Group Marketing Director, Mark Saunders, reflects on a 35-year career and the changing role of modern marketing.
The clue is in the name.
Although we marketing people still have to confront the jokes about being the arts and crafts department, or my favourite – Head of colouring in and balloons, Marketing has undoubtedly changed in the last 35 years. Along with every other business discipline – think Personnel Manager to Chief People Officer – we have created some impenetrable new titles to signal our transformation and ward off the unworthy. One of my recent delights was to hear about the role of Chief Enablement Officer – so much better than the role of CIO that it increasingly replaces – widely recognised as meaning “career is over.”
What’s Marketing on about now?
In the land of marketing, there has been a polite schism between traditional marketers and their recently fangled digital marketing colleagues, but in reality, a successful senior marketer needs to be an adept and amalgam of the two. A comprehensive understanding of e mail marketing, SEO, social media, web analytics, automation and optimisation may be all well and good, but to truly own the customer experience, then the modern digerati need to embrace content, creativity and innovation in a wider sense. Most marketers would agree that if you don’t enjoy and can’t write or draw to a stratospheric level, then Marketing will be painful profession to pursue.
Must we talk about data?
Well yes, of course. It staggers me that businesses continue to ignore the supreme importance of amazing data. The treasure in any business is the relationship that it holds with its customers, so no opportunity should be missed to gather, organise, analyse, report and act on the information that truly insightful data can provide. At 9, I have recently recruited a Head of Customer Data – a role that probably didn’t exist a few years ago – and if it did, it was probably an IT role. Now it lives in Marketing, alongside a CRM developer, who again would have lived in the geek team not that long ago.
Still room for some drawing though?
Thankfully, Marketing has not been transformed into a factual game based around the manipulation of boundless data. There is still a burgeoning requirement for creatively dazzling design and scintillating storytelling, with the customer now firmly in place as the object of all this intellectual and artistic energy. I am glowingly optimistic for the future of Marketing, now that memories are fading of my early days of splashing the advertising cash on the two TV channels that carried it, while shouting about how brilliant my product was and then waiting for the sales to roll in.
This time it’s personal.
Marketing is no longer about encouraging mass transactions; it is about personal engagement and all the more exciting because of it. The internet has multiplied the channels to market, led to the escalation in informed customers and a proliferation of choice, with instantaneous feedback and universal sharing of information. This is a landscape I could not have dreamed about at when starting out at ICI in 1981, but I was busy marvelling at my new Betamax video recorder at the time. Obviously, 9 is a communications service provider, but we are really in the relationship business and everything about the design, language, content, objectives and execution of our marketing needs to keep that firmly in mind.
Numbers, not crayons.
One twenty first century development that I welcome is the ability for Marketing to demonstrate its value far more easily in the digital age. Modern CRMs and automation software make sure that marketing is now centred on the customer and the generation of commercially sensible business – numbers, not crayons, you might say. In my early career, I encountered a fair few ego centric marketers, legends in their own mind, consumed by a regal sense of adequacy, but these dinosaurs have been extinguished, felled by the laser focus of campaign metrics and perhaps even more so, by the age of the super-informed customer.
A dream job.
I am supremely fortunate to have my dream job and although my successor will probably be a Chief Customer Officer, or secure a role as Head Storyteller, I still love what Marketing is all about. In my book, this is defined as an ability to inspire a change in customer behaviour and still requires a melange of élan, flair, brio and pizazz – long that may continue.