THE TALENT REPORT: A new marketer manifesto

Classically trained FMCG marketing directors could be approaching their use-by date. Nicola Clark asks what it takes to get ahead in an era when marketers are measured not just by their LinkedIn connections, but by how many patents they have registered.

Marketers can no longer rely on a steady CV at a major brand
Marketers can no longer rely on a steady CV at a major brand

Picture the scene: a young marketer has joined a blue- chip financial organisation, lured by a tasty salary, and a remit to shake-up a tired and old-fashioned brand. Three months into the job, she is making a presentation to the company directors about the value of LinkedIn to the business.

The conversation quickly turns to an extended exposition on why the chief executive doesn't want to be on LinkedIn; the platform is dismissed as an invasion of his privacy, and months of planning are thrown into disarray. 'It was like being on a sinking ship and being given a teaspoon to bail out the water,' she says.

Tales of entrepreneurial marketers switching companies and then failing to drive through change by the force of their personality are nothing new. However, media fragmentation, combined with unprecedented technological change, has created a fresh marketplace for talent. More brands are looking for marketers who are willing to take that risk.

The UK's leading head-hunters point to the emergence of a type of marketer who is insightful, analytical and commercially driven, such as Bacardi's global brand director Christian Woolfenden, who began his career at Procter & Gamble, and ASOS global head of strategy and communications Lindsay Nuttall.

Becky Gloyne, global talent acquisition manager at Nokia, says: 'When I was agency-side I was used to hearing there is an Apple-type, an eBay type and a Nokia type, but that doesn't stand up any more.'

Instead, she says, the industry's top talent needs to shine 'by showing they have the vision to add value to the business'. The skills that candidates need to thrive have never been more diverse. So what are the key trends of which marketers need to be aware to stay at the top of the talent tree?

Are classically trained FMCG marketers becoming an endangered species?

Today, a marketer's six-year tenure at Unilever may well be trumped by a rival's six-month stint at a 'sexy' start-up like Groupon. Senior head-hunters report that brands are eager to be dazzled by entrepreneurial marketing directors who have side-stepped traditional management programmes. Business leaders can be in no doubt that the consumer landscape has changed irrevocably. An October 2010 report from Google estimated that ecommerce accounts for 7.2% of UK GDP. The rules of the game have changed, and marketers can no longer rely on a steady-looking CV centred on a major brand.

However, this trend is not without its problems, and recruiters report that some digital-savvy marketers are fast-becoming disenchanted at big corporations. On the other hand, one talent manager at a major technology brand confides that some digital specialists lack the broad underpinning of what actually drives the business. 'It is all very well talking about beta mindsets, but when you have people saying we need to do more on Facebook, without linking it to clear business objectives, you are in trouble,' he says.

Entrepreneurial marketers therefore need to ensure that they look before they leap, and HR departments need to be realistic about recruitment strategies. 'Some marketers think they can take 10 steps forward straight away, when realistically, the business just can't take that pace of change,' warns one recruiter.


Outside in: harnessing technology as an engine for change

'Do you have a better browser at home than at work?' asks Bonin Bough, PepsiCo's global director of digital and social media.

If you answered 'yes' to that question, the chances are that the brand you work for is suffering from a digital skills gap. 'Right now, there is a gap between where society is and where brands and businesses are; consumers are ahead of brands,' he adds. This, he argues, is something that should keep marketers awake at night.

So, how can marketers address this? 'It is going to require new organisational structures. It is no longer OK for executives to say: "My son sets up my iPhone". You need to understand technology. It is going to be painful, but we need to push and close that gap,' says Bough. Getting to grips with real-time marketing is key and that requires a fresh skill-set and significantly more than a passing acquaintance with an iPad.

Marketers also need to foster or create fresh roles within their organisations. Rob Moss, marketing director of My-wardrobe.com, says his relationship with the chief technology officer is vital to the brand's development. 'It is really important to maintain the momentum for growth, and through a collaborative process and openness across the company, we can achieve this,' he says.

Elsewhere, at brands such as Facebook, the chief information officer, with his understanding of the data side of the business, is a key stakeholder within the marketing function.

Many of Britain's biggest brands have adopted the 'beta mindset' of companies such as Google and Facebook. Those marketers who lack the basic understanding of digital platforms will not be able to operate in this fast-moving market.



Social media is no excuse for being anti-social

The chief executive of one brand, who is known for switching off when the digital guys switch on, is not in the minority. While social media may have moved to the front pages, some senior marketers believe that social media managers have become too insular and lack the skills to take on broader marketing roles. Put simply, they are spending so much time tweeting, that they haven't got the time to interact in the real world.

We are living in a changing landscape, where recruiters no longer have to ask for CVs from top managers when everybody has his or her full biography on LinkedIn. However, this does not mean that digital networking is a replacement for social skills in the traditional sense. 'Marketing is still a relationship-driven business, and some corporations have found that some of the most technically literate marketers operate in a vacuum, and end up isolated,' says one recruitment director.


 The age of 'authentic leadership'

In the social-media era, where consumers have unprecedented access to brands and celebrities, this same transparency is demanded from chief executives and chief marketing officers.

'This is about leaders knowing their own style, and being rooted in it,' says Mike Roberts, head of consumer products at the MBS Group. 'People have to know themselves first and foremost, and that is a big shift.'

Marketers who work for publicly listed companies have a particularly fine line to tread. While consumers and corporations are expecting to trade off marketers' personality, there are still corporate and financial restraints on how open they can be. Many a marketer has suffered from their own 'mini-Ratner moment' by venting on Twitter. The fact that 'twitting' (quitting your job via Twitter) has become a colloquialism is testament to the potential pitfalls of being flippant on social media.

On the flipside, bland chief marketing officers are easily forgettable - something no one in the industry would strive to be.

Tips for the top  |  Behind the scenes with Nokia's search for talent


 global talent acquisition manager, digital marketing, brand marketing and communications, Nokia


As Nokia's global talent acquisition manager, Becky Gloyne's remit is to cherry-pick the best marketing talent. We asked her to give marketers advice on showcasing their talents.

  • Be in control of your own career. 'You are the only person who truly knows what motivates you.'
  • Be the number-one source of information about yourself online. 'You need to use your social-media channels and make sure your success stories are out there. Facebook is not relevant, but we do look at recommendations on LinkedIn.'
  • Be honest about what you want. 'If you aren't looking to move, make that clear on your LinkedIn profile; if you are, get yourself out there.'
  • Know how to market yourself. 'We still require paper CVs and we have seen some creative digital-led applications. We need the most upto-date information; if you are active on Twitter and LinkedIn, include the links on your CV.'
  • Don't forget the details. 'Avoid spelling mistakes, don't lie on LinkedIn, and understand that recommendations are key.'