‘Curiosity, understanding and empathy the key traits of a successful marketer’

The marketers of tomorrow will need to be curious, understand consumers and be willing to learn from ‘people better than them’ if they want to have successful careers in the industry according to top marketers.

The tools marketers have to reach people might be changing, but the core business of marketing is still the same and marketers that want to succeed need to “be curious, have understanding and show empathy”.

That is the view of top marketers who were yesterday (31 August) receiving Fellowships from The Marketing Society.

Speaking to Marketing Week at the event, Anthony Thomson, the founder and chairman of new digital bank Atom Bank, explained: “Marketing the discipline keeps changing. In the 1980s it was direct marketing, in the 2000s and 2010s it’s about digital marketing. But I want people to understand that the business of marketing is from human to human.

“It is about people who understand and have empathy with humans. It’s so easy for people to get wound up in the technology and forgetting that ultimately it’s about consumers.”

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John Allert, group brand director at McLaren, says the key for marketers at any stage in their careers is to be “curious”. “The kind of people who not only get into marketing but succeed in marketing are people with an innate ability to consume what’s going on around them. Challenging themselves to think about the world around them rather than passively existing in the world.”

Although both Thomson and Allert have spent large chunks of their careers in marketing, their routes in were quite different. Thomson started out in marketing before going on to found first Metro Bank and then Atom Bank, while Allert started out as a designer before making the career switch. Yet both agree that marketing sets people up for a long-term career doing “almost any vocation”.

Allert said: “If, through the lens of marketing, you learn to understand the world around you and decode consumers and the way they behave in a variety of different industries or situations, you could have a career in business or education or in almost anything.

“Marketing is about finding a universal truth about how people behave and how they react to different things and there is no vocation I can think of where that is totally irrelevant.”

John Allert, group brand director, McLaren

Thomson agreed, adding: “One thing that good marketers should have is an innate understanding of the consumer. That innate understanding can then be applied to any category and any business. Ultimately, businesses stand or fall by their ability to persuade customers to buy their products. And the people who persuade people to buy products are marketers.“

As for their advice for people starting out, Thomson said he would recommend “learning from people better than you”, while remembering that sometimes there are good days or weeks or months and other times bad ones and to “treat those two imposters the same”.

Allert, meanwhile, said the best advice he received was from his father and it was that “personal integrity and reputation are by far and away the greatest asset you’re even going to have in business”.