Posted by Chuck Reynolds on January 16, 2017 - 8:36pm

Build the marketing team of the future

Marketing teams of tomorrow will need people who are curious, flexible and have a mix of commercial and technical skills, according to panelists at Marketing Week’s Vision 100 roundtable in partnership with Adobe. What does the marketing team of the future look like? That was the question addressed by members of Marketing Week’s club of visionary marketers, the Vision 100, at a recent roundtable debate in partnership with Adobe. The panel discussed the talent challenges they face and how the industry must adapt to the convergence of marketing with sales and technology.

Do we need digital specialists?

For seasoned multichannel marketer Barnaby Dawe, global CMO at Just Eat, the issue of whether digital specialists are required in a world where digital communications are pervasive is not straightforward. He does not envy newly qualified marketers who are under pressure to demonstrate both technical and brand skills.

He told fellow Vision 100 members that many digital natives enter the industry with technical abilities but struggle to make the connection between their digital specialism and a brand’s messages.  “We get growth when our brand appears on TV, and as more money goes into above-the-line (ATL) campaigns I will need marketers who understand the brand and the creative idea, and can execute it in a technical way,” said Dawe. Microsoft’s UK CMO Paul Davies agreed that brands will need marketers with a breadth of knowledge and that the mix of team members must be balanced. This means ensuring brands embrace both the art and the science of marketing.

He noted the emphasis on recruiting people who understand data and technology, but said there is still a lack of attention paid to hiring and training those who bring creativity. “The focus has been on the science and ROI but you must attach everything to a big idea,” he explained. “Future marketers must be good at collaboration because brands need people with strengths in both areas.” Rachel Swift, head of marketing, brand and social at John Lewis, said the industry needs to understand the consumer environment within which marketing will operate in the future.

“Empowered customers will expect transparency, honesty, and value. They will be firm but fair, demanding, and want immediate responses,” she said. “With that in mind, marketers must be able to adapt and embrace change, be responsive and keen to learn what’s working quickly. Finally, let’s not forget this is a creative industry that is supposed to be fun.”

The NFL’s UK head of marketing Sarah Swanson pointed out that her brand has fans rather than customers and that the marketing team is more specialist in the US and generalist in the UK. “We can see the science part of what we do as marketers, but the art must support the passion people have for our brand and engage ‘fandom’,” she said.

Marketers must be able to adapt and embrace change, be responsive and keen to learn what’s working quickly.

Many brands have developed specialist digital teams, but HMV’s head of marketing Patrizia Leighton was adamant the entertainment retailer might never have survived going into administration if it had not taken a more generalist approach in recent years. Her team has had to return to basics, with the marketing strategy focused on how the business meets customers’ needs and concerns. “If we had separate specialist digital teams or a digital plan, we would have lost some of the understanding of the brand that our marketers required to get closer to the customer and connect with them,” she said.

According to Creative England’s chief marketing and strategy officer Dawn Paine, brands are operating in an age of the “irrational consumer”. This means data is useless unless the marketing team can make sense of it and act on it. “It is a terrifying time to come into marketing and brands need people with strong intelligence and emotional skills,” said Paine. “Marketers are constantly reacting and you must never stop finding out more about your customers.”

The challenge for these senior marketers is how to find the people with the talents they will require. Colin Lewis, interim CMO of OpenJaw Technologies, an online tech partner to the world’s biggest travel brands, says brands must be more prepared to hire people with potential and train them up. “Few candidates have the exact skills brands are looking for but we want the skills now,” he said. “If you are prepared to train people, the talent you have in your team will be aligned to your brand objectives.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor