CIM Marketing Podcast - Episode 52: Mastering the ever-changing remit of marketing
- 03 March 2022
What does marketing mean to you?
This podcast will:
- Explore why marketing’s remit is ever-changing and ever-growing
- Examine how to handle the societal challenges of sustainability, ED&I and big data
- Demonstrate how to avoid over-specialising and siloes
If you're looking to keep up to date with the latest industry news and learning, check out the most recent edition of the member-exclusive Catalyst magazine.
Ally Cook 00:01
Welcome to the CIM Marketing Podcast, the contents and views expressed by individuals in the CIM Marketing Podcast are not necessarily those are the companies for which they work. This series is currently being recorded via web conferencing. We apologise for any issues with the audio.
Ben Walker 00:18
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the CIM marketing podcast, and today we are joined by CIM's director of marketing Gemma Butler, and a special guest who is returning to the podcast with her expertise and knowledge, particularly through the lens of recruitment and learning and that is Clare Kemsley who is UK and Ireland's MD at Hayes marketing. Clare, Gemma, how are you two today?
Gemma Butler 00:47
Good thank you.
Clare Kemsley 00:48
Very well, thank you.
Ben Walker 00:49
You know, in recent podcasts we've been talking about the need and incumbency on marketers to lifelong learn, to keep improving themselves, to make sure that they're not standing still and how they manage that. And that's one element, a context for that, an important context of that is to be aware of 'what is marketing' and what's around us as marketers, and therefore we can work out what parts of those we need to know in our jobs, and how they're going to improve our careers and ourselves as executives in the industry. Strikes me Gemma Butler, that the remit of marketing is ever changing to the point where sometimes, it's hard even to define what being a marketer is. And given that, where do we start?
Gemma Butler 01:39
It's an interesting question and one I do not have the answer to however, I think the role and remit of marketing is something that we've been debating for, for years and years and years. And I think marketing is, it means different things to different organisations, and it sits in different places in organisations and Clare and I regularly have catch ups and chats about marketing, versus digital, versus IT, versus web, and all of these things, but we now have another element coming in, which is the increasing societal challenges which are now also being brought into marketing. So I think from other podcasts, we've showed that the role of marketing as a function has become elevated since we went into lockdown in 2020. There was more around strategy and brand and the you know, marketing being the custodians of the brand, and also really, really key in driving the organisational culture and that is driven from within, but also from what you put out there. So, you know, these these societal challenges around data and sustainability. And ED&I are all playing a big factor. And in fact, only yesterday, I was reading an article from Effie week, which now states that sustainability is the fourth functional skill.
Ben Walker 02:58
Right, they are massive sort of huge juggernauts which are sort of driving into the sector aren't they? Sustainability is something that is a clear and present, need to understand and know how to cope with and tackle and become experts at. ED&I, and of course, data, the massive juggernaut of data and understanding that and how we manage it as marketers. Clare Kemsley, where do we start, you know, they are three big factors that marketers are having to deal with in their daily lives now, that they weren't perhaps having to deal with 10 or 20 years ago.
Clare Kemsley 03:33
I think I think that is true, and I think all three of those particular conversations around sustainability, ED&I and data are not only prevalent, they're happening every day with the marketing community that I speak with. And I think also, we don't have much time to sometimes to drill down into how they affect the marketeer of the day in their profession. And I'd like to take a moment on the ED&I piece because we, as you know, do a regular ED&I survey amongst the marketing fraternity every year. And we had some disappointing, I suppose data that came through from that particular piece of work this year. My overall view would be that when it came to ED&I, the marketing profession feel rather despondent. And just to give you a flavour, we asked several questions, obviously, but one of the important questions was, you know, do professionals see action when it comes to ED&I? You know, they are, as we've said, responsible they're custodians of the brand, they support the business when they're setting values. But actually, these marketeers when we asked: Do you agree that action on ED&I is happening? Overall, because we asked many different professions 48% across 15 different professions said yes, but 34% of marketers believe their employer combines discussion with action, which means that just under 60% of our feedback from the survey said that marketing, PR and communications say their employers talk about it, but 60% said they do not action it, and I think that's that's a pretty disappointing number from from one particular professional.
So I do think that, Gemma, we've talked a lot about sustainability, we're going to talk a lot more about that and data later on in this conversation, but I do think yes, I think the word I would say then is, I think that marketers when it comes to ED&I, a huge, valuable, important subject, is despondent.
Ben Walker 05:31
Despondent because there's some diversity washing going on, the presentation doesn't reflect the reality?
Clare Kemsley 05:38
Yes, I think that's the case. And I feel that it is a challenge for many, many businesses. You know, ED&I is the top of most agendas for a lot of businesses, but when you consider that some of the data also showed us that groups that feel there isn't an equal opportunity to succeed in a profession, 44% - under half of marketeers - believe people from all backgrounds will have an equal opportunity to succeed in their organisation. And I guess, without being over-anxious about it, I suppose, or over-concerned, 9%, only 9% of marketing, PR and comms professionals believe this equal opportunity will happen within the next five years. So without, as I say, wanting to, to start this podcast on what could be perceived a negative point of view, I just think it's an important conversation that now rests alongside those other conversations around data and sustainability, that the marketeer of today has to face as their role ever becomes wider and wider.
Ben Walker 06:40
So well under half of them think there is an equal opportunity to succeed in the sector. And of those, most of them don't believe that opportunity will arrive in the next five years.
Clare Kemsley 06:52
Ben Walker 06:53
Gemma Butler, this isn't a sector that prides itself or sees itself normally as being progressive, and at the vanguard of diversity, and helping a group that not always been as successful in business and it's simply not.
Gemma Butler 07:10
I think it's, I think there's, you know, there is the overwhelming size of the challenges we face that probably is having, you know, that impact at the moment and trying to get your head around all of that, whilst at the same time, technology is still running 1000 miles an hour, and then we're now seeing that digital skills are falling behind. Which way do you look? Literally, as somebody working in the sector, and you stand there, where do you focus? And I think, you know, it's time to slow down and it's time to stop and think and work out: Where am I most useful as a marketer, as a marketing function, as a business? And I think we need to, you know, with the complexity of all these challenges, and in a sector that wants to be more diverse and wants to be more inclusive, but we know the reality is, it isn't, and there's a lot more that needs to be done. How can we be useful and how can we, you know, approach these things in a way that we just don't get completely overwhelmed?
Ben Walker 08:21
Is that what's happening here Clare? That we're in danger of fighting on three fronts, at least three fronts, and winning none of them?
Clare Kemsley 08:32
Yes, I think if we go back to Gemma's first statement about marketing being a department that has absolutely risen over the last few years, thankfully, to I feel the place it needs to be, which is absolutely in the centre of the business. You know, I used the word in a piece I wrote: Catapulted into the boardroom, and it sounds a little bit exaggerated, but that is absolutely true, whether it's the boardroom, the committee room, you know, whether it's part of the the public sector department you work for, it is absolutely there now. The challenge, though, is now it's there, with these three particular large conversations to have, there is nowhere for it to hide either. And I think to Gemma's point, there is such a movement at such a pace, you know, as Owen Tebbutt from IBM said last year, you know, lots of organisations, particularly from a marketing perspective are going to this hyper-digitalization and everything is moving at such a pace. We do need to do what Gemma says and we need to take a breath and take an opportunity to say, not just in my career and not just in my workplace, but as a marketeer, am I being, as Gemma says: Useful? And Dr. Simon Kelly, who Gemma and I have worked with quite closely over the last few years, co-authored a book called Stand-out Marketing where he talks about this value competencies and the 'U' was usefulness, you know and I remember him running some roundtables and just saying to us, you know, you need the discipline to recognise that adding value to your customers, being useful, is all about actually what the other person wants, not about what you or your company are trying to achieve. And I think actually Gemma, there is that whole sustainability piece in there isn't there, not just what you and your company are trying to achieve, but actually it needs to be what your customers want. And I think these three sustainability, ED&I and data, it can be can very easy can't it Gemma to be inward looking, what are we doing for ourselves? And to probably not look at how that is seen, vocalised, what that narrative looks like, actually, for your customers, from an authentic brand perspective.
Ben Walker 10:43
Yeah, so thinking customer, and being outward looking, being extraspective, if you like can be liberating, because it can help us focus on where we can add value, and where we can be the you of useful. It's not always that easy to achieve thought is it Gemma Butler, when you're in an internal organisation, and you're finding pressures from within, to do everything and anything. How as a marketer do you say to your own business, this is where I'm going to add value, this is what our customers want, this is what our customers need, and the rest of it is either noise, or it's for somebody else to do?
Gemma Butler 11:19
I think that's a great question and, you know, I think it's about this is where the skills of marketers come in around, you know, collecting that data, and analysing it and looking at it to understand what do your customers want? What do prospective customers want? But also, from the internal perspective, saying, why do we exist as an organisation? Because there's so much more pressure now, and it's only going to continue to increase around organisations delivering against, you know, the triple bottom line. Why do I exist to serve society? And what is my role here? And I think that's why we kind of have to stop and take this breath, because you cannot sit there and say, as part of my strategy, we're going to deal with sustainability, ED&I, data, digital and everything, it's not possible, you know, and we've been having this discussion around digital for, you know, for quite a number of years as well, where new technology is coming out all the time, and organisations run to invest in it before the consumers or the customer is even using it. And I think this is the same in relation to these big societal issues, we need to stop treating them like tick box exercises, if you're going to do something about it, do it because you want to, and because it's authentic, and actually, be open and transparent about what you're not doing and where you still need to make further efforts.
Ben Walker 12:47
And the tick-boxing, the box-ticking, takes a lot of time, doesn't it Clare Kemsley? And it's a waste of time most of the time.
Clare Kemsley 12:56
It does take a lot of time, and I would like to think that in this moment, where I think marketing is, which I think is quite a defining moment, Gemma, we've talked about that too. I think we have an opportunity, I think to shape what our profession might look like for the next three to five years, I think we really do. And we need to make sure that we are not just ticking those boxes because to your point, if that then transpires to not be authentic, and not be to the true purpose of what we really say we are, which happened with a lot of organisations over the last two years, their authenticity was questioned and found to be wanting, at best in some instances, then that there's the danger zone. But I think it's also about the response to the situation today can also be as you say, more product more, more more, let's feed the market with more products. Interestingly, there are over 30,000 marketing jobs advertised at the moment on job boards direct by customers, so direct by employers, and the top job at the moment - product manager just over 3000. Now that's been jumping between one and three, probably for the last year. But I think that's an interesting moment to reflect on, because if we are doing what we think we might be Gemma, constantly producing more products more and more product, that isn't actually going to tick any of those boxes, because it certainly isn't going to lead our sustainability. It certainly isn't going to make us focus on the right data potentially, and I would question if our whole focus being is product driven all the time, I'm not so there's nothing wrong with product driven all the time, then maybe we're going to miss out on that third piece, that ED&I piece that so matters to, not just the makeup of our own business, but how our customers perceive us. I think it's a challenging time.
Ben Walker 14:44
How do you how do you make that case Gemma if you're a marketer in your organisation, and people think, some people think marketers jobs, really the core of their job is selling things. Marketers say well it's broader than that, there's a lot more to it than selling things. And yet, how do you make that case if you're a marketer in an organisation which has a very commercial focus more, more more that actually, less is more, or at least being selective, is more?
Gemma Butler 15:09
I think we've got to be, you know, use our skills to take what is happening out there, the conversations that are happening out there, the challenges, the things that mean something to people, and bring that information back in. And it's almost the case, if it's not being led from the top down, then as marketers, we need to be shouting up and building that case for change more than anything else. Because that ultimately is, is what we do. We, you know, we are the lens that looks out and brings that information in and then we take things out. And you know, it's interesting that product managers are currently the number one job, I'd hope that those people you know, those organisations are looking for product managers to talk about circularity and how you know, what do we do when the products end of life and we need, you know, we need more product managers because we need the innovation and we need to start looking at things and how we do things differently. I'm not entirely sure we're there yet, but I would hope we are.
Ben Walker 16:12
There's a hope there but not an expectation necessarily that that is a key plank of the product managers roles. But are we talking Clare, about the difference between generalists and specialists,? Which is a topic we've touched on in the past, but actually, the shift has generally been towards more generalist. And as we become more generalist, we're supposed to be more holistic, but it carries with it that attendant risk that we tried to do everything. Is there a tension yet again, in the sector, in the recruitment sector, between generalists and specialists? And you know, do you expect to shift to reverse?
Clare Kemsley 16:54
The roles in marketing are evolving all the time, so as we would hope, we three would very much hope that those product roles are definitely focused on the bigger question of sustainability, and genuine lifecycle and product. However, with the evolvement of the roles, some of them are becoming actually more specialist again, so are we going back to those side of digital roles? No, I don't think we are, what I see in the marketplace, but I looked at a couple of examples of those data driven roles the other day Gemma when we were talking, and there is absolutely a need for these very specialist roles because of the sheer amount of data that we are now able to collate from our customer. And therefore the ability to find the insight to ensure potentially that maybe those new products, where we're trying to meet the needs of the customer of the future, can be much more wrapped around the sustainability piece. So for example, just to give an idea of some of the more technical roles, I think, that we're looking at, and we see in the market, you know, database, analytics managers, improv services, these roles now sit very much in the heart of the marketing team. You know, they're around supporting both not just the marketing analysis and campaigns, but also, they sometimes include creating the customer persona, and that's all around the data. So they're not business analytical roles anymore, or straightforward data insights, they're actually using the data information for the pure purposes of marketing. Whereas three, four years ago, if you saw a job title: database and analytics manager, it would potentially have been around that kind of business analytics, you know, internal productivity, or business science.
In publishing, we're seeing a lot of analysis roles, a lot of analytical roles, where the data and analysis influence very much the strategy and give insight into the return on investment and lifetime value. So these are relatively specialist roles then and what's interesting is they're attracting individuals into the marketing function and I think we've touched on this in the past from different disciplines. So you know, those people who are in tech, for example, who may, you know, Wireframe, and Python, and you know, 8000 different software's that we can use marketing now, they are actually shifting into, Ben these marketing teams. But that leads a challenge doesn't it Gemma, are they marketeers quote, or are they people who are doing a technical job that we need done in marketing? That to me, Gemma is the biggest challenge, are where do these roles sit? Are they truly marketing roles? Because they're focused on the customer data behaviour? Or is there a danger that some of them are becoming so technical, therefore, we'll become siloed, again, that we will lose what we want to always have in marketing, which is that genuine innovation and creativity to allow us to look at these, you know, these three questions of data, sustainability, and ED&I.
Ben Walker 19:50
There are two classic interpretations of that, aren't there: One, the specialist roles will help reduce overwhelm, will enable us to focus on where we're useful, we're able to do that less but better. And the second interpretation, the negative interpretation is, as you've just outlined, that actually, the more we specialise, the more, we become siloed. And tackling these massive challenges of sustainability, ED&I, and data, becomes harder because we're not integrated, we don't have a holistic view. Gemma, where do you sit on that spectrum?
Gemma Butler 20:23
I mean, it's an interesting debate, and I don't think it's - the debate is going to carry on and I don't think there is any right or wrong way of structuring your marketing function, because it's based on a number of variable factors. I think what sits at the core of this is the power of effective communication, and, you know, one thing a marketing function has to do is work across all of the other business operations within the organisation it's in and, you know, therefore, if those data analysts sit in marketing, or they sit in IT, having that communication and those silos broken down will ultimately help that organisation, you know, meet its objectives a lot better than those that work completely in isolation and don't talk to each other.
Ben Walker 21:19
Is there a happy middle ground then Clare Kemsley, where we have a shared discipline, say for example, communication, that links us all together as marketers, and we have a shared structure that links us all together as marketers, while also enjoying and delivering our own specialist skills?
Clare Kemsley 21:37
I would hope there is, and I have seen in organisations where structures lead to that, I suppose that central point of communications being where it should be. And to your point, Gemma, that connectivity, not just to different departments internally, but actually the different functions within the marketing team, because the communication is so important. And when we talked about soft skills last year, and the year before, and we look at the data that we played this year, you know, it's number one, the ability to communicate, and interpersonal skills is number one, in that in the top soft skills that marketers require at the moment, alongside obviously, flexibility and adaptability, which we we've all had to definitely find our way through in the last couple of years.
So I do think it's possible, but I do challenge myself when I look at the organisation structure of many of the customers we deal with, because they are becoming quite siloed. So you might have an overarching head of marketing, for example, but then, you know, I can look at an organisation, they've got a head of digital, where the analytics team sit, but they've also got a head of data, where you're someone from the CRM might sit exactly, and then you've got the head of communications, but then you've got the head of marketing planning. So when I look at that type of organisational structure, I instantly feel Gemma, as we've talked about before, oh, this is quite determined, I recall it's got a determined fixed structure. What you need and hope you will have there, is the ability for that structure to flex. And for them, that crossover that fertilisation of skill set, that's what I think we need to be looking for, isn't it? The fertilisation of skill set, because in fact, across these teams now Gemma when it comes to communications, a lot of this tech skill is required. If you're going to communicate effectively, internally and externally, you've got to have somebody who totally gets the social media piece. If you're going to have internal communications, you've got to have someone who understands the language and the tone of voice that your different departments internally will use. I mean, let's think audit, to finance, to legal, you know, that in itself, from an internal communications perspective could be a challenge.
So I do think there's a move towards understanding then that this needs to happen. But then I look and reflect on the number of analytical roles, UX design roles, data interpretation, roles, that that we're looking at, for our customer base at the moment where they sit is a bit of a challenge. If we don't have this ability to communicate, I would suggest Gemma.
Gemma Butler 24:06
I think just throwing something else into the mix here is also within the article by a Effie Week, it says that there will be 2 million new green jobs by 2030. Where on earth are they going to sit? I think with the growing complexity, with the growing remit of what business needs to do, and the fact that business is being seen as the key driver for change, I think we are just going to constantly be challenged to how we structure organisations, how we structure our marketing departments. But if people can work together, then almost how you structure should come secondary to the fact that you need to actually communicate with each other.
Ben Walker 24:45
How do you make them work together though? Silo carries such a negative connotation, I'll try not to use that word. But if they're in defined, shall we say roles, specialist roles and the structure has a specialist channel, how do you make them work together?
Clare Kemsley 25:02
I am excited about those organisations where I think they are trying to do this, and this is all about actually understanding their own purpose of their own brand. This ability to communicate, if you understand that your business is aiming towards genuinely being and offering products and services that are going to be sustainable in the future, if you genuinely see an impressive programme that's being supported by your HR and ED&I function, if you definitely can see that the technical piece of the data insights is enabling you to be a more creative innovative marketeer, therefore meet the needs of your customer's very genuine purpose. That's what I think, I think it's a common goal of the business. I think marketers need to be at the forefront of understanding and setting the objectives of the business, they need to be in that central strategic place. Because then they have this common goal or three common goals: Understanding and using data with with an ethical lens, understanding the importance of the balance workplace, the fantastic innovation, creativity you have when you have a really strong ED&I sense of purpose, and then to your chosen subject Gemma, sustainability. And I do think it's this common ground where if they understand that the role they have is so connected to the greater good of the brand, therefore the greater good of their customer base, I do think that is where you can start Gemma where you could really begin to build a sustainable business, a sustainable team. It's becoming apparent in some businesses, it's not obvious in all businesses.
Ben Walker 26:45
So is this engendering this sort of idea of common purpose of common outlook, while we all have our specialist roles, going back to the classic question of marketing, which is: What is a marketer? Is it time at last in 2022 to define what a marketer is, is there any chance of it happening? Are we gonna move away from ten different marketers, ten different definitions of marketing, Gemma Butler, by Christmas Eve this year, will we all be able to say collectively, in unison, what a marketer is?
Gemma Butler 27:21
No. Absolutely not, you will never define what a marketer is because marketers all have different views and different sort of opinions on it. I think, you know to Clare's point around you know, how businesses work and the different things that they're taking on, and defining what your purpose is a business is one of the primary things you need to do. The other thing is for me, is it goes back to the culture of your organisation, and you know, and we talk about ED&I, unless you have people within your organisation from a range of different, you know, backgrounds and ethnicities and genders, and, you know, we really do look at that whole neurodiverse piece, then, you know, that's what will go to shape your culture, and actually that will bring the information in and, and different ways of working. And if you've got a culture and an organisation that looks a very certain way and acts a very certain way and makes decisions, you know, in the same way your business will stay in that space won't it. I think, you know, culture and who works for your organisation is absolutely critical to whether your organisation is going to fly as we go into the future or whether it is going to get left behind.
Ben Walker 28:49
It is said Clare Kemsley that culture eats strategy for breakfast, get the culture right, and the strategy will look after itself.
Clare Kemsley 28:57
Yes, I have heard that more than once. But what I do think really matters here is that the conversation today, in itself is interesting, because around a board table, when do you have the conversation around sustainability, the importance of communication, around data and around ED&I? They happen in the boardroom but from a different perspective, you will have a different function that talks about ED&I, you'll have a different function that talks about the data and the tech piece normally. And then if you're lucky, and there's lots of aggressive businesses we deal with, you will have someone responsible for sustainability.
But all of those conversations don't often happen in the marketing space, and therefore I think, will marketing be defined today? As Gemma says, absolutely not. But I do think, I really do think and I see that this is a moment in time, as I say, I say to my, the customers that we deal with a lot a moment in time. Marketing can define itself and can change the definition of what it does through using these three particular huge pieces of conversation. And so I think if we look at communication, going back to your point Gemma, it's so critical. If I can just refer back briefly to that ED&I survey that we did, talking about communication and us being responsible for it in marketing, communication obviously is about progress, isn't it? We can't progress without communication, we can't make great decisions without communication. We can't drive really positive, purposeful strategy without communication. And yet on one small piece in the ED&I report, 45% of marketing professionals said their employer does not share the progress they're making to improve, for example, ED&I in their organisation. So if we take that as a point, if we're not even sharing internally, the good stuff we might be doing, then I would suggest we're not communicating externally Gemma, as a brand, the good stuff we want to be doing. And it's not about being completely different all the time. I go back to Dr. Simon Kelly's book that he co-authored with Paul Johnson and Stacey Danheiser, you know, I remember the 'U' of value in his competency chain was unique. But he said unique doesn't actually make you useful, so we need to be aware also that just to be talking about sustainability, potentially with a louder voice than our other competitors in our marketplace, doesn't mean we're doing anything good about it, or doesn't mean that we're really communicating what we're trying to do about it. So I think there is a moment here, a marketing moment to take these three huge subjects. And I think Gemma, as a marketing director, we need to take the voice, we need to take that voice wider than just a boardroom conversation.
Ben Walker 31:42
It's an interesting point, isn't it? The things that have made a lot of marketers fearful, what I've discovered as the three huge juggernauts of marketing, sustainable, ED&I and data actually represent an opportunity, because then that's gonna unify the sector and give us common goals. We've talked about common purpose, we've talked about context, we've talked about communicating and being part of that culture. And if we do that, Gemma Butler, we do have a chance to make not a definition of what what a marketer is, because that definition will vary over time and between each marketer, but we will be able to define a commonality as marketers, which will enable us to drive our organisations forward.
Gemma Butler 32:16
Absolutely, there is always an opportunity where there is a challenge. And I think those organisations that can pull those things together can work, those marketing functions that can work across all of the other functions within their business. For those marketers who can manage up and shout where it's not coming from the boardroom down. They will be the ones as I said, that will progress and you know, and they will do that because they will see the value in bringing in, you know, acting on their ED&I targets or whatever it is that's been set or the or the strategy that's been set behind tha. By being aware, and by using their voice, both internally and externally, I think that's the way we drive that change and that evolution of what businesses need to do and look like.
Ben Walker 33:06
Gemma Butler, Clare Kemsley, thank you very much indeed. What a fantastic podcast today. We'll see you both again, I hope very soon indeed. Thank you.
Clare Kemsley 33:14
Ally Cook 33:15
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