A successful marketer today requires a wider set of skills than ever before, excelling in creativity, number-crunching, networking, and flexible working.
In an interview, one of the most successful business leaders, Silicon Valley guru and Sequoia venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz, put it succinctly: “If you have too rigid a plan to reach the top, your chances of success diminish. You need to be agile and keep the spirit of spontaneity.”
Marketing has become such a multi-faceted arena that individuals can no longer rely on a loosely-arranged set of staging posts to achieve success. You need to formulate a more complex strategy incorporating a far wider array of skills and learning experiences to take advantage of the myriad opportunities that a career in marketing now affords.
Creating captivating content, getting to the heart of the truths that big data can provide, understanding how the demands of a global brand can change in an always-on digital environment – the landscape is constantly evolving.
Mauricio Vergara, chief marketing officer for Bacardi, says that the main consideration when plotting his career has been the transformation of communications and media from local to global.
He says: “The biggest challenge for me has been the result of global digital connectivity. Essentially, how to balance the need to move at great speed to maximise global marketing opportunities, coupled with the need to localise my strategies.”
Trust your instincts
As has having a wide perspective of marketing’s global impact, an essential ingredient for anyone trying to develop a long-term marketing career. For instance, Vergara knows that maximising the effect of different images of Bacardi in South America and Asia requires an agile mindset.
“There will be subtle differences between the kinds of content. One size doesn’t fit all – it never has, but now we are able to hyper-localise our message and brand strategy. That means being acutely aware of local nuances by both being there and building teams that can help you.”
It’s not just understanding human instincts and behaviour, however. It’s also about a willingness and capacity to be a different kind of marketer – to have statistical instincts alongside behavioural ones, to be au fait with cloud computing, big data and fishing the marketing treasure from oceans of figures. But, warns Kevin Roberts, chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the industry’s key figures don’t abandon the instincts that set you on a marketing career in the first place.
Roberts believers the big-data drive has made life much harder to plot a career path. “It’s an evolution from magic to maths,” he says. “Big data has sucked all the creativity out of the industry.
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean altering your core skillsets. Stay focused on the central tenet of the job as it has always been – coming up with great ideas, even if you have to adopt the language of big data to impress clients and potential employers alongside them.”
Getting noticed in a world swamped by social media is a key problem for anyone plotting a career, so it’s not a little ironic that the old-fashioned method for career progression is more powerful than ever – networking. Not necessarily social networking, says Scott Morrison, founder of agency The Boom!, but proper flesh pressing.
“Meaningful connections don’t happen online,” he says. “That’s a useful initiation, but it’s crucial to build a peer-to-peer network based on personal interaction. You build a real relationship that way. Never forget that marketing is about people, not things.”
However, some things have changed. In particular, the notion that you cannot push marketing on consumers anymore, that persuasion and selling are far more complicated disciplines. So those plotting a career path need to think more laterally than their predecessors.
“You used to start as a marketer and stay as a marketer,” says Vergara. “That career path doesn’t work anymore. You need commercial experience, editorial experience, front-line operational skills and be formidable in sales too. And, as a CMO, you need to encourage and allow for those skills to be taught.”
Marketing’s core competencies are still integral to the job, but the new challenge in the industry is to take on unfamiliar responsibilities, to push yourself outside of the comfort zone and learn the benefits of agility.
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