Marketing: the next generation

Posted: November 21, 2014

The attributes needed to succeed in marketing are changing fast; tomorrow’s talent will be polymaths, mastering a radically new skill set, argues Added Value’s Bart Michels

Marketing itself hasn’t changed, but the world around it has. Great marketing will always be great marketing because it is borne of an insight, has a strong idea inside it, a clear sense of who it’s for and a pathway to creating demand and commercialising it effectively.

Yet labels like ‘blue chip’ and ‘classically trained’ will be increasingly seen as meaningless and consigned to the talent bin. No longer are good verbal skills, charisma and being good on speaker platforms enough. Marketing teams in the next five years and beyond will be exponentially different in make-up, activities and operating principles.

The marketing talent of the future will no doubt be true polymaths, combining their skills seamlessly to drive innovation that’s culturally relevant for today and tomorrow.  So what are the key skill sets that will be in demand when recruiting that talent? Here are five, each exemplified by a new style of marketing practitioner.

  • The Commercial Entrepreneur

In many ways, entrepreneurial spirit is the new marketing degree. The Commercial Entrepreneur sees ideas and content as social and commercial currency. This person will challenge the way your marketing (and business) do things with a distinct disrespect for conventional business models and their outcomes. With backgrounds in Computer Science, Fine Art and Design, the co-founders of Airbnb exemplify this type. They have successfully shaped a new economic and social model, building their business on a new way of joined up working where Marketing works with Engineering to tackle challenges together.

How to attract & retain them: Alive with entrepreneurial spirit, these people are driven by building new ventures. Offer a high-risk and supporting culture, giving them permission to trial, learn from mistakes and create successes.

  • The Natural Storyteller

Few marketers of today have been formally trained in creative writing or the construction of fiction. And even fewer when it comes to moving beyond data mining to connecting with the customer. The Natural Storyteller thinks storytelling in data visualisation, bringing punchy facts to life through powerful, yet simple images.

David McCandless, founder of Information is Beautiful (an organization dedicated to distilling the data around us), is a great example of the Natural Storyteller and a polymath to boot. His resume showcases an eclectic mix of roles including data journalist, conceptual copywriter, web editor, creative director and even comedy writer.

How to attract & retain them: These people thrive on constant streams of stimulation. Fuel their creative imagination with new concepts giving them permission to experiment and publish with a blank canvas mentality.

  • The Data Scientist

The Data Scientist lives in data, but can only see insight. The Data Scientist naturally edits and filters any number of information streams and most importantly knows how to turn data findings into action. An example of the Data Scientist at work is Ray-Ban’s Social Visionaries app, which shows consumers why their life is visionary by using data from their Facebook profile to play back fun and bespoke animated films about who they are.

How to attract & retain them: Enable them with technology, and present them with a constant stream of seemingly unsolvable brand challenges. But give them time and space to think too.

  • The Cultural Connector

 The Cultural Connector is a magpie, spotting the shiniest cultural opportunities. Responding to consumers’ needs today is not enough for these marketers. Neither is keeping up with culture. Their brains join the dots to uncover how your brand can inspire and lead culture itself. Shoemaker Converse exemplifies the Cultural Connector’s approach, investing its money in fixing up derelict skate parks with local skate communities rather than big budget advertising campaigns.

How to attract & retain them: Offer them the irresistible chance to get right inside new and leading edge experiences, satisfying their thirst for what’s about to come.

  • The Inside-Out-Thinker

The Inside-Out-Thinker turns traditional marketing logic on its head. For him or her it’s no longer about selling to a consumer, but thinking from their perspective to make their brand interactions meaningful at every touch point. Burberry does this by turning its traditional luxury roots upside down, using technology to create real life virtual worlds for its consumers to interact with.

How to attract & retain them: Show a willingness to play an active role in consumers’ lives. Encourage the Inside-Out-Thinker to challenge with their “so what?” mentality.

Be bold, be brave and try something different when it comes to recruiting your superstars of the future.

We can’t say for certain what the future will look like, but going after talent that thrives on change and delivering change is a good start to ensure you always stay ahead of the competition.

Hire for attitude and train for skills. Structuring your recruitment process around an individual’s aptitude, attitude and values is key. Entrepreneurism, passion, creativity, experimentation, having a deep fascination for culture and brands – these are all-important building blocks for any marketing team of the future.

Connections are powerful. Your best employees will know the best talent out there. And partnering with them is a great opportunity to help broadcast your fame as a business. Harness their connections and recommendations to help go after the best talent. What networks do they belong to, what publications do they read, and which industry events do they attend? Take the opportunity to be present and visible at every opportunity.

Finding and then harnessing the power of the five key skill sets of the future marketing team will not only reveal your business growth agenda and but also fuel the virtuous circle of buzz, creating buzz and generating success sooner than you think.