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The Brand Manager's Series: Marketing's stars of the future on the challenges they face

How will businesses identify the future marketing stars? And how can those future stars fast-track their learning to reach their potential? Reading this book is obviously a good start, but there’s also an organisation taking a different approach to developing marketing talent.

The Marketing academy is a not-for-profit organisation committed to closing the skills gap between experienced and emerging marketers. Here we talk to two of their scholars being ear-marked for success to find out their views on the role of agencies and how that might change in future.

James Butcher, Bing consumer and online marketing manager at Microsoft and alumni of The Marketing Academy

What are the current issues faced in today’s changing landscape?Recently, I have been planning for the year ahead, and pressures on apportioning the correct marketing spend against activities that drive our business strategy have never been greater. Furthermore, with more advances in technology, there has never been so many ways you can connect with your target audience on such a variety of devices. Marketers must make constant trade-offs between learning as much as possible for their brand by committing small amounts of spend to ‘test and learn projects’ versus placing big bets on initiatives that drive the business forward.International businesses are sometimes forgetting to use their people in key subsidiary markets to develop relevant test and learn strategies that could benefit their brands globally. A lot of the time, local markets can move quicker, have closer relationships with their agencies and are exposed to the latest media opportunities but this is sometimes taken for granted. Both the client and agencies need to continuously remember that to really make marketing dollars stretch, you must remember that an idea that drives the business forward, and scale internationally is priceless.How do you believe agencies can vie for brands attention and how do you see this progressing?Throughout my career, I have been in contact with the agencies who position themselves as being 10 per cent integrated: PR, social, creative thinking/strategy and advertising etc. The problem with this is that you really struggle to have a point of view on which agencies are genuinely best equipped to help you with your business problems. Also, when joining agencies together on an integrated brief, roles and responsibilities can sometime be unclear.Also, as mentioned previously, brands require different types of agencies for different things. The smaller ‘test and learn projects’ that trial innovative ideas or new platforms, should arguably be left open to new or different agencies to keep things fresh. However for the larger brand campaigns, that’s where the longer term agency relationships become effective due to the in-depth understanding of clients brand values, objectives and their day to day rhythm. In order to progress, I believe agencies need to become a lot clearer in their actual strengths which is robustly supported with case studies and data. They need to leave the client with a message of “I’m and expert in this and can help you at this stage of your business problem” instead of “I can do everything”. To gain attention, they must also be forthcoming with ideas, particularly ones that are smaller but could be particularly useful for a brand to experiment with, again keeping in mind many brands are international and scalability is important.What are your thoughts on how the agency of the future might be structured?Certainly in my role, we use agencies who specialise in aspects of marketing; PR, media, mobile, social, campaign advertising, specialist video development etc. In order to be successful moving forward, I believe agencies must be able to work seamlessly with other agencies under a common creative direction. Response to briefs, campaign development and campaign analysis all must be a unified effort. I believe agencies will need to have an even closer eye on the market and the new opportunities that develop. Creative agencies have a unique view on all their clients strategies and will start to facilitate strategic discussions between the CMOs of like minded brands to fast-track learnings. Finally, with all of these new ways to reach your audience, brands must work a lot harder to win over the hearts and minds of their consumers. Whilst remembering the main principles of marketing, agencies must think about the value exchange between brands and customers and have regular audience audits to ensure the latest habits and behaviours are built into the strategy.

Haseeb Rahman,business unit head for chocolate and confectionery at Nestle.

There are so many options for marketing budget attribution and so many agencies vying for your brand’s attention – but how do you see that progressing?We always start with the consumer issue and opportunity to understand the marketing terrain. After we have been through a deep analysis of our consumers, we see how we can connect where we are with where we want to go( ie our brand vision). That becomes the basis of our strategy and marketing budget allocation. Once we are clear on what our destination is, then any option from an agency which can get us there is what is of interest to us and anything which is not connected with our end point is a distraction. We normally work with agencies who are on our roster and who have historically shown us they can perform. What is your view of the agency of the future?What do agencies need to offer brands in order to service their needs do you think? In my personal opinion, I think successful agencies of the future (like the ones of the past) need to have the core competencies of brand understanding, client/consumer understanding, and cost efficiency. Then comes to the skills part ie digital, instore, etc. which will help differentiate one from the other. A balanced combination of the both (competencies and skills) will help service brands in the best possible way. How can agencies support you better in your role in your opinion?Of course, it works both ways. As clients it is our responsibility to also support our agency in their roles so we can build a bond of relationship and trust. At the end of the day we are all humans and the more we work collaboratively understanding and supporting each other, the better our performance will be.This piece was originally published as part of The Recommended Agency Register (RAR) Brand Manager's Book, released last year. A copy of the RAR Brand Manager's Bookis available for free online to client-side marketers. For more information on the Recommended Agency Register, see its newly launched website.

UK, Unilever, Microsoft, Bing, The Drum Recommends, Modern Marketing