The Marketing Talent Shortage

The elephant in the room for many CMOs is the shortage of marketing talent. That’s partly because the definition of “marketing talent” has changed so dramatically, but no one has really stepped up to address what that means from a skills/organizational structure standpoint. Marketing is no longer just about advertising and PR (duh). While that sounds obvious, the talent has yet to catch up with the new requirements of marketing – data geeks and webheads and social anthropologists and whatnot.

Mediapost reports today on a survey of marketing executives in which more than 70% of the respondents believe there’s a shortage of qualified executive-level talent, from the CMO on down. In many cases, “classically trained marketers” (read: CPG dinosaurs) don’t themselves have the broader skills they require to address the changing marketing model. This has a trickle-down impact on their marketing organizations – the CMOs don’t quite understand  the emerging skills they need to bring into marketing, HR doesn’t provide much help, so they stick with the status quo, resulting in creative-heavy departments that operate under outdated models and get beat up when the talk moves to ROI. They throw a lot of money at consultants to help them solve the problems but don’t retain any of the knowledge to pass onto the next generation.

I’m guessing the business schools are lagging as well. I was at a workshop last week where a marketing professor at a top B-school admitted that most of their marketing curriculum was obsolete. Some large companies like Microsoft have worked with universities to develop custom in-house training for their marketers. Former General Electric CMO Dan Henson spoke last year about how GE built its corporate marketing function from 2,000 to 7,000 people in five years in part by taking GE’s top functional performers and training them to be marketers. The end result: a better, more useful mix of business and marketing skills.

Maybe Jim Stengel will tackle this issue in his new self-appointed role as marketing ambassador/consultant. The global marketing officer at Procter & Gamble announced his resignation last week and, in a follow-up interview with Ad Age, talked about his plans to focus on “purpose-driven branding” – which he defined partly as “finding the inner purpose [of a brand] and raising performance to deliver that.”

Sounds pretty zen to me, and I’m not sure it directly addresses the skills disconnect, but the widely respected Stengel may just be the guy to help raise awareness on the marketing talent shortage. Whether that gets companies any closer to filling the growing gaps in their marketing expertise is anyone’s guess.

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3 thoughts on “The Marketing Talent Shortage”

  1. Cross out marketer, fill in journalist, same drill. (As you know.) (Not that I’m accusing you of being a behind-the-times journalist.) (Actually, not that I am hung up on ‘journalism’ per se.) (Maybe part of the solution is to forget about marketing and just dive into the Web for a few years. The result, if it’s analogous to journalism or whatever my job is, is that you start seeing new possibilities. Journalists might not publish Powerpoint presentations and org charts, but I certainly will. Perhaps traditional marketing probably teaches you something that’s still applicable and maybe even fundamental, but it has to be brought into balance with these new precepts and skills.) (ds)

  2. Hey Derek – yes, I’m not advocating that the old ways need to be tossed, but the skill set needs to expand (and yes, that certainly applies to journalism as well as marketing).

  3. This is an intriguing subject. I’ve written about both marketing and the talent wars and it’s interesting to see the convergence. I think Tom Davenport’s book Competing on Analytics does a good job of point to some of the roles that need to be filled. But the real victories will come to those who can marry creative and analytical skill in the marketing profession. Not sure you’ll find both of those skills in one person. Probably not. But i do think boundary spanners — who can manage folks in both realms and drive collaboration — will be immensely valuable in the future.

    Britton Manasco
    Illuminating the Future

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