In business, it’s time for marketers to take the lead

What is the role for the marketer of the future?

With shifts in technology affecting societal habits and the speed of communications, businesses are under pressure to find new means in which to operate in order to engage customers – meaning marketers need to be on top of those developments while driving their brands forward. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine what the role of the future marketer could or should be.

With that evolution in mind, and with the judging session for The Drum Marketing Awards bringing together an impressive group of world-class marketing talent in one room, The Drum seized the opportunity to find out what these heavyweights believe the marketer of the future will look like and what skills they will require.

Philippa Snare, EMEA global business marketing at Facebook and chair of this year’s awards, predicts the modern marketer has the skills to secure the top job at their business; “I’d like to see more examples of chief marketing officers (CMOs) becoming chief executive officers (CEOs),” says Snare.

“It’s time to challenge the assumption that those from a sales or finance background make the best leaders when the modern CMO is already asked to manage their budget like a P&L account, boost the performance of the sales pipeline, oversee internal and external communications and predict the future movements of the market. So, for me, the modern marketer is the CEO.”

Echoing Snare’s comments, the jury of brand-side marketers shared their views on the increasing need for contemporary marketers to operate as long-term visionaries and leaders within their companies.

“There’s a real paradox in the work of the modern CMO in that the pressure on us is becoming more and more short-term and focused on performance,” says Gareth Helm, CMO at ZPG. “However, a good CMO is a visionary leader for the business, who shifts people out of short-term thinking in the service of the long-term survival and success of the brand. The marketer of the future will be someone capable of blending the demands of short-term delivery against the longer-term needs of the brand and business.”

Danny Denhard, director of growth at Just Giving agrees; “If we don’t [own the long-term vision strategy] our CEOs will chop away at our remit, our team and our budgets. We need to extend our influence on the product, on UX, on design, on delivery and so on. Marketers need to do what product teams have had to do for a long time: bed-in with other departments and bring them on the journey with you.”

However, to do this well, marketers need to operate as translators between the different areas of the business, says Luisa Fernandez, marketing director at Yo! Sushi. “Marketers will need to be able to talk to digital teams and understand what they are doing, and then translate that from a CX perspective to feedback into the business. We need to break down the language barriers between marketers and digital,” says Fernandez.

The modern senior marketer needs to be, “part-diplomat, working across all parts of the business; part-psychologist, trying to figure out the customer; and part-analyst, given the importance of interpreting data”, according to Andrew Cocker, senior marketing director at Expedia. But, despite this focus on new skills, marketers still require solid foundations in the fundamentals of marketing, something he believes too many contemporary digital marketing recruits are lacking.

And blending these fundamental skills with new skills is key to what Ross Matthews, chief marketing officer at Icelolly.com, calls the “holy trinity of skills” for the future marketer. He believes the secret to marketing success will be a focus

on the customer journey, the charisma to remain a close confidant of the CEO and CFO, and the ability to successfully utilise emerging tech solutions.

Of course, no conversation about the future of marketing is complete without considering the impacts of technology. Victoria Needs, head of international marketing at Sony Music Entertainment, asks, “How much is AI going to impact on our day job? How will that transform our role even further? We don’t know the answers to those question yet.”

However, despite the new technologies, understanding the customer will still be central to the future of marketing, says Neema Shah-Khan, head of marketing at Freeview. “Technology has provided us with the ability to do amazing things, to tailor our messages to the level of the individual customer in a smart and cost-effective way, but without an emotional connection, those messages won’t cut through. The things that make us human won’t change and we’d be wise to always remember that.”

The marketer of the future, as is perhaps already the case, will have to straddle a number of skills, but also be more collaborative in approach too as the various demands and complexities of the job increase.

The full list of marketers involved in awards jury and the conversation can be viewed here.

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