‘Generalist’ marketers now in high demand

Digital specialists are becoming less relevant as businesses increasingly turn to ‘generalist’ marketers who can work across all channels, a panel of senior marketers has said.

Generalist marketers

Speaking at the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium in London today (16 October), Adobe’s EMEA marketing director John Watton suggested that digital skills are now central to all roles and that marketers should offer a rounded “blend” of skills.

“We need more generalists who can look across the channels and drive the right mix for whatever we’re trying to do,” he said. “When search came out we had search specialists, when social came out we had social specialists – some of those roles are now merging into one generalist.

“Are we now going to have a wearables specialist or an ‘internet of things’ specialist? Those specialisms can drive you down silos. It’s about having a blended mix and we look for skills and people who can understand this digital age, rather than offline versus online marketing.”

Also on the panel, Totaljobs Group head of customer marketing Jonathan Hedger pointed out that three times as many marketing jobs contain the word digital in the job description than in 2011, but that the term ‘digital’ is much less likely to be in the actual job title now than it was then.

“That demonstrates the fact that businesses consider digital to be an inherent part of a marketing job – it’s not something separate anymore,” he said.

However, Simon Jones, director of marketing technology at Motorola Solutions, noted that digital technology is still relatively new in historical terms and that businesses can benefit from having certain specialist digital roles.

“We’re 25 years into digital marketing – the industrial revolution is 250 years old,” he said. “What we’re doing now is still pioneering so you have to bring those specialists in. As technology matures and we understand what works and what doesn’t works, you can then hand it over to the generalists.

“So I think there’s going to be a core of generalists [within the average business] and then two or three specialist groups that go out and do the pathfinding for the organisation.”

Ben Jones, chief technology officer of digital agency AKQA, also claimed that as marketing channels become increasingly integrated, marketers should seek to work more closely with other people within their organisations. “You’ve got the wrong creatives if they don’t want to understand how the technologists work.”

The event coincided with the release of a new survey of 500 marketers by Adobe that shows that 43 per cent of marketers believe more than half of their marketing activity is now digital.

The poll also revealed that marketers are most concerned about their lack of skills in digital analytics. Thirty per cent of marketers feel they lack knowledge in mobile analytics, 27 per cent in web analytics and 25 per cent in social analytics. This is despite over half using analytics tools in their day-to-day work.

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  • Bruce Frazer 20 Oct 2014 at 11:47 pm

    This all makes sense by contracting out to a “Generalist” the Specialists can then be Sub-ed out from there….less strain on Company resources…

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here

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