By: Sumit Virmani, EVP and Global Chief Marketing Officer, Infosys
No matter what your particular role in marketing, chances are you will need to learn new ‘critical skills’ to do your job brilliantly. As marketing evolves, as you seek to embrace and master the new, it is equally essential to sharpen the skills you already have.
Research from the World Economic Forum makes clear that investing in developing the foundational skills nurturing creativity, collaboration, digital capabilities, global citizenship, and environmental stewardship can unlock capabilities critical for the future workforce. As we look towards a year that will place unique demands on us, these findings also point towards five key skills critical for marketers:
1. Develop a Creativity Process. When one thinks marketing creativity–clever advertising, smart offers or maybe unusual media placements often come to mind. While all of that is creativity applied, the true potential of marketing creativity is realized in creating something new and valuable–something that drives meaningful brand and business differentiation.
This doesn’t always happen in a “eureka” moment, but results from a process. It happens when we are constantly learning from customers, learning from what’s working for other, identifying niches, testing, refining and, as a result, then delivering an idea that so fits the bill, it has everyone wondering why no one thought of it before. The need to apply a disciplined approach to creativity in order to overcome a pervasive sea of sameness is critical for brand performance, and is as urgent in B2B marketing as B2C. Research confirms that going from rational to more emotional creative branding helps B2B marketers grow market share. Creativity leads to memorability. And what’s relevantly remembered is what’s bought.
2. Master “Story-Selling”. As marketers you’ve likely heard this expression before – the numbers speak for themselves. Well, they don’t exactly. It is the context or the narrative you wrap around the numbers that can influence decisions. If data alone could sell, we wouldn’t be smoking, consuming added sugars, or overworking without work-life balance. And yet we do because our decisions are driven by what matters most to us – no matter what the data or statistics tell. Influencing this internal and human narrative is accomplished by appealing to emotion – that is amplified and rationalized with data. This is story-selling. Master it.
3. Conquer Digital Shifts. Whether it is social media marketing, using insights from digital efforts to influence marketing campaign planning, thinking NFTs, chatbots and all that’s possible in the metaverse, bringing digital measurability to physical channel marketing – it’s time to learn how to conquer it all. And fast.
Consider this Statista data point —wanting to be an astronaut has lost some of its appeal for kids, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, these children were three times more likely to opt for social media influencer than astronaut, a generational shift. But it’s not just kids who are smitten by the digital revolution, adults across age groups are embracing it wholeheartedly. For example, in 2021, 36 percent of TikTok users were between 35 and 54 years old. OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot crossing 1 million users in less than a week since its launch is not kid-stuff either.
4. Become Truly Inclusive. Inclusivity is non-negotiable for brands trying to win mindshare in a global marketplace. Transformed by social change, by digitization that’s bringing us all closer, and shaping consumer preferences requires getting better at representing the breadth of evolving human and cultural truths. From gender-neutral pronouns to rooting out bias from data that’s informing your campaigns is important but not enough. Marketers need to actively demonstrate their commitment to a more inclusive world. Retailers like Gap, Macy’s, and Sephora, have signed the Fifteen Percent Pledge, committing to allocate 15 percent of retail shelf space to Black-owned brands. This is what’s required, and brands have much to gain when shaped by marketers who think diversity and inclusion first.
5. Build Community-Sustainably. While being an eco-conscious business, in alignment with your brand’s purpose, is increasingly table stakes, consumer scrutiny of both brand actions and inactions, make this an urgent business imperative. The brands that will survive the decade will be steered by marketers who can help the business find the right balance between profit and purpose and drive growth synergistically with the greater good. A commitment to the larger community wellbeing, while also having a clear point of view on climate strategy is not optional anymore, it’s an expectation from every brand and is already shaping consumer decision making. Research backs this. Brands and marketers also need metrics that make these efforts measurable in order to translate commitment into a practical roadmap with tangible initiatives and outcomes.
So how do you commit to continuously sharpening your skills? My experience has shaped my point of view that reskilling and upskilling is best when it is self-regulated not mandated. Autonomy is a powerful driver of effective and intentional learning. It helps to consider what matters most to your career, and that of those you lead, and connect the program to skills serving these learning agendas.
Sumit Virani is the Chief Marketing Officer at Infosys, and is responsible for realizing Infosys’ brand ambitions globally.