I have to admit, that when I was asked to write an article about how marketing has changed since I started my career in 1995, I was a bit reticent. My fear was of being viewed as one of the old fossils, who were resistant to change that I remember as having to convince to buy in to my marketing plans.
Upon reflection, I think marketers should be proud of our achievements over the last 25 years as we have had to adapt to constant change and innovation. These are the main areas in which I think have changed.
Technology & Work Life Balance
In my first role, my firm was still operating computers using the ‘dos’ prompt!
Microsoft 365, Windows and Apple were not yet heard of in business. Communication was still via memo and letters, and sending emails was only just beginning. Mobile phones did not exist, albeit the first ‘portable’ phones – a phone which came with a massive (and very heavy, so not so portable), charging pack and I could happily leave work at 5pm each night confident of no disturbances until 9am the next day. (Unless we had an event that evening or breakfast seminar, in which case I’d get time of in lieu! Imagine that!)
And then came the internet revolution and the ‘dot.com’ boom, and with it a way of doing business that speeded up everything as well as creating a 24/7 lifestyle.
We were all given a mobile phone (still a brick), a laptop, access to the internet as well as remote access to the office server. This meant communication became easier and in theory we could work from anywhere, but we could also be ‘contacted’ anywhere and the workload balance boundaries began to blur. Personally, I’m a huge fan, as long as the employer is flexible. I’m a firm believer that if you want to contact your staff outside of what are deemed as normal working hours, then you should trust them and give them leeway to balance their workload around their personal lives. If it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement where neither takes advantage its a won win scenario in my book.
Routes to Market & Data
O wow! What a change! At the beginning of my career once you’d created your contact list, your routes to market to communicate with your audiences were basically limited to sending them a letter, placing advertising and the odd bit of sponsorship. The challenge was to avoid ‘dusty bin’ not the delete key and I enjoyed many sessions working with graphic designers to create campaigns that would stand out.
Again, technology has changed the marketers landscape beyond recognition. The term ‘Market Fragmentation’ was born as marketers grappled to ensure their marketing spend created a return on investment. As more and more ways to reach target audiences unfolded, the more necessary it became to gather more and more information about our buyers.
Buyers were profiled, databases created, data sold, data used. This all powerful information helped marketers to focus spend and deliver ROI. But this created a need for regulation to ensure privacy and data security because communication channels had widened from just direct mail – to telemarketing, email marketing, internet searches to websites and you could deal with people and buy on-line not from shops or businesses!
As marketers we then had to understand so, so much more! We had to know about email marketing, data and analysis, marketing software, google search, how to develop websites, film videos, as well as become a guru of all the various social media platforms that have sprung up and how they can help us reach our target markets!
Compliance & Security
And so as marketers we had to fully understand yet more legislation over and above the Data Protection Act, Advertising Standards and the Telephone Preference Service and Mailing Preference Services. Along came European legislation, Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, as well as the dread of ‘bedroom warriors’ and ‘cyber criminals’ who became intent on hacking into this data, and now we are faced with understanding the impact of GDPR!
O how marketing has changed!
The choices available for a career in marketing are now quite specialised. At the beginning of my career the progression was simply marketing assistant, exec, manager, senior manager and director. We were all pretty much general marketers with a broad knowledge across everything.
Now, quite rightly, there are specific disciplines in all areas from event management through to digital marketing, SEO specialists, social media specialists. Being a generalist marketer now, is bordering on being a jack of all trades, master of none – however what tends to happen is generalists like myself build a team of specialists around us – whether they be in-house or outsourced agency specialists.
The overarching factor for me, is that now, more than ever, marketing HAS to be central to the strategy of the business and the marketer should be part of the management team. In some businesses, particularly professional services firms, there is a tendency to forget that marketers are qualified specialists who can add significant value to the strategic decisions your business makes. Many of us now hold ‘chartered marketer’ status, which is only awarded to individuals who have passed the ‘Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications’ (CIM) and have completed many years of Continued Professional Development (CPD).
And this leads me to my one bugbear about our profession – anybody, yes I mean anybody can add the work ‘marketing’ to their job title – whether they have taken a professional qualification in a marketing subject or not.
When you compare to other professions, you cannot be called a lawyer until you pass the bar exams. You cannot be called an accountant unless you pass exams with CIMA, he ACCA or ICAEW. So why is our profession still so unregulated when the decisions we make have such a huge impact on strategy and spend?
This is the one change I would like to see happen, as without it, important marketing decisions can still be made by those who may have not had the training to make them. This may mean that costly errors are made and the failure a campaign and with it the reputation of marketing within the business.
I firmly believe, that this is one of the reasons why our profession still struggles to command the respect it so clearly deserves. The wheat needs to be sifted from the chaff so that only those who have earned the right are able to call themselves marketers.