Leadership in changing times

Leadership in changing times

The past few years have seen unprecedented changes in marketing, with automation technology and customer-led strategy, for example, altering the profession’s day-to-day to-do list. We ask three marketers how they have led through change, and what marketing’s priorities are for them today.

Andy Atalla is founder of atom42, an award-winning digital marketing agency with clients including match.com, Drinkaware, The Huffington Post and Three

“Leadership in marketing today is all about building an environment for knowledge sharing and development. Instead of the top people in the business feeding information downwards, we’re the ones who create a space for learning and sharing, and an atmosphere of continuous improvement. This allows the business to be agile in reacting to industry changes.

“With the rate of change in digital marketing today, our business has to be highly adaptive. Individuals need to be able to consume and disseminate information regularly and effectively. We have a team of specialists who actively seek out the latest industry developments, and we have weekly training sessions on every area of digital marketing to ensure the entire company is up to date and can instantly apply industry changes to their work.

“The priorities for marketing today are around creating standout for brands in an environment where – in many areas – automation has made the shopping experience very bland. It’s also around taking the time to provide a personal touch, where people often feel that they’re disconnected from the brands they’re interacting with, and where the screen can act as a barrier to human connection.

“As the internet develops, and data collection and analysis become more sophisticated, marketers are able to get closer to understanding the consumer than ever before. But, conversely, brands are also becoming physically further removed from the consumer, as the percentage of face-to-face interactions goes down.

“Automation has also transformed the way that marketing works. And here lies the opportunity for today's marketers. In an environment where everyone's automating, using that understanding of the consumer to offer uniqueness and the personal touch is very powerful. Our ability to understand the consumer's purchasing behaviour allows us to make much more informed decisions with our marketing.”

Richard Glasson is CEO of Hogarth Worldwide, a marketing implementation agency

“The expectations of customers in terms of how brands interact with them has been the most significant change over the last few years. It’s much more than new channels to populate; marketers today need to know how to create a dialogue with their consumers using the platforms and formats that their customer base use every day, in a way that is relevant to each medium.

“It’s no longer ‘conceive/create/produce/distribute’. Each new channel demands a new way of talking to customers and – just as importantly – of listening to them. Technology has put brands much more in the hands of their customers, and marketing departments need to be set up to engage with consumers – not just to broadcast to them.

“We continually invest in what’s possible in marketing production, rather than follow the crowd. The speed at which new ways of communicating move from ‘bleeding edge’ to ‘business as usual’ continues to increase. In this very fast moving landscape, it’s essential to innovate for our clients continually.

“Different types of work demand very different team approaches. The new world of communication can’t be allowed to diminish the importance of strategy and creative – but the old linear way of working has to change. Agencies and clients need to embrace change – and very soon. Production specialists will become increasingly important in the mix, as clients have a growing requirement to be able to produce large amounts of content across many channels – fast, consistently and to the highest quality.

“The marketing priorities today are how to produce ever more amounts of content from within the same budget, structuring marketing teams to work across myriad new channels, and engaging with customers in a relevant and entertaining way.”

Rob Garber is managing director of digital advertising agency Undertone EMEA. Prior to joining in 2015, he was head of UK sales and advertising at ESPN

“Strong leadership in changing times relies upon being both proactive and reactive to the marketplace – and ensuring your offering meets both customer and market demands.

“There is now a wealth of technological advancements that can all work in a marketer’s favour. Through the rise of new digital tools and platforms, marketers can fully streamline each of their campaigns to deliver the best results.

However, the change in structure of media agencies has increased the demands on modern marketers.

“Now, they need to communicate effectively with agencies (both media and creative), demand-side platforms, supply-side platforms – as well as publishers – adding additional layers of complexity into their work. Therefore, the skills a marketer requires have changed dramatically.

“Marketing professionals need to know the ins and outs of the technology they use to maximise its effectiveness, and they also need teams who can build on this too. Additionally, marketers need to become more like project managers, anticipating communications challenges and ensuring everyone is working towards clear and common objectives.

“Technology has always been affecting how marketers approach their work.

However, we’re now moving away from defining success purely by clicks or views. Marketers are increasingly looking to target emotional responses rather than viewership metrics. In a sense, marketers are taking ‘traditional media’ practices into a digital setting. You can’t ‘click’ on a TV advert, but they are invaluable for building strong emotional bonds between a brand and its audience. In the same way, immersive digital formats are connecting with audiences in new ways in a digital setting.

“Fundamentally, marketing’s priorities haven’t truly changed much in the last decade. Its core focus is still on driving sales, return on investment (ROI) and value to the business. What has changed, however, are the insights marketers have at their disposal. These points of data are telling marketers that ROI isn’t always driven from a click; again, emotional engagement is incredibly powerful in both driving consumer behaviour and judging the success of a piece of creative.”

Looking to boost your industry knowledge? The CIM Marketing Leadership Programme has been developed with the help of the world’s top leaders to build key leadership competencies. Find out more.

Phil Lattimore Journalist and Editor
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