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The Observatory’s Richard Bleasdale on what it takes to be a marketing leader in 2018


By Charlotte McEleny | Asia Editor

February 2, 2018 | 4 min read

The marketing industry is an exciting and challenging place to be at the moment. Disruption faces all industries as a faster rate and the marketer is at the pointy end, right in the fray with the customers driving the change and mounting higher expectations day after day.


The Observatory's Richard Bleasdale on what it takes to lead as a marketer

To lead in this environment requires specific skills and, as The Marketing Society launches its Marketing Leaders Programme Asia 2018, The Drum asks some of the most prominent marketing leaders… what does it take to be a marketing leader in 2018.

First to answer the questions is Richard Bleasdale, managing partner, Asia Pacific, The Observatory International.

What does it take to be a marketing leader?

Bravery - to fight for the consumer inside the organisation, and fight for their attention outside the organisation.

Agility - to move at the speed of the Asian market and faster than your competitors.

Magnetism - to attract, retain and motivate talented people, peers and partners.

What are three key attributes a future marketing leader needs and why?

As above - in Asia attributes are becoming more critical though.

How important is training or mentorship to marketer growth?

Critical, particularly in Asia, where these have never been a real focus. As the marketing environment is transforming rapidly, the breadth of knowledge marketers need is increasing rapidly, as is their range of skills. They are constantly being challenged to push the boundaries, but get it right. Both training and mentorship are critical to enable marketers in Asia to transform themselves with confidence and agility.

Has the role of the marketer shifted and what does that mean for leadership skills?

It would be fairer to say that the role of the marketer is constantly shifting. Asian marketers exist in a continuum of organisational types. At one end, some organisations are increasingly marketing-driven, and in this environment, their marketers play a more central strategic role and their leadership skills need to be stronger and broader. At the other end of the continuum, some organisations increasingly see marketing as an executional cost-centre, their marketers are not expected to lead, and so leadership skills are diluted.

What makes a marketer stand out as a leader of the future?

Principally, success. Although increasingly it’s the ability to deliver success in the rapidly transforming Asian marketing environment. This ability is enabled through the characteristics of bravery, agility and magnetism.

Can you be a leader by just doing the day job? Or should marketers be doing extra-curricular work?

In the rapidly transforming marketing environment, Asian marketers must be prepared to invest in themselves outside of the day-job, to grow and develop. This however, is not that new a requirement, but is probably more acute now than ever before due to the speed of change and disruption going on.

What's next - does a marketer make a good CEO?

They already do - studies show that leading companies who have already have CEOs with a marketing background, sits at about 20-25%, and that this figure is growing steadily, driven by the need for organisations to develop greater customer-centricity and the marketer’s innate talents of being more agile, versatile and less risk-averse.

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