It's time for marketers to market ourselves more effectively

Don't tell my mother I'm in Marketing '“ she thinks I play the piano in a brothel' An amusing quote but perhaps a bit too close to the truth

Graeme Atha, director of the Marketing Society

Many marketers suspect that society in general does not have a very positive perception of our profession. Sadly, a recent piece of research undertaken by SMG Insight confirmed our worst fears.

A YouGov online survey completed by a representative sample of 999 respondents scored the marketing profession low in the areas of job content, integrity, stress levels and earning potential. Marketers were also rated poorly on leadership skills.

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Ironically, in the same survey marketing was generally regarded as central to business success.

So why such a low perception of the marketing profession?

It may come down to the perceived ease of entry into marketing jobs and the relative ease of access to marketing qualifications in comparison to other professions eg law , medicine and accountancy.

The Marketing Society mission is to inspire bolder marketing leadership and a key objective is to promote a better understanding of role and value of marketing and marketing professionals. There is work to be done from the classroom to the boardroom and we realise we need to rise to the challenge.

It does start at school. Teachers, career advisers and parents rarely encourage higher attaining pupils to gain marketing qualifications or consider jobs in this profession.

Yet most of us who work in marketing love it. Part art, part science – the mixture of logic and magic means you get to use both sides of your brain. It can be very rewarding to be both strategic and creative at work whilst driving business success. And great fun.

The Marketing Society works with Young Enterprise Scotland and their Company Programme to encourage schools across Scotland to ensure they have an effective marketing strategy and activities as part of their overall business plan and awards submission.

In the boardroom marketing is often just seen as a cost to the business which can be easily cut when short term budgets are tight rather than a longterm investment. The problem here can be one of definition, with marketing being thought of as simply a promotional tool and not as business strategy or, indeed, philosophy.

This may be why in everyday use and in media commentary suspect promotional activity is often referred to as “only a marketing thing” or “just a marketing ploy”.

Marketers need to convince society of our value in the same way we all admire entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial success. From my perspective all successful entrepreneurs are marketers. And yet many will protest they are not because they have no specific marketing qualifications or experience. Entrepreneurs tend to be people who see a market opportunity and develop a new product or service that successfully meets that opportunity. Surely the very definition of marketing.

Another issue may simply be our job title. Some say marketers, some say marketeers but many just default to “I work in marketing” and often find it difficult to define their role. Such a lack of confidence and consistency does not help our cause. Rarely is a doctor, lawyer or accountant challenged to describe what they actually do.

The digital era has also brought fresh challenges to the marketing profession; with the development of “big data” and the importance of social media channels, never has there been more need to be measurable and accountable. The days of marketing directors being judged on the often subjective, assessment of their latest TV advertising campaign are over.

Recent trends have shown many marketers in the tech sector are now being called “growth managers”, while some of the more traditional sectors are changing the marketing director title to “customer director”.

So in these uncertain times, never has it been more important for those in the marketing profession to stand up and be counted.

I believe The Marketing Society plays an important role in defining and defending our role while supporting our profession and members –from those just starting their career to those who need to make the case in the boardroom.

Ultimately it is about the marketing of marketing – and we should be up for that challenge.

Graeme Atha, Director, Marketing Society.