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Do we need rocket scientists or marketing polymaths?


Do we need rocket scientists or marketing polymaths?


People skilled in developing apps for mobile and tablet devices are in hot demand. It’s an example of how fast the industry is changing given these jobs didn’t exist only a short time ago.

Who would have imagined 10 years ago that data gurus and data specialists who simply love to pivot a table and dig deep in data would have been embraced with such open arms into the world of marketing! It is now imperative to be data smart and have a passion for all things digital. In fact, it has become the centrepiece of everything we do.

Today our industry needs people who have new and diverse skills – we need people who are creative and logical, social as well as cerebral. So do we need rocket scientists? Perhaps not, but they must be marketing polymaths – in other words, a keen mind whose expertise spans many different areas in the multichannel communications arena.

The days of one-dimensional, one-way, en masse marketing are long gone. We now live in the age where consumers expect and respond to targeted, personalised, two-way communication and value-added brand experiences. To be relevant to a consumer it is a necessity, not an option, to create multi-platform consumer engagement plays, in the channels they want to engage with. Our people therefore need to be skilled at both planning and executing a marketing campaign across many different platforms and communication channels.

My prediction is there will be three key trends and thought-patterns that will shape multichannel marketers, both today and for the next generation.

1. Collaboration. The role of the marketer is shifting from creative or specialist to ‘co-creator’ – and the most innovative ideas are multi-dimensional. So marketers need to learn to collaborate, integrate and execute ideas from a range of specialties (such as social media, experiential marketing, mobile, search, PR etc). The result will be an integration of complementary platforms into a single seamless marketing experience for the customer. Those that can connect with others to bring out their best and collaborate in a shared vision will succeed.

2. A curious mind that connects the dots. Being able to just ‘get it’ is a cognitive skill, but it can be learned and developed through broadening your horizons. This may mean following a lateral career path rather than a linear, upward one, or gaining a broad perspective through diversity of experience. What may seem random, unfocused and even unambitious to some is actually the sign of a curious, questioning and creative mind. By exploring different paths and interests – for example combining data science, web development and psychology – and picking up different, complementary skills along the way, a marketer will develop the ability to see patterns in the randomness of life and human behaviour.

This deep desire to understand everything and the natural ability to cross-pollenate unrelated ideas leads to fresh innovation and cutting edge creativity. It helps the multichannel marketer see different perspectives and understand how different customers think and engage. This curiosity also makes it easier to adapt to the ever changing digital world, make sense of current trends and predict future ones.

3. Social intelligence. It’s not just enough to know about social media, you also need to know the rules of engagement plus understand and empathise with your particular social media audience. You need to ‘get’ how people think and what will strike the right chord with them, and then engage in conversation based on common interests and experiences, rather than one-way self-promotion. To create a deeper connection, you also need to encourage meaningful ‘social actions’ to give purpose and longevity to the conversation. When combined with data analytics, you can gain powerful insights into the audience’s thoughts, behaviour and preference.

All of the change is taking place because the world of digital has collided at great speed with the world of everyday social interaction and ideas.

Just as evolution shaped nature through the survival of the fittest, the digital evolution will see the multichannel, multi-skilled ‘polymath’ marketer thrive because they can easily adapt and embrace change, share ideas and innovate, take risks, follow random paths and make deeper connections.


Nick Spooner

Nick Spooner is CEO of Salmat Digital, leading their digital marketing and communications business. Since moving to Sydney in 2000 from London, Nick has been COO at Ninemsn, chief digital officer at Network Ten and has also worked in various senior roles at Optus.

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