‘People with marketing capabilities will make the new leaders’

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These forewords usually start with a quote which helps set the tone of what is to come; however, I have decided to put mine at the end and start with a question.

Are you prepared, as a marketer, for what is happening over the next five years? If the answer is yes congratulations – you are part of the minority. The IBM 2011 Global CMO survey of 1,700 CMOs revealed that a majority of marketing leaders feel underprepared, with the leading gaps being around data explosion, social media, growth of channel and device choices, and shifting consumer demographics.

You only have to look at recent company results to understand that digital is important to the success of any company and those that do not adapt to the new world, no matter how big a brand, will suffer. John Lewis recently published positive results, citing an increase of 27.9% in online sales for the same period last year, whilst retailers like Habitat and Blacks (Millets) may be disappearing from our high streets.

Ed Weatherall

The music industry is also having to reinvent itself in the digital world, where CD sales revenue continues to fall, digital sales have increased and passed the $5bn dollar mark, and the number of users paying to subscribe to music services like iTunes and Spotify leapt 65% last year to 13.4 million.

The reality of 2012 will be mobile – you only have to look at the reports from InMobi on their global advertising network impressions to get a perspective on the increase in reach: 67 billion impressions in Q4 2010 increased to 234 billion impressions in Q4 2011. eBay also announced that mobile transactions – tracking at one per second – generated sales of $5bn for 2011.

But what does this mean for marketers? It means the way our customers consume our products is changing and the way we communicate with them must change too.

So how do organisations navigate in this new world? Who has a background in working with data to form insight? Who has spent their career listening and communicating and trying to create meaningful relationships?

I will give you a clue; Google recently announced European marketer Dan Cobley as its new UK managing director, a clear indication that people with marketing capabilities will make the new leaders.

I am very lucky to be spending time at the moment with brands like Heineken, Aviva, Nokia, Telefonica and a number of big banks: brands who really are investing strategically in the development of their marketing capabilities, and even I was surprised by the positive representation of marketing on their boards. These are companies who understand that in today’s competitive business environment, they need people who can rapidly identify and react to new opportunities.

I think the challenges a lot of organisations face are in understanding what the current marketing capabilities of their people are and where new skills are going to come from. Do you need to hire in or outsource these skills to your agencies, or do you take the grass roots approach and develop your people from within?

There has never been a better opportunity to learn – from web-based subscription services, from events and conferences, and from training partners like the IDM.

Personally I think you need to understand what you have, and how long you have, to get to where you need to go. Bringing in skills can help fast-track the building of your skills but to be sustainable you need to have a plan to ensure you continually develop your people to stay competitive.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go” – Dr Seuss.

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