How digital and data drive marketers to four extremes

This post is by Nathan HodgesTrinityP3‘s General Manager. Nathan applies his knowledge and creativity to the specific challenges of marketing management, with a particular focus on team dynamics and behavioural change.

I just came back from the World Federation of Advertisers Global Marketers Conference in Brussels. As is often the case with these things, some parts of it were really valuable and other parts less so. But one thing struck me as I finished the week.

At the moment I think the world of marketing is split between four extremes.

The first extreme is that you think you know everything about the change that is happening as digital and data disrupts our industry.

The second is that you believe you don’t know enough – or even don’t know anything.

The third extreme is that you actually understand the enormity and the true impact of what is going on.

And the final extreme is that you really don’t get any of it at all. I’ve drawn a graph to illustrate roughly what I mean.

4 extreme marketer types

Of course, most of us sit somewhere on this four-way continuum, somewhere between these four extremes. But it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that it’s really important as a marketer to know exactly where you sit, because where you sit makes a fundamental difference to how you equip yourself for what is happening and what is yet to come.

First of all, the marketers that really don’t get it, and don’t think they know enough

There were plenty of those to be found in Brussels. And what a great group – because they got loads out of the conference, asked the best questions, made the best observations, learned the most from the speakers and delegates and left with the biggest mindset shift. Given the speed and extent of the change that’s coming, I think it’s the safest group for any of us to be in, whatever our actual or perceived level of expertise.

Marketers who get it but know they don’t know enough

The other terrific group of people to hang out with were the ones who actually get what is happening, but don’t think they know nearly enough about it. And I’d put the Google team in this group – clearly a company that is on top of far more than most of us, but which (at the WFA at least) demonstrated a constant state of insecurity and self-criticism, leading it to innovate like it is on the brink of exiting the market. Seeing this up close (suspending any cynicism just for a moment) showed me why Google is still around after all these years, and will be for several more.

Marketers who think they get it all, but don’t really

Then there were the guys and girls who believe they get what is going on, but actually don’t. There were lots of them, I’m afraid, either spruiking on stage or opining in the conference hall and side functions. They were the ones who were talking about digital as a channel, or integration as matching messages, or brand ideas as communication ideas, or marketing as a business unit. They were the ones presenting case studies as simple systems with clear cause and effect. They were usually from companies operating in the boom markets like China, patting themselves on the back for double-digit growth while their business elsewhere remains flat. They all seemed to have something to sell, even if it was just themselves.

The marketers who actually do get it

And finally, there were the ones everyone wanted to discover and connect with – those that believe they get what is going on, and actually do get it. The real experts, the proper geniuses. Except there weren’t any. We all searched for them the whole week. We all wanted to learn from them, find out their secrets, use their knowledge and expertise in our businesses.

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t spot a single one.

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About Nathan Hodges

As TrinityP3′s General Manager, Nathan applies his knowledge and creativity to the specific challenges of marketing management, with a particular focus on team dynamics and behavioural change. He is an HBDI Practitioner and an experienced facilitator and coach. Read Nathan's bio here or email nathan@trinityp3.com
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8 Responses to How digital and data drive marketers to four extremes

  1. Nice post Nathan. My view: the second segment, rather than the first, is actually the safest to be in. This way it's "just" the extra info & exposure they need to feed their machines, rather than have to learn how the machine works first then feeding it

    • Nathan says:

      Thanks Andrew. The second segment is a fine place to be, as long as you remain adept at recognising the signs of change. Sometimes assuming you know nothing is the best way of ensuring that you spot when things are moving on.

  2. Anita Zanesco says:

    I agree with Andrew, great post Nathan, it sounds like you got a tonne out of the conference. And further to Andrew's point, whether the first or second group is the safest, the message to me was don't be afraid to admit you don't know everything, be inquisitive, ask the right questions and learn as much as possible every single day as that's how rapidly the landscape is changing…scary but exciting stuff.

  3. Stephen McLardie says:

    Excellent post Andrew.
    The 3rd segment are the most dangerous I think. (And often the loudest.) They are a potential thorn in the side for segments 1& 2 who wish to learn more, in that they seem to dismiss any pre-existing knowledge and discipline, and create so much white noise that it can hide the truth.
    Segment 3 appear to me to be the 21st century snake oil salesmen.

  4. Nathan says:

    Thanks Andrew – I think you're spot on. The overall level of debate amongst the guys and girls in this segment at WFA was quite terrible – especially the blind faith in effect following cause.

  5. Shirley Kirkwood says:

    Thanks Nathan, its good to know "we are not alone" on our path of discovery. And perhaps that Nirvana is actually unreachable.

  6. Andy Bateman says:

    Maybe the marketers that actually do get it were busy doing it, rather than going to conferences about it with people who don't?

Comments are closed.