Businesses must reposition marketing to attract young talent

If businesses are to attract and excite the next generation they need to ensure they correctly communicate the wealth of opportunity a career in marketing can provide.


To make marketing an attractive and fulfilling career for young people, change needs to come from within businesses, both in terms of the way marketing is talked about internally and where companies look for new talent.

This is one of the aims of the School of Marketing, an education platform launched in partnership with Marketing Week to inform and excite school-age children about marketing and address the misconceptions about what a career in the industry might entail.

Santander CMO Keith Moor, who is among the marketers providing course content for the School of Marketing, argues that it is not only young people who default to thinking marketing is all about advertising – businesses have a habit of doing the same.

“If you look at the percentage of jobs in marketing that are about advertising, it’s a much smaller percentage than it ever has been,” he argues.

“There’s a lot of data science in there now, there’s a lot of driving business growth through brand strategy. There’s a lot of diversity, but the industry hasn’t done a good job of telling young people.”

As marketing interacts with so many other departments within a business, Microsoft commercial marketing director Helen Tupper, another contributor to the School’s modules, believes it is a great place for young people to gain a broad experience rather than specialising too soon.

“Marketing is going to give you, at the very least, a great understanding of how a company works, what it is to build and manage a brand, how a brand connects to its customers and from that you can work out what you’re great at,” she suggests.

“If you talk to young people like that and say ‘this is a really safe, nurturing, exciting place to start in’, it might appeal more.”

READ MORE: Thomas Barta – If marketing were a brand, you would fire the CMO

Marketing is not just advertising

From an agency perspective, Ogilvy UK vice-chairman Rory Sutherland believes it is crucial to get great people into brand-side marketing. He argues that the term ‘marketing’ is less interesting than the work it actually produces and when wrongly conflated with advertising it often leads young people to think they should just work in an agency.

“If there’s one thing I need in the next 20 years it’s not more great people to hire in the advertising industry, it’s more great clients,” he states. “The right kind of client is vastly more valuable [to agencies] than the right kind of colleague. Most people in advertising will admit that the very best work they produced was generally working for the right kind of client.”

A passionate advocate for marketing, Sutherland does not want the industry as a whole to suffer because young people are not armed with the right information.

“I sort of stumbled into [advertising],” he explains. “I was a classicist at university, ended up by very good fortune working at Ogilvy & Mather Direct and within about three weeks I suddenly realised marketing was an area of infinitely rewarding fascination, and I still feel that 30 years on.”

Dean and managing director of the School of Marketing, Ritchie Mehta, believes the industry should engage young people through co-creation and by showing them, through the lens of social media, that they are already part of marketing.

“We’re all a part of helping shape what the future of marketing looks like and social media is a great shorthand to say, actually, you’re contributing every time you ‘like’ something or ‘share’ something,” he explains.

I made an informed decision, because I had talked to people about what it entailed. If I had been talking to some 50-year-old duffers, that just wouldn’t have worked.

Mark Evans, Direct Line Group

This thinking is driving what the School of Marketing describes as its “customer-first” approach to learning.

Mark Evans, Direct Line Group marketing director and School of Marketing chairman, acknowledges it would be embarrassing if the programme lost sight of its young audience. Therefore, while it is great to have senior leaders as part of the rallying cry, they will be encouraged to get their junior team members involved, he says.

“If I think back to why I went into marketing, I thought I was destined for a career in finance. I took a year out and my job disappeared in a puff of smoke. Then I started talking to people who were three to five years in and found the people in finance were hating it and the people in marketing were really loving it,” Evans recalls.

“I made an informed decision, because I had talked to people about what it entailed. If I had been talking to some 50-year-old duffers, that just wouldn’t have worked.”

READ MORE: How the marketing industry is coming together to inspire the next generation

Recruitment evolves

Improving diversity within marketing means not just recruiting people from university.

Santander’s Moor wants people to realise what they can bring to marketing regardless of their educational background.

“We need all walks of life in there representing all different types of people; without that the industry will wither on the vine,” he says. “We recognise that we have to get more diversity, neurodiversity, socio-economic diversity. We don’t want everyone to be taught to think in the same way.”


Santander is in the process of developing a marketing apprenticeship, which Moor sees as a progressive way to build a diverse, modern workforce.

Microsoft already has a marketing apprenticeship in place, during which prospective candidates are placed in different roles across the department, alongside their formal training.

Natasha Alves, Microsoft marketing apprentice, explains she knew a little bit about marketing from a cousin who works in the industry and the sector appealed because she wanted to explore a creative career.

We need all walks of life in there representing all different types of people; without that the industry will wither on the vine.

Keith Moor, Santander

However, marketing was not talked about widely at her school and before she joined Microsoft she saw marketing and advertising as interchangeable. Alves says a lot of her friends share these same misconceptions, though they are intrigued about her role.

Since joining the apprenticeship, she wants to dig deeper and develop her overall understanding of marketing.

“At the moment, it’s understanding Microsoft’s marketing strategy, but for me I’m so excited to understand almost everything,” says Alves. “I don’t think anyone can sit there and say ‘I’m a complete marketer’, because the market changes every day. That’s why I love it so much, because as someone who is still quite young, there is so much personal development and career growth.”

READ MORE: Why brands need apprenticeships to widen access to marketing careers

With a growing coalition of marketers determined to improve diversity by taking action, change appears to be on its way.

For Santander’s Moor, the ultimate goal is to get people from diverse backgrounds into marketing by creating an infrastructure that allows them to get a foot on the ladder.

Crucially, he urges marketers to be brave in the strategies they build and the people they hire. “It’s as much about targeting businesses and getting them to open their eyes to the new skill set,” says Moor. “We need people to experiment and the School of Marketing is an attempt to try something a bit different.”

For more information on the School of Marketing and the Founding 50 visit