We recently hosted the UK’s leg of the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium, an event which saw marketers from across Europe join together in London to discuss the key theme that’s continuing to lead the majority of marketing conversation; reinvention. With speakers from MoneySuperMarket, Motorola Solutions, Mothercare UK, Adobe, followed by an inspiring keynote from Jo Malone, the event celebrated the concept of ‘change’ and the increasing need for digital skills in an industry that is constantly fluctuating (for the better!).
Prior to the main event, we had a panel discussion, moderated by Gerry Brown of Ovum, with the help of Jonathan Hedger of Totaljobs.com, Simon Jones of Motorola, Ben Jones of AKQA and myself. The discussion centred on the changing role of UK marketers, bringing in new research that we revealed in a previous post.
The debate started with considering just what is marketing today? Ben Jones, CTO for AKQA commented that “marketing is now about trying to add true value to a consumer’s life”. He called it “add-vertising”, a concept which really highlights how marketing needs to be more relevant, contextual, and most importantly, simple in order to benefit the consumer and consequently the brand.
In light of this, and delving into the research, statistics showed that a typical marketing role is having an increasingly digital focus, with 43% of the marketers’ surveyed saying that more than half of their marketing activity is digital. This has increased by a massive 61% on the 27% who answered the same almost a year ago. In this day and age, digital is clearly now something we shouldn’t necessarily be ‘specialising’ in, but should be a characteristic of all marketers, actually making the term ‘generalist’ far more appropriate.
Simon Jones, Director of Marketing Technology for Motorola Solutions commented that “the division between what we think of specialisms will soon all become operational. I think that at the moment we’re agonising over whether digital is a part of marketing. It is. I think we’ll see more blended roles in terms of what we currently think is separate”. Highlighting that where once a wide skill set was undesirable, the bigger role digital is beginning to play in the marketing mix means marketers need to be able to work across channels and use digital as day-to-day practice.
This is supported by figures from Jonathan Hedger, Group Head of Customer Marketing, Totaljobs.com who pointed out that three times as many marketing jobs contain the word ‘digital’ in the job description rather than the title, compared to 2011 – a staggering difference, particularly when you pair this with the research which found digital skills are now seen as central to almost all marketing positions with 92% stating that they are important, including 99% of C‑level executives. Employers are no longer looking for digital marketers, they want marketers that can do digital. We all agreed that digital is not a channel that sits alone any more. In most cases, it is marketing.
Another key topic of conversation was passion and a willingness to take risks. If marketers fail to possess a real curiosity and desire to try our new things, change becomes a much harder thing to achieve, a realisation all panellists agreed on.
This point was particularly poignant to me. I don’t understand marketers who don’t have an interest in marketing. The pace of change is so great and in fact, in we did research we did last year, the majority of marketers believe that marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the last 50. You have to have this curiosity, you have to want to make a difference, learn, and take a risk. Today’s risk taking is different to that from even five years ago. You can test, fail, learn & improve in days not months. And without blowing the marketing budget. It’s all about a blend of science and creativity.
What became clear from the discussion is that digital is now an inherent part of the marketing job. Of course, marketers have to know the basics, hence why the term ‘generalist’ came up a number of times throughout the debate. But as technology continues to mature (and at such a rapid rate), the demand for digital skills will only heighten and marketers need to be willing to embrace this!