Wanted: strategic digital marketers

In response to:Why is senior digital marketer the 5th hardest role to fill in Australia?


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The faithful tools marketers have used over the years in terms of ‘reach and frequency’ are now so out of date they are barely relevant.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.


Brian Vella
BY Brian Vella ON 28 June 2012
  • ShayneT

    Let me first say well done, fantastic response, that I think nails it (in my opinion anyway).

    I’ve had an interesting lifecycle with digital. I started building websites out of uni (bad ones), then worked in traditional marketing/business for nearly a decade, I then took my appreciation of how to build websites, how marketing fundamentally works, and now apply them exclusively in a digital environment. I’ve often shared your frustration in finding quality candidates, not only in senior positions, but digital positions in general. I’ve found the ground get’s pretty thin when you ask for demonstrated commercial success with digital marketing activities. I’ve almost given up on looking for that perfect skill set and focus more on applicable attributes — some of which you touch on “curiosity and a keen desire for discovery are essential to developing new skills.”.

    I did just want to add a little more depth on your comments around the increasing complexity. Not only is the overall digital dynamic intricate and complex, you also need to appreciate and to a degree understand how the web is fundamentally constructed, so you can unearth opportunities. I’m also seeing the specialist effect becoming more prominent because each digital discipline is become more and more complex in it’s own right. Search activity (SEO and SEM) require creativity in one hand and HTML knowledge in the other. Social strategies require consideration of positioning, voice, branding as well as knowing what the social media API is capable off.

    5 years ago you could perhaps consider yourself an expert in all areas of digital marketing, these days as a senior digital marketer, you’re likely to be a master of one and a jack-of-all for the rest. It’s just too hard to keep fresh and relevant on them all (unless you spend your whole day reading and not doing anything).

    The web moves moves fast, what’s right today is wrong tomorrow, there are still a bunch of unanswered questions, and fortune often favours the bold – but that’s why we love it!

  • bag209

    I like the reference to the Four E’s – it might not apply to all business models in Australia today, but it will soon enough.

    I think a good way to transition this conversation is a quick revisit to what a skill shortage actually is:

    Is this an accurate statement for the Australian job market? I think not.

    In addition to the proliferation of technologies and industry best practices, I believe that it is difficult to find talented professionals when organisations and are only willing to look as far as their own backyard. Rather than seeking individuals with best practice knowledge across industries, it is my experience that recruiting agencies have been given firm instruction to shortlist only ‘homegrown talent’ – where a sliver of industry experience grossly outweighs any real demonstrated experience.

    I 100% agree with Shane T’s comments around the pool of digital talent becoming increasingly specialised and that it is immensely difficult to find someone that is a jack-of-all-digital-trades. However, since 2011 there have been more than 600,000 international students/graduates in Australia at any given time. Let’s not forget the many others that have left their countries behind for a new life in Australia. I’m sure a few of them have taken the 2 day seminar on Google Adwords/Analytics to become an certified SEO/SEM whiz’s.

    My question to recruiters – Why not utilize some of this talent? Believe it or not, diversity really is the key to success.

  • Whistler

    Great post Brian.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Are there any digital marketing short course providers in Australia that you can recommend?

  • Brian Vella

    Thank you Whistler. Regarding short courses, I recommend looking at Econsultancy. They seemingly have a good mix of current and relevant topics, as well as credible practitioners.




  • Di

    Can’t find any info online about the STW Digital Academy you refer to??

  • Hi Di, you need to be a member of an STW Group company. You can find opportunities here: