The Rise of the Marketer

Digital Marketing

Data-driven digital marketing has changed the creative process forever. Marketers can no longer be specialists in one aspect of their job. Looking at the “big picture” requires a thorough understanding of customer behavior and the product development and sales cycle, as well as revenue-driven reporting.

When I was studying marketing, public relations, and advertising many years ago, we were taught that if anyone noticed us, we were doing it wrong. The idea was to work behind the scenes to shape a brand’s image, and not to insert our personalities into the mix. Nowadays, that idea seems as outdated as rotary dial telephones.

Marketo and The Economist underscored that earlier this year with the publication of a white paper called The Rise of the Marketer: Driving engagement, experience and revenue.  The report highlights four trends I’ve been watching for some time, as the role of marketing within an organization has changed.

The Marketer’s “Personal Brand” Matters to Top Management

When I began my career, marketing was viewed as a sales support function. It’s why women were accepted in marketing when we were usually denied top sales jobs.  Nobody expected a CEO to have a marketing background.

That’s definitely not the case now. Today, marketing is no longer seen as a support role, or even a cost center. Today’s marketing department (and marketing manager) is seen as a primary revenue driver.  And that changes everything.

Mastering the arts of customer engagement, analytics, and marketing technology are now critical to top management jobs, and the percentage of CEOs with marketing experience has skyrocketed as marketing has moved into the corporate mainstream. The marketer’s personal brand — his or her presence on social media, ability to interact with analysts, journalists, and become a sought-after presenter or speaker second only to the company’s top executives — is critical to an organization’s success.

Digital and Data Dominate

Old-school marketers hired outside experts to take care of the nuts and bolts of delivering the company’s message and measuring the results. But that won’t cut it in today’s economy. Successful marketers have to understand the digital world, and be able to measure huge streams of data in ways that yesterday’s marketer never dreamed possible.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again.  The “mad men” of Don Draper’s Madison Avenue would fail miserably in today’s marketing environment. Three of the four most widely cited areas where marketers are spending more are aimed at reaching customers through different channels via social networks, on mobile devices and on the old standby of e-mail. The fourth, analytics, is needed to knit together data from multiple channels into a coherent and actionable portrait of the consumer.

Customers Have the Power — And They’re Not Giving It Back

I’m almost old enough to remember when a handful of white male ad agency executives in New York controlled nearly everything the public saw and heard in the media. They showed my parents glamorous images, and told them what the product was and how it was going to help them, and they responded by buying exactly what the ad agencies (and their celebrity pitch men and women) were selling.

That was then. Now, anyone foolish enough to try the same approach would fail miserably. There are three key reasons for that. To start with, consumers have choices that our parents never dreamed could exist. Back then, the only choice was to get up and leave the room when an annoying commercial came on. Now, thanks to DVR’s, pop-up blockers, and spam filters, no one has to see a marketing message that they don’t want to see.

Second, the number of communications channels available to connect companies and consumers has never been greater. TV’s Mad Men never dreamed of the immediate, personalized messages possible through the Web, social media, email, and mobile devices. They’d have killed for the kind of personalized, on-demand delivery of video and print messages that we take for granted.

Third, and most importantly, today’s consumers are anything but passive recipients of corporate marketing messages. We’re active participants in the marketplace – posting reviews on websites like Yelp, Tweeting our friends to ask for recommendations on car insurance, and posting the results of tech support calls on Facebook as they happen.

In fact, today’s interactive world is the exact opposite of the one-way communication channel where the Mad Men thrived.  Technology has given consumers a voice, and the power shift is so complete that the way companies sell products and services seems to have changed forever.

Revenue Rules

Now that marketing is viewed as a part of the corporate revenue-generation process rather than a “cost of doing business”, marketers have to understand many more business processes than my college professors thought. This caused no end of grief for old-school marketers who decided to major in public relations, journalism, or some other liberal arts discipline because they wanted to avoid statistics, accounting, and economics courses.

Back in the 1980’s, and into the 1990’s, I remember “measuring” marketing and PR results in soft analytics like brand awareness and share of mind surveys. It took weeks — if not months — before we knew if any specific marketing tactic had worked. Sure, you could count the number of customers who walked through the doors when a new ad was released, but measuring the impact (good or bad) from media coverage took months if it was at all possible.

Now, top management expects “real time” analytics that show them exactly how each and every marketing tactic is affecting sales. This, of course, has positive and negative implications for marketers and the company as a whole.  On one hand, you can quickly shift gears and discard tactics that aren’t working. On the other hand, shifting gears too quickly can undermine strategies that could have significant positive outcomes if they were allowed to unfold over time.


About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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