This article is part 1 of 4 on marketing education and qualifications that first appeared in the June 2011 issue of Marketing magazine, comprising four perspectives: The Researcher, The Boss, The Educator/Practitioner and The Independent.

The Researcher

Thomas Brown is head of insights for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), where he heads up CIM’s industry professional development strategy and chartered accreditation, and leads a series of high profile benchmarking and research projects. A recognised thought leader in development of best practice in marketing capability, Brown regularly advises brand, marketing and capability leaders on world class marketing.

In April 2011, the Chartered Institute of Marketing celebrated its 100-year anniversary – a milestone reached at a time of much change for our institute and our profession. Some 15 years ago, we introduced the first continuing professional development (CPD) program for marketing – a scheme that, today, is followed by over 18,000 of our members, over 5000 of whom are certified as chartered marketers.

For the last 10 to 12 months, we’ve been in dialogue with a wide range of our stakeholders about marketing in the next century, and specifically the role of professional development and certification within this.

What’s needed from a professional development roadmap in a modern marketing team? Is there a role for certification in the 21st century? What do marketers need or aspire to as individuals, and how are they supported by their employers?

These are just a few of many ‘big questions’ we’ve been exploring with individuals and employers from all walks of life. Supported by the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI), the largest research study of its kind saw almost 8000 marketers worldwide take part, in order to help inform the answers to these questions. Here are some of the insights emerging from our research and our conversations with marketers.


Where to start?

It seems most logical to begin with employers. After all, it is businesses that create the demand for marketing and – therefore – competent and professionally developed individuals and teams.

Even before the recent global economic downturn, we saw a shift in how employers were approaching the development of marketing skills and talent. Conversations and plans were moving from tactical, ad hoc support (such as through one-off training courses or conferences) to a more considered investment in building skills and ability for the long-term.

Now, as organisations increasingly focus on growth, the question of how to build, nurture and sustain great marketing capability and talent is once again under the spotlight. Post-recession, we’re witnessing something of a renaissance of marketing playing an increasing role in helping a business to compete. What’s more, marketing leaders and teams themselves are operating against the backdrop of growing turbulence and change:

  • seismic shifts in the concept of ‘value’ – for businesses and consumers alike
  • increasing regulation, legislation and both governmental and societal scrutiny
  • an ever-more ‘marketing-savvy’ customer or consumer, and
  • an explosion in digital communications channels and marketing technologies.

These four issues are by no means exhaustive, but they do point to new challenges and a world of opportunity that only creates fresh talent and skills questions for employers.


Where to fish

What does a modern marketer look like? How strong is the talent pool that an employer has to fish in?

Our recent research provided an extraordinary insight into the make-up of today’s marketer. Some positive learnings emerged – for example, that more than eight out of 10 marketers have experience in other business functions – but other findings were more concerning.

Consider that almost half of marketers didn’t begin their career with the intention of working in marketing, and that over one-third don’t feel their career has matched up to their expectations.

What does this mean in practice? Well, in simple terms, if you’re in a team of 10 marketers, five of you didn’t plan to be there and three of you are getting what you wanted from your career. You can begin to see some of the challenges facing employers or recruiters:

  • how can we build consistency in foundation marketing skills, against such inconsistency in marketing as a career choice
  • how do we improve perceptions, expectations and education about what’s involved in marketing roles and careers, and
  • what do we need to change about our recruitment, development and performance management to make sure we attract and retain the right people in the right roles?


Fickle and disloyal?

Building on our insights into marketing careers, we also explored the intentions of marketers. Consider this:

  • fewer than 25 percent of marketers plan to rarely change employer during their career
  • at least half of marketers are planning for a career with multiple employers, in multiple industry sectors (in some sectors, this reaches 70 percent), and
  • some 25 percent of marketers intend to pursue a career within the same sector, but plan to work for multiple employers.

Put simply, around three-quarters of marketers plan for a reasonable amount of change and movement in their careers, and the majority plan to spend this time in multiple industry sectors.

On a positive note, this movement of talent should foster innovation and new thinking, as people and ideas are transferred not only between companies, but also across industries. It should also provide employers with a richer source of potential hires and a degree of flexibility as teams naturally evolve and move on.

It does, however, raise some slightly more serious questions. What will this do for the cost of hiring and replacing people and knowledge? Will employers continue to invest in their teams in the knowledge that 75 percent of them plan to take their skills to a competitor or different industry? How will businesses maintain common skills and language with such a diverse mix of talent, experience and backgrounds within a single team?


What do they really want?

It’s easy to assume that fame and money motivate most employees. In reality, today’s marketer has a more balanced set of goals and aspirations:

  • only four percent of marketers rank winning awards and recognition for their work as the number one priority in terms of their longer-term career aspirations
  • just 10 percent place reaching the post of marketing director as most important, and
  • almost half (48 percent) put either career satisfaction or work-life balance at the top of their list.

Given the realities of workload and the pace at which most marketers work, this challenges employers to ensure that the support, resource and incentives with which they manage their marketing teams is not aligned just to financial gain or career advancement. Rather, employers may need to consider other ways of developing and providing benefit to their marketers.


The imperatives for a professional body

Building on the insights developed within our recent research, we’re continuing to talk to our members and other stakeholders about the opportunities to evolve our approach to leading and supporting the professional development needs of marketers and teams. Here are some of the conversations we’re having in response to what we’ve learned:

  • Setting a standard – should we introduce a requirement for a proportion of mandatory development each year, undertaken by all members? Would this help?
  • One size doesn’t fit all – can one professional development program really work for a marketing graduate as well as an experienced chief marketing officer? Could we adopt a more segmented approach that sees CPD evolve as a marketer’s career stage, needs and aspirations change?
  • Employer engagement – how do we embed the concept of CPD within employers? Can we look to introduce company CPD programs for marketing teams and functions? Is there a role for the certification of an employer’s professional development commitments, as well as the individual’s?
  • Credibility among other professions – how can we improve the perception of marketing development and certification among professionals in other business disciplines (such as finance and accounting, legal, property etc)?