Each month The Forum questions members of The Marketing Society on a hot topic. For more on membership, visit www.marketing-society.org.uk.
In every generation, young people want to create: this might be a future; a better society; or value for themselves and their stakeholders. This thrives where there is expectation to grow, opportunity to perform and desire to prosper.
We have highly talented young marketers from a variety of backgrounds, who have accountability from day one for famous brands in an agile organisation that recently won the Marketing Leadership award in the 2014 Marketing Society Awards for Excellence. They are supported and inspired by senior marketers as they progress through the Burton’s Marketing Academy and their individual, bespoke training plans.
As our business continues to grow internationally, these entrepreneurially minded young people are already leaders within our business, and our senior leaders of the future. That prospect is just as exciting for young marketers as it was 10 years ago.
I really hope so. When marketing is at its commercial best, it sits at the heart of a business, making sure that customer needs are met in a way that drives shareholder value. What could be more exciting for a young entrepreneur?
Listening, shaping, leading and delivering – it’s the area where you have licence to make a difference. I wondered for a while why the question was posed – perhaps it is because there are times when, as a profession, we can allow production values to run ahead of shareholder value. That’s when other parts of a business relegate marketing to the sidelines.
So, as a discipline, hopefully, bright young things will always find meeting customer needs profitably attractive. But whether being in marketing should mean them being in the marketing department, well, that is an entirely different question.
When I studied marketing at university, it was all about the "Four Ps": product, price, place, and promotion. But perhaps there should have been a fifth: process. Marketing was controlled, and all about market segments and promotions.
Ten years ago, Web 2.0 forced marketing to shift from this product-centric approach to a customer-centric one: brands had to harness social media to start conversations and earn their reputation. It was a new era for marketers, with exciting roles like chief content officer.
Today, marketing is experiencing another revolution: predictivity. In a market of attention, a reactive approach is no longer effective. Brands need to anticipate change.
Predictive marketing does not just open up an array of business opportunities for young professionals, it increases marketing’s credibility in the executive suite, thus making it extremely attractive as a career for entrepreneurial people.
For the high-flying there are fewer top-paying City jobs to tempt them. For the slightly lower-flying, marketing is a good job in an appalling job market.
Not that a marketing career is any port in a storm. If presented properly, it chimes with what our entrepreneurial young tweetsters have been doing anyway: working out how to make things appealing, being creative, generating social buzz and (for some) making holiday money by figuring out the monetisation of what they make.
However, this experience has also given them expectations: the desire to be at the centre of things, learn quickly and not get bogged down by bureaucracy.
It’s exciting when you’re at the centre of stuff, frustrating when you’re not. Particularly when you’re young, optimistic… and more used to it than a previous generation.
Marketing remains an attractive career option for those with entrepreneurial spirit as much today as it did 10 years ago. Indeed, the channel and data explosion means that, more than ever, this path is a place for bright minds that are open to lateral thinking and innovation.
The most successful entrepreneurs have always been about challenging the obvious – looking for connections others don’t always see. It is those with a marketing instinct, rooted in an intuitive understanding of what consumers need, even though they may not know it yet, who have driven so many of the more recent stellar brand successes.
From Google to Candy Crush and Dyson to Nespresso – all these created a new consumer demand by taking on established patterns of thought. The best marketers will always be the best entrepreneurs and vice versa.
It’s easy to assume that the cachet currently surrounding innovative companies like Google will have an impact on the appeal of traditional career paths like FMCG. After all, the draw of working for a "cool" brand doing "cool" stuff must be pretty irresistible.
That said, the established marketing career paths remain an excellent way for young people to develop the skills and experiences that can put them on the road to being the business leaders of tomorrow. I still rely on the lessons I learned as a Unilever trainee, despite the changes in marketing in recent years.
The challenge for traditional businesses is, ultimately, one of self-marketing. With newer brands dominating the social discourse, they will need to find more innovative methods to bring their opportunities to life in a way that’s interesting and relevant to young people.