Say it loud: ‘I am a marketer and proud’
Taking questions at the end of a session addressing marketing’s role in corporate purpose, a panel of very senior marketers were asked by an audience member with a diffidence that suggested the question was without irony: “It’s OK to still sell stuff, right?”. Turns out it was, phew. At risk of applying undue context, the questionner’s point to the esteemed panel was this: “While saving the world is a worthwhile exercise, selling products and services to generate profitable growth is not without nobility”.
This incident is demonstrative of a wider malaise among some marketers, something which has been bubbling under the surface since the turn of the decade about to end – an industry ill at ease with itself.
We reached peak brand purpose in 2019 with Gillette’s ‘The Best a Man Can Be’ and Cadbury’s ‘Unity Bar’. Brand purpose is not entirely without merit and, indeed, admirable in the hands of the authentic. Others, however, grasphed for a purpose. A reaction to what they see as a more questioning generation of consumers.
Attuned marketers have sought to become part of the solution to the world’s ills, that it was no longer enough to have a product that performed or a service that satisfied – you had to be worthy. Millennials demanded it, apparently.
This has slipped into an underlying disquiet among many about what they do for a living. That, somehow, being a marketer is an unwholesome business. The ‘anti-advertising advertising’ trend we explored is indicative of a self-loathing many are suffering from.
If marketers are not turning their backs, they are suffering from a lack of self-confidence. A recent Deloitte study of C-suite executives found just 5% of marketers “very confident” in their strategic decision-making capability and fewer than a third confident they can demonstrate financial impact, understand customers or initiate collaboration.
But dig a little deeper into the study and you find cause for optimism. Marketers’ C-Suite colleagues have a much higher regard for marketers than they have for themselves. More than of half of CEOs, for example, rate marketers as “effective”
Take solace in this. If marketing is to flourish, marketers need to be confident and accept the discipline’s crucial role in delivering growth.
Say it with me: “I am a marketer, and proud of it”.
The return of insight
We spent time looking back in 2019. Through two new fixtures on and offline, the ‘Inside Story’ and podcast series ‘Marketing that Matters’, we have examined significant marketing moments such as the 1985 relaunch of the Levi 501 brand, the launch of Tesco’s Clubcard, Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, and Direct Line’s transformative ‘The Fixer’ positioning.
Although disparate, they are all examples of bold leadership, of big bets, of how marketing can be truly transformational. They are also examples of insight. Of the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something. It could be said they weren’t entirely logical, none were decisions read from spreadsheets.
Talking to Marketing Week earlier this year about his book Alchemy, Rory Sutherland claimed marketers are applying the wrong kind of scientific rigour to their practice in their pursuit of credibility – the absolute certainty of physics, rather than the less logical, but ultimately effective, behavioural science.
If marketing is to flourish, marketers need to be confident and accept the discipline’s crucial role in delivering growth.
Despite budgetary pressure and real-time demands, marketers have to stop accepting and applying the lessons of claimed data and return to the more nuanced, longer and more forensic job of insight.
Adding her thoughts to the debate, Cheryl Calverley, former Unilever and AA marketer and now CMO of Eve Sleep, said marketers’ move away from the tools to extract insight have left them ill-equipped to do the job.
“We’ve thrown focus groups out for online forums. We’ve thrown ethnographic studies out for trends in platform data. And we’ve thrown out one-to-one customer contact for being ‘too busy’. The modern marketer is less able to conduct the orchestra of the marketing mix,” she said.
Take heed. There is a lot to be said for data, agility and the pursuit of the new as there is for taking the time to explore the illogicality of humans.
Find new routes for recruitment
Marketing Week’s 2019 began with publication of our annual Career and Salary Survey. Among many stark points of analysis is this one: marketing needs to up its recruitment game. This remains the challenge for 2020.
According to our survey, a huge 90% of marketers are degree educated. The number and type of person entering higher education is greater and more varied than ever before. But universities remain lacking in ethnic and social diversity.
There is a clear need for training or some hue of qualification if marketers wish to progress, but there is no need to be degree educated. There is nothing wrong with hiring people who have applied themselves enough to complete three years of study. The problem is almost exclusively doing so. Brands should be seeking greater socio-economic and ethnic diversity in their ranks. The business case is clear.
The larger marketing organisations can create the bigger impact but also, perhaps, have the furthest to go. Our survey found small businesses are outpacing larger companies when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
Efforts need to be stepped up in embracing new routes into marketing beyond graduate recruitment. Apprenticeships are one option; greater school outreach to address the chronic lack of awareness of marketing as a career another. Offering work experience to children of parents working across the organisation, and not just those of executive committee members, would be another.
Widening the demographic pool for recruits makes business sense. It will also becoming increasingly necessary as the competition for graduates becomes more intense.
It should be on your to-do list next year and every year.
It really is time to end sexual harassment
Despite admirable effort from those involved, the advertising and marketing industry’s response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements has some way to go before achieving its objective.
The TimeTo campaign, a collaboration between the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL, launched in 2018 with the aim of eradicating sexual harassment. According to research published in October by the Advertising Association-backed think tank Credos, there is plenty to do.
The problem remains a cultural one. Companies need to create an environment where people feel comfortable in reporting sexual harassment.
The research found that one in 10 people from the 232 advertising and marketing companies that signed up to the initiative have experienced sexual harassment over the past year. Of the 14% aged 18 to 24 that responded, 47% have been harassed more than once. Almost a third, ignored the incident. Just one in five reported it.
It is the final finding that should be of most concern. In response, the TimeTo campaign put out a toolkit of one pagers, policy inserts and planners for companies to guard against high-risk occasions.
Such measures will help, as will awareness drives. TimeTo launched a Christmas-themed campaign last month to encourage witnesses to sexual harassment to take action.
The problem, however, remains a cultural one. Companies need to create an environment where people feel comfortable in reporting harassment.
The responsibility can’t just be on the victim or their colleagues. Offenders also need to know that their behaviour will be punished. It’s time to match warm words of sentiment with more decisive action.