Having been privileged to have led a large number of teams in different organisations (big and small) and work with a variety of different people on some fantastic brands and different commercial challenges, I have drawn a simple conclusion. The most effective marketers are born and not made.
Over the years I have experienced all manner of different functions and multiple levels of seniority offer their ‘wise’ marketing perspective! Given the new normal where as consumers we can offer instant feedback through any number of mediums it is perhaps unsurprising that everyone feels marketing in its broadest sense is fair game. Don’t get me wrong, great ideas and great feedback can come from any direction and ignoring feedback at all costs is foolish but it is curious how marketers disproportionately engage with other functions offering their perspective at an ever increasing volume. The key of course is to have the right insights, evidence and feedback to feel you can support your position and engage and where appropriate push back!
Which brings me onto the topic of identifying genuinely effective marketers. Back in the early 90’s when I embarked upon my marketing degree there were only three locations in the country offering up the opportunity to formally study marketing. Incidentally, my decision to pursue this degree choice was one driven by post qualification differentiation opportunities more than a compulsion that I would indeed follow a career path in this field. As it happens I have been fortunate to pursue a highly enjoyable and varied career in FMCG marketing and through the course of different roles have been lucky enough to work on and lead some amazing brands and work with some great people.
This experience affords me the luxury to be able to observe that many of the most effective marketers I have worked with/for have been those who are intuitively smart and who ‘get it’ far more than those who have read all the right books and use all the right ‘of the moment’ jargon. The perceptive nature of those intuitive marketers and their instinctive ability to ask the right questions at the right time whilst critically remaining commercially astute puts them streets ahead in my book of some of the more formally qualified marketers I have encountered. Indeed some of the most effective marketers have quite often started off their careers in other functions and found their way into marketing via a natural curiosity and determination to get involved and make a commercial difference.
Marketing remains of course an inexact science and whilst tools are increasingly emerging to help quantify and support decision making, the ability to be brave and trust your intuition and gut feeling remains just as important. It is in this area that the more effective marketers emerge from the pack as to my mind this demonstrates the real core competency that genuine marketers have in spades – they are motivated by people and have a genuine fascination in what motivates and delivers. As I have said in other musings, effective marketing is fundamentally quite a simple premise – you need to cut through and persuade and it is with this in mind I believe that the most effective marketers step up.
So, what am I concluding? Is it that marketing can’t be learnt? Of course it can and many very competent marketers have emerged from this route. My hypothesis is that those who are genuinely the cream of the crop have within them an inbuilt DNA which creates a burning passion for people, insight, strategy, brands and ultimately marketing that genuinely works and genuinely makes a positive business impact. Sure, they can have their skills further honed with learning and development and I’d always advocate any opportunities to enhance capability but I do firmly believe that the most effective marketers are almost always born and not made. Provocative? Maybe a little. But in my experience likely true.