Digital Marketing Symposium: What exactly is marketing today and how do we do it?

We recent­ly host­ed the UK’s leg of the Adobe Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Sym­po­sium, an event which saw mar­keters from across Europe join togeth­er in Lon­don to dis­cuss the key theme that’s con­tin­u­ing to lead the major­i­ty of mar­ket­ing con­ver­sa­tion; rein­ven­tion. With speak­ers from Mon­ey­Su­per­Mar­ket, Motoro­la Solu­tions, Moth­er­care UK, Adobe, fol­lowed by an inspir­ing keynote from Jo Mal­one, the event cel­e­brat­ed the con­cept of ‘change’ and the increas­ing need for dig­i­tal skills in an indus­try that is con­stant­ly fluc­tu­at­ing (for the better!).

Pri­or to the main event, we had a pan­el dis­cus­sion, mod­er­at­ed by Ger­ry Brown of Ovum, with the help of Jonathan Hedger of, Simon Jones of Motoro­la, Ben Jones of AKQA and myself. The dis­cus­sion cen­tred on the chang­ing role of UK mar­keters, bring­ing in new research that we revealed in a pre­vi­ous post.

The debate start­ed with con­sid­er­ing just what is mar­ket­ing today? Ben Jones, CTO for AKQA com­ment­ed that “mar­ket­ing is now about try­ing to add true val­ue to a consumer’s life”. He called it “add-ver­tis­ing”, a con­cept which real­ly high­lights how mar­ket­ing needs to be more rel­e­vant, con­tex­tu­al, and most impor­tant­ly, sim­ple in order to ben­e­fit the con­sumer and con­se­quent­ly the brand.

In light of this, and delv­ing into the research, sta­tis­tics showed that a typ­i­cal mar­ket­ing role is hav­ing an increas­ingly dig­i­tal focus, with 43% of the mar­keters’ sur­veyed say­ing that more than half of their mar­ket­ing activ­ity is dig­i­tal. This has increased by a mas­sive 61% on the 27% who answered the same almost a year ago. In this day and age, dig­i­tal is clear­ly now some­thing we shouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly be ‘spe­cial­is­ing’ in, but should be a char­ac­ter­is­tic of all mar­keters, actu­al­ly mak­ing the term ‘gen­er­al­ist’ far more appropriate.

Simon Jones, Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing Tech­nol­o­gy for Motoro­la Solu­tions com­ment­ed that “the divi­sion between what we think of spe­cialisms will soon all become operational. I think that at the moment we’re ago­nis­ing over whether dig­i­tal is a part of marketing. It is. I think we’ll see more blend­ed roles in terms of what we cur­rent­ly think is sep­a­rate”. High­light­ing that where once a wide skill set was unde­sir­able, the big­ger role dig­i­tal is begin­ning to play in the mar­ket­ing mix means mar­keters need to be able to work across chan­nels and use dig­i­tal as day-to-day practice.

This is sup­port­ed by fig­ures from Jonathan Hedger, Group Head of Cus­tomer Mar­ket­ing, who point­ed out that three times as many mar­ket­ing jobs con­tain the word ‘dig­i­tal’ in the job descrip­tion rather than the title, com­pared to 2011 – a stag­ger­ing dif­fer­ence, par­tic­u­lar­ly when you pair this with the research which found dig­i­tal skills are now seen as cen­tral to almost all mar­ket­ing posi­tions with 92% stat­ing that they are impor­tant, includ­ing 99% of C‑level exec­u­tives. Employ­ers are no longer look­ing for dig­i­tal mar­keters, they want mar­keters that can do dig­i­tal. We all agreed that dig­i­tal is not a chan­nel that sits alone any more. In most cas­es, it is marketing.

Anoth­er key top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion was pas­sion and a will­ing­ness to take risks. If mar­keters fail to pos­sess a real curios­i­ty and desire to try our new things, change becomes a much hard­er thing to achieve, a real­i­sa­tion all pan­el­lists agreed on.

This point was par­tic­u­lar­ly poignant to me. I don’t under­stand mar­keters who don’t have an inter­est in marketing. The pace of change is so great and in fact, in we did research we did last year, the major­i­ty of mar­keters believe that mar­ket­ing has changed more in the last two years than in the last 50. You have to have this curios­i­ty, you have to want to make a dif­fer­ence, learn, and take a risk. Today’s risk tak­ing is dif­fer­ent to that from even five years ago. You can test, fail, learn & improve in days not months. And with­out blow­ing the mar­ket­ing bud­get. It’s all about a blend of sci­ence and creativity.

What became clear from the dis­cus­sion is that dig­i­tal is now an inher­ent part of the mar­ket­ing job. Of course, mar­keters have to know the basics, hence why the term ‘gen­er­al­ist’ came up a num­ber of times through­out the debate. But as tech­nol­o­gy con­tin­ues to mature (and at such a rapid rate), the demand for dig­i­tal skills will only height­en and mar­keters need to be will­ing to embrace this!