Wanted: strategic digital marketers
While it’s surprising to see ‘senior digital marketer’ as the fifth hardest role to fill in the country, it’s easy to see indicators that demonstrate this.
The impact the internet has had over the last decade has been enormous and marketing has been at the epicentre of this change.
The faithful tools marketers have used over the years in terms of ‘reach and frequency’ are now so out of date they are barely relevant. An entirely new set of skills is required to connect with consumers – not broadcast to them – in the digital age. What’s emerged before marketers’ eyes is an increasingly sophisticated digital ecosystem. It’s not enough to know and think about digital as a new ‘channel’; it’s an increasingly complex and inter-dependent series of consumer touchpoints.
Given it’s a decade since I completed my marketing degree, it’s hard to comment on the current curriculum. However, I do interview about 30 to 40 people every year for marketing positions and I’m generally very underwhelmed by candidates’ ability to think strategically.
As far as I know, principles such as the ‘four Ps’ are still being taught by many marketing professors. While some may argue their continued relevance, we fundamentally believe such paradigms are no longer important. Today, we think about the four Es rather than the four Ps. ‘Product’ is now ‘Experience’ (how a customer engages), ‘Place’ – ‘Everyplace’ (multidevice, where the customer wants to engage), ‘Price’ – ‘Exchange’ (as in a value exchange), ‘Promotion’ – ‘Evangelism’ (leveraging powerful online social networks). These shifts are important and put the customer at the heart of any marketing effort. The point is many marketing models have fundamentally changed.
Beyond shifts in consumer behaviour, technological evolution is the other key driver. In our business we often refer to Moore’s Law. As computing power continues its exponential evolution, so too will technology’s impact on society and brands. Change will never again be this slow, so knowledge about emerging technology is as important as communication. The speed at which technology evolves makes it almost impossible to be taught – curiosity and a keen desire for discovery are essential to developing new skills.
In short, a deep understanding of rapidly evolving consumer behaviour and emerging technology is essential. It’s therefore no surprise a skill shortage exists given this challenging combo.
Compounding the problem for institutions is the demand from corporations. Many marketing departments are struggling to adapt in the midst of this rapid change, which in turn slows or skews demand on the education sector. While this sector may argue it as a contributing factor, their entire purpose is to educate and therefore they have an obligation to keep up, and develop talent that can have a better business impact.
I am surely biased, though it’s my view digital agencies are closest in terms of developing knowledge and offering thought leadership on digital marketing. Much of the talent we have is home grown, and nurtured via a small group of industry leaders who choose to work ‘agency side’. We select our talent from various backgrounds and put them together to collaborate and learn from one another every day. The sum is greater than its parts, and it’s very hard, if not impossible to replicate. I’m not sure there is any other way.
At STW (our parent company) we run our own Digital Academy. It’s people from within the group’s digital agencies that provide the content. This is in direct response to the lack of digital knowledge in the workforce and options in terms of training and development in the market. Our Academy aims to train over 1,000 employees in the first year across a range of modules from strategy to execution. The content is up-to-the minute and always changing. I’m not sure any institution can compete with this model.
I agree with Monash University’s Irene Powell, who suggests that a good undergraduate degree, augmented with work experience in a sound organisation (I’d say progressive), supplemented with industry seminars and short courses is a good starting point. In digital marketing, we’re re-writing the textbooks every day.