Marketers come from diverse career backgrounds, we are not like accountants or lawyers that need specific education, and on social media, we have been seeing some pushback on this from folks like Mark Ritson, who as a marketing professor is pretty vocal about those of us that don’t have a marketing education. So, what do our Rockstar CMO’s think?
In this Green Room we went backstage with six of our marketers and asked them:
Do good marketers need a formal marketing education? What do you look for when you are hiring?
“Aptitude and attitude trump a formal marketing education, but an appetite to learn – be it through the formalities of a course, experimenting with new approaches or technology, or throwing yourself into new initiatives – is fundamental to the success of a growth-focused marketeer.”
As CMO of Global enterprise software vendor IFS, Oliver is responsible for their global marketing and communications activities. With his team, he is on a mission to increase the company’s visibility, as well as attract and retain a loyal IFS following.
My top three are #1 right attitude/cultural fit; #2 relevant experience and skill set; #3 good social presence/personal profile. I’ll look at where they’ve worked before and if anyone in my network knows them. I’ll certainly look to see what education they have and for entry-level marketers in particular, a formal marketing education is a real bonus. Not least because this indicates a passion for the profession of marketing which always sits well with me.
Dr. Christine Bailey is CMO of Valitor, an international payment solutions company headquartered in Iceland. Forging a career in the tech sector, she’s led European marketing functions for Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems and was recently voted #1 woman in tech by B2B Marketing.
Learn more about Christine in backstage Q&A here.
The Uncle Larry Trap
While the tools and platforms may change, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same. Nothing has served me better in my career than a firm grounding in the basic principals of marketing starting with understanding marketing research and data.
My first job in the field consisted of deep analytical dives into IRI and Nielsen data for Hanes Brands. Using information about category sales and competitive information coupled with qualitative information from focus groups and hours of store visits, we were able to develop new products and campaigns that reached an underserved part of the category and grew our market share by 6 points in a declining market.
While intuition is a great attribute for a marketer, the ability to truly understand the mindset and behavior of shoppers is critical and it takes time, training and experimentation.
Too many marketers fall into the “my uncle Larry” trap. Just because you know someone that has a certain behavior, it does not necessarily represent a larger audience. Your uncle Larry might be a nice guy, but he drinks craft beer and the new shopper loves White Claw. AB was late to both trends.
Given the uber-competitive job market now, when a recruiter looks at a resume, a recent graduate with a marketing degree is definitely going to appear to be a better fit for a marketing position than someone with a different degree.
However, while my degree in marketing has served me well and mattered to hiring managers, in my opinion after 5-10 years of practical on the job marketing experience, it doesn’t have to matter so much.
A customer driven mindset, a strong work ethic and sense of curiosity is just as important. It also depends on the specific marketing discipline you’re talking about. The world of marketing is so much more data driven than it ever was and now other more analytic-focused degrees could be well suited for marketing too.
Our value as Marketing and Communications professionals is fundamentally driven by our ability to creatively address future opportunities in effective and inspiring ways. While formal training and past experience provide the building blocks necessary for success, there are no specific prerequisites.
Our individual journeys are exactly that: bespoke experiences that help us become the individuals whose impact is inherently unique. This is the gift of the digital age, in which curiosity and ambition combine with energy and opportunity to bring us to new and unanticipated places…and provide us with the ability to solve unforeseen challenges.
Yes, I want to see many impressive diplomas on the wall in my doctor’s office and the requisite certifications in my mechanic’s waiting room. However, when hiring for my teams, I look for candidates with demonstrated positive impact and the potential to grow beyond the position at hand. A formal education in Marketing is a vehicle to achieve this, as are degrees in Art History, English, Math and countless other areas of study.
I started my career in customer service — it wasn’t by accident. I graduated in a recession and had originally planned to go into architecture and historic preservation or commercial design. Life had other plans and I landed a temporary assignment at USAA which turned into a permanent role.
20 years later, I have headed up several marketing efforts, overseen operations and a 200 person team. I started and built two businesses and each experience I’ve had shaped me as the leader I am today – a results-driven, growth marketer who has a passion for helping people and telling a story.
I did not go to school for marketing and do not have a marketing degree. I have over the years taken certifications, collaborated with peers, and attended many conferences/workshops. I observe what other companies do and continue researching, reading and learning.
When I hire people, a degree in marketing does not influence my choice. Today, I have several members of my team who arrived in marketing in varied ways. Some are now studying for a masters in marketing or obtaining certifications such as what Marketo offers, and countless other certifications depending on their role. I look for people who have had varied experiences and can roll up their sleeves and get the work done. Varied experiences provide you with people who think outside the box, who don’t always have experience in your industry and bring fresh thinking to the table.
Having a degree or not doesn’t matter to me. I’m interested in what you’ve done, the type of person you are, and what unique experience you bring to the table.
Wendy Bryant-Beswick is an award-winning marketer with 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry. She is currently VP of Marketing at Service Credit Union. Go backstage with Wendy.
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