I recently used the headline ‘Digital or Doomed?’ as a subject for a discussion group on LinkedIn. It was only meant to provoke discussion, but then I realised that for many of today’s marketers it’s uncomfortably close to the truth.
For many people in marketing, the shift to digital has happened frighteningly fast. So rapid has the change been that I’m sure even experienced industry commentators would find it hard to guess what the ‘average’ marketing department will look like in years to come.
We’ve seen a seismic shift towards digital in recent years. In fact, for many companies and organisations, digital marketing channels now take precedence over traditional analogue media channels. This reflects a change in the way people are consuming media through the internet, social media and mobile apps. And it’s not going to stop. Digital marketing budgets are all set to continue increasing for the foreseeable future.
But what does this mean for today’s marketers? Well, from my perspective, I see very few briefs from clients that don’t require digital experience these days. So there is a real hunger for digital-savvy marketers, and yet there’s still a lack of digital experience at all levels. I’m not talking about technical ability, but a real understanding of digital marketing, social media and new technologies.
So, if you’re from a traditional marketing background what should you do? The first thing is don’t panic! You’re not quite ready for the scrap heap just yet. Your marketing skills are still relevant and valuable to employers. However, attending a workshop or training course will help to broaden your knowledge of the new digital landscape. The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) and the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) both run excellent courses.
But if I’m honest, most companies are looking for candidates with hands-on digital experience. A proven, strategic understanding of digital marketing is still the best way to make yourself attractive to prospective employers. So, in answer to my original question ‘Digital or Doomed?’ – a lack of digital experience will by no means doom your career, but it certainly makes sense to start taking steps to gain digital experience before your next move.
As for the end of the marketing world as we know it? Well, digital has undeniably taken centre stage in recent years, but there will always be a requirement for marketing specialists in other areas. Category and insight in the consumer space will remain a priority, as well as product and proposition specialists in financial and business services. Experienced account managers in agency will also continue to be in high demand.
However, as the marketing industry continues to evolve, digital will undoubtedly continue to gain significance but not at the sacrifice of other, highly valuable and sought-after roles that are central to a successful marketing department. For me, the key to staying relevant in the new digital age is specialism. And in the words of R.E.M. “It’s the end of the world as we know it (And I Feel Fine)” – so long as you are evolving specialist skills.