I have heard this on more than one occasion from many of my peers: Marketers who who have been in the industry for years but have seemingly remained stagnant. It’s these same marketers who, at one point in time, were at the top of their game and could get any job they wanted. It’s these same marketers, who now find themselves looking for work and realize that demand for what they do has “suddenly” changed… and not in their favour.
Are you kidding? Do you know what I’ve accomplished in the last 5 years for this company? This organization is lucky to have me! I ran successful initiatives that helped grow the business 80% over that time period. With my experience, I will not accept less than a 20% increase from my current compensation
Funny thing is they don’t realize that the world has moved ahead of them. And even if they figured that out, they are challenged to understand, let alone keep up with the “new” demands of the communication industry.
Here is a typical dossier of the Entitled Marketer:
Jan Doe has had 15 years of solid experience in both Agency and Client side – particularly in QSR and Consumer Packaged Goods. A stellar resume, Jan has primarily worked in Fortune 500 companies and has had the luxury of large budgets to scale awareness through prominent mediums like television and billboard. With a good understanding of consumer strategy and insight, she’s primarily relied on Neilson Reports and Ipsos Reid to make sense of audience receptiveness to the brand message. Usage and Attitude Surveys were executed annually, like clockwork, to validate audience needs and behaviours. Despite the high cost, Jan insisted on continuing Neilson and Ipsos studies as the go-to-references for consumer insights.
When digital media revealed itself as another reference point to tap into consumer behaviour, Jan be also migrated spend across digital media and brought in experienced people who understood the medium. Then came social media. It seemed like a piece of cake – yet another extension to continue to promote the company’s message. It seemed easy enough. Jan would divert money from display advertising to purchase Facebook Likes and Promoted Tweets. After all, management was more than more than happy to see the growth on audience at a fraction of the price of traditional advertising. This new medium was clearly working for her.
Jan never really abandoned the tried and true channels. Television, as the main broadcast channel, continued to provide the strongest recall rate and that continued to be an important metric in their brand measurement. Digital and social media continued to be great support channels for this main medium.
Jan was happy with her year-end performance goals. She was well compensated for the year over year jump in awareness levels. The strong performance digital performances on PPC and display ads contributed to this as well as the community volume growth on both Facebook and Twitter.
Jan was sitting pretty…. that is, until the day she was downsized, along with 20% of the staff.
I get my cues from the Millennial Think Tank sessions that we conduct on a weekly basis at ArCompany. It’s this notion of the “American Dream”. But really, it’s the same myth that we all grew up believing, regardless of which generation from which we emerged:
Get a good education, then you’ll be rewarded with a great job.
Do well at your job and you’ll climb the corporate ladder.
With experience comes rewards.
And maybe this was true when times were good – where there was a stable economy, and where conditions were relatively unchanged decade to decade. When this happens, we rest on our laurels and we begin to accept things as rules ie tried and true formulas for success.
However, when time throws a wrench in that pollyanish world, we are caught in a tailspin and we do one of two things: 1) we recede into the comfort zone of what we know, hoping that our tried and true rules fix this anomaly OR 2) we try to figure out what this wrench really means to the business.
Most marketers will fall into the first camp, hoping the tools that they were given can be the panacea to remedy this new rival. After all, it’s worked in the past, right?
I wrote a post recently that warned of the impending doom if marketers didn’t change:
This old-dog-new-trick syndrome …a big portion [of marketers] tend to fear the digital side. For a number of differing reasons they tend to shy away from the things they don’t understand. They tend to “rebel” for lack of a better word, when asked to change up what they have been doing everyday for X number of years. Leaving one’s comfort zone is not the easiest thing for many people to do… One must push themselves to learn and to tackle new things head on. They only way for true growth (personal or professional) is to go right after the skill gap & close that gap to as close to zero as possible…
I tell my story to anyone who wants to hear it: I was a traditional marketer. I marched to the drum of those traditional KPIs — yes the ones we all bought into: Impressions, Click thru rates, Open Rates.
I had endless budget to play with to create cool campaigns to build awareness and audience. Hey, if it didn’t meet my campaign goals, I’d develop a post-mortem deck to analyze what I could do better next time. The budget wouldn’t change next time.
If the overall company performance was good then hopefully my already burgeoning budget would increase the next quarter. No harm. No foul. As a marketer I was never really penalized for failure. After all, marketing has always been a cost centre.
The Brutal Reality
And then something radically changed. The Financial Crisis of 2008.
If you were lucky to be employed at that time you would’ve seen some massive changes within your companies. At the time I worked at an ad agency. From my standpoint I witnessed some significant changes on client business:
- Budgets were squeezed while target objectives remained unchanged.
- Marketing now became a revenue centre. New goals were established.
- Quarterly marketing performance dictated budget allocation for the succeeding quarter.
- Performance was paramount as strategy scrambled to define best way to optimize spend.
- ROI was the new tune, to which we all marched.
- Traditional media spend felt the strongest pinch as spend increasingly diverted to digital.
- This soon led to the increasing demand for digital professionals: in search, social, strategy, and development.
The recession fundamentally changed the way marketing operated within the organization. And as traditional increasingly took a back seat to digital media, these practitioners suddenly found themselves more vulnerable than ever.
If you happen to fall in the camp of Jan Doe, the brutal reality is you have continued to do the same things. You haven’t evolved. And now you’re on the verge of obsolescence. For me, it was important to morph with the times. The reality was that the skills that brought me success as a marketer were now perceived as archaic. And irrelevant. If I was to survive I needed to learn the new order and embrace it.
Here are the facts if you are a marketer today:
You are as good as your last project. Today’s marketing discipline requires some new skillsets. If your value has diminished because it doesn’t match today’s demands, then don’t expect to continue to see an increase in compensation. Your value is highly correlated with an understanding of new and emerging media. Expect to keep learning. Expect to keep changing. Expect to keep moving – all in an effort to remain relevant.
The great thing: the principles haven’t changed. Just the mediums. Too late to change? Never.
Founder at ArCompany, and Director, International Council on Global Privacy and Security by Design Hessie is a seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in AI technologies, social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also an active writer for Forbes, Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.