Marketing now means being an overachiever

Rapper Professor Green describes himself as a “cottage industry”. Talking at our Festival of Marketing last week, he told more than 3,000 visitors at the event in London that he saw himself as someone with multiple roles – musician, brand ambassador – all of which go into building his own identity and reputation.

He might have been talking about himself but Green’s words resonated with the delegates. These days, nobody has a single role. Everybody is a cottage industry.

All the marketers I spoke to at the Festival told me the same story (see our roundup of the festival here). Never before has there been a demand for such a wide range of skills within the profession. A marketer must be as creative as an artist; fiscally competent as the finance director; competent with data as a database specialist; and as curious about new media channels as a child.

Which brings me to this week’s cover story – The Secret Life of Generation Z. Just what media channels are being used by the up-and-coming consumers of tomorrow? As a true generation of digital natives who have never known a life without the internet, marketers must ensure their brands, products and marketing strategies are relevant for these emerging customers. It’s pointless spending a fortune on developing your email marketing if your future customers are all on Snapchat.

We lay bare the attitudes of the digital natives of Generation Z here. Some of the insights might surprise you.

The theme of understanding and reacting to the future was also picked up at the Festival of Marketing by spin doctor Alastair Campbell. He talked about the need for brands and executives to fully embrace a new digital age.

“Many feel that social media represents a poor return on time and investment. Others lack the confidence to engage and fear a hostile response,” he said. But Campbell warns “the greatest risk posed by social media is being absent from the conversation”.

Which comes back to another insight from the Festival. Attendees told me time and again that marketing is about conversations. There are more conversations than ever with customers, advocates, detractors, peers and prospects. And with everyone taking on multiple roles, finding time for all those conversations is the real future challenge.