What makes marketers tick?

As part of Marketing Week’s 40th anniversary celebrations, we are taking a detailed look at the different psychological profiles that make up the marketing profession. Who are you, what does marketing mean to you and how does that influence how you do your job?


Marketers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and more importantly, with a variety of mindsets. As Marketing Week turns 40 this year, it seems an excellent time to investigate just what those mindsets look like, and how they affect marketers’ working habits and professional principles.

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Partnering with research company CrowdCat, we have set out to create psychological profiles of the Marketing Week audience. The project is split into three phases, with the first two taking place late last year, and the third still in progress. So far we have uncovered some of the key themes that concern marketers today, and have identified some of the most important personality dimensions that determine how they do their jobs.

Marketers’ key cultural themes

To sort through the preoccupations that drive marketers, CrowdCat carried out qualitative interviews to work out what common themes arise (see ‘Methodology’). According to Richard Summers, chief scientist at CrowdCat: “Marketers share these cultural issues and then develop them in different ways.”


One of the most prominent of these issues is respect. “Marketers were either talking about that in the social space, or the other half of them were talking about a lack of respect in the corporate space,” says Summers.

In their private lives, this is often demonstrated by a reluctance to admit that marketing is their profession, preferring to describe their work in different terms. In the world of work, meanwhile, many marketers hold the view that marketing is not respected by colleagues from other areas, even though Summers says “they feel that, in one form or another, marketing underpins everything the business does”.

Higher purpose

Marketers react to their feelings of lacking respect by bolstering their own sense of higher purpose, specifically the belief that they are the voice of customers within their organisations. This provokes a feeling of deep connection with customers that defines their self-worth.

Marketers balance this higher purpose against a need to prove their commercial credentials. Some resolve this dilemma by viewing aesthetics as a way of creating a valuable customer relationship, while others take the position that it is their job to ensure businesses adapt to customers’ needs, which is what makes them financially successful.

Continuous learning

Given the pace of change we hear so much about, it is no surprise marketers feel compelled to constantly assimilate new skills and information. They are generally positive about how this adds to their value in the workplace, even enabling them to be pioneers who challenge established thinking; yet they also see the increasing importance of data as disconnecting them from consumers on a human level.


Most marketers see administrative tasks – defined sub-consciously as anything that doesn’t engage their greatest skills or their customer-focused higher purpose – as taking up too much of their time. Many even estimate that admin consumes 80% to 90% of their working life.

No one enjoys these tasks, though there is a division between those who see them as a distraction and those who consider them necessary. Senior marketers are polarised on whether admin has increased as their careers have progressed, though their definitions of it differ, with those believing it has gone up seeing it as people- and budget-related rather than data entry.

Marketers’ key psychological dimensions

Visualisation of how data points in our research cluster around dimensions of psychology

CrowdCat’s qualitative interviews fed into the second stage of the research, providing a framework and questions for a quantitative survey. The results from this showed responses clustering around specific psychological areas, where marketers fall along a spectrum between two extremes. Three key spectra were uncovered.

Industry professionals vs communicators 

Summers summarises this spectrum as follows: “Some marketers are marketers and some marketers are not. Are you a marketer who happens to be in an industry or are you an industry professional that happens to be in marketing? That’s quite a deep question about your career orientation and how you see your role.”

Industry professionals also see metrics as enabling, while communicators see them as constraining, but the polarisations do not always conform to stereotypes. The finance sector contains a high number of communicators, for example.

Fundamentally, Summers believes that the divergence between the two groups begins at university, rather than being a function of recruitment processes in marketing.

Industry Professionals Communicators
Aspire to FMCG Aspire to entertainment
Greater quantities in FMCG, publishing, education, retail Greater quantities in entertainment, finance, technology, pharma
Success is measured by respect from peers Success is measured by campaign performance
Common sense is aligned with industry specific expertise Common sense is aligned with skillfully communicating ideas
Challenge/frustration relate to resilience/respect Challenge/frustration relate positively to the creative process
Metrics related to purpose Metrics constrain thinking

Analysers vs empathisers

This is the most polarised of the three spectra, where marketers are most likely to come at one end or the other. “Empathisers deal with marketing in quite an emotional sense; the analysers deal with it in a numbers way. That division is quite clear when you start talking to marketers,” says Summers.

The central skill of an analyser is acquiring information and processing it intelligently to create a successful result. Empathisers, meanwhile, understand and connect to the people around them using their sensitivity and collaboration with peers and customers.

Empathiser Analyser
Value talent Value data
Want to achieve customer loyalty Want to be able to influence customer behaviour
Professional success is driven by relationships Professional success is driven by confidence
Contributing to the team is about caring for colleagues and having enthusiasm for ideas Contributing to the team is about leadership and requires assertiveness
Fun/creativity are central to purpose Administrative tasks are viewed as valuable

Creatives vs drivers

Creatives believe that creativity is the talent that allows them to find the right solutions. They are also likely to believe that it is something that cannot be shaped by customer data, but which comes through inspiration and individual understanding.

Conversely, drivers see success as being about resilience and determination. They think creativity is not a special talent or calling but something all people possess in some measure.

Creatives Drivers
Creativity is a talent Everyone is creative
Analytics are related closely to communication Analytics are closely related to conversion
Creativity is not just defined by the customer Personalisation is a common-sense process
Customer relationship and customer loyalty are distinct Customer relationships drive conversion rates
Customer loyalty and respect are related closely Conversion rates and creativity are related closely

In the third phase of Marketing Week and CrowdCat’s research, we will outline the personas that most closely match the different kinds of marketer working in the profession today. In future, we also hope to use these to shape the content we create, so we can be confident it meets the needs of the marketing community.

Look out for our detailed coverage of our final findings in the coming weeks.


Richard Summers, chief scientist, CrowdCat

Phase one (complete): Capture and clarify

A psychological study was performed to capture patterns of behaviour and social norms, via in-depth one-on-one interviews with 27 marketers. Their job roles ranged from senior management (CEO, CMO) to middle management (head of, manager) and junior levels.

The interviews involved visual, auditory and biometric recordings in a specialised format to elicit information that is not consciously known or understood by the participants. They were performed in the marketers’ offices, representing a point-of-decision environment relating to their work.

The interviews were used to identify the relevant cognitive thematic areas for marketers, and the relationships between and within them, to develop questions with which to uncover behaviour patterns in the next phase.

Phase two (complete): Refine and define

A psychometric online survey was completed by 386 marketers to tease out the cognitive relationships sitting below the individual’s level of awareness, within the contextual areas identified in phase one. The data was used to construct a full psychological matrix for every person completing the survey.

The audience was identified into definable segments for each relevant contextual space. Cognitive and statistical algorithms identified connections and patterns in the data sets, allowing a rigorous multi-spectrum personality model to be defined.

These algorithms also generated psychological profiles for the personality model. The psychological profiles contain descriptions of how each person thinks about their role; the emotional tonalities and relational strategies that he or she will respond to; and the cognitive factors like the information processing style and communication style biases of each person.

Phase three (in progress): Engage and test

A campaign is being executed by Marketing Week and CrowdCat to engage a wider audience and test the personality model developed during the first two phases. Coupled with cognitive and statistical algorithms, this will create a multi-dimensional segmentation model for Marketing Week’s audience.

The phase employs a gamified quiz to tell participants something highly relevant about themselves and, in so doing:

  • tests the ability of the personality model to accurately identify, differentiate and engage marketers 
  • tests models of each marketer’s shareable social identity related to real life business leaders.
  • measures how each marketer’s psychological matrix aligns in order to test the segmentation model.
  • enhances the segmentation model with additional behavioural characteristics and segment differentiators.



There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Nick Eades 22 Feb 2018

    Anyone who has worked in more than one company knows that Marketing exists in the context of the company and its market. That doesn’t feature here which seems like a major miss. You can’t do what you want to do, just because you want to or we’re trained to do, outside of that context. Did I miss it or did you guys?

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