need to become comfortable with the testing, trial and tweaking of marketing executions in real time. The rigid 12 month marketing plans of the past are becoming a distant memory and this takes nerves of steel and a willingness to absorb, learn and bounce back from mistakes.
For those who have a broad understanding and wide ranging skill set that spans channels and specific practices (often siloed and specialist marketing teams are becoming a thing of the past in all but the largest of brands) with a focus on data and actionable insights, there are huge opportunities in the marketing profession. But now is not the time to rely on ‘cut and paste’ skills from the past; marketers must invest in and be responsible for their own education or risk being marginalised.