But most of the 2018 marketing trends only cover marketing tactics and, while important, tactics are just one part of what it means to be a professional marketer.

So what else should marketers be looking for in 2018 marketing trends, specifically regarding their careers? What are the trends in 2018 for the professional marketers?

To find out, Econsultancy recently invited Damien Cummings, former chief marketer of many top-tier firms and now CEO at Peoplewave and Principal Consultant at Econsultancy, to speak at our Digital Outlook 2018 in Singapore. To an audience of over 400 professional marketers, Mr. Cummings delivered a thought-provoking talk about what career-oriented marketers need to do in 2018.

So, what are the 2018 marketing trends for those who work in marketing?

1) Marketers should become growth agents

Mr. Cummings opened with some sobering statistics. According to recent reports, the CMO has the lowest average tenure of the C-suite, 3.5 years, which is around half of that of the average CEO.

But why is this? Well, one reason Mr. Cummings offered was that CMOs typically do not speak the language of the business. While CMOs can talk at length about “brand”, “awareness”, and “engagement’, other C-suite members really only care about more practical metrics such as sales, margin, and market share.

Having a different agenda than the rest of the business often causes friction between upper management – and can lead to an untimely exit of the chief marketer.

And such a change is not unnoticed by marketers on the ground. As leadership changes, strategies change and day-to-day work lacks direction which leads to frustration and slow career growth for marketers.

So, what should marketers do to avoid this situation? First off, marketers should think more about business metrics and become agents of growth. Instead of only aiming for clicks, likes, and shares think about how the work you do affects your company’s top and bottom line.

Additionally, marketers should look for opportunities to be a part of their company’s growth team, and if they don’t have one find a company which does. Coca-Cola, Mondelez, and Kellogg’s have all recently promoted chief marketers to chief growth officers (CGOs) and Forrester research predicts that many more companies will do the same in 2018.

This trend has become so widespread that Marketing Week recently opined that “if CMOs don’t stand for growth, they stand for nothing”.

2) Marketers need to shift their focus to soft skills

Next, Mr. Cummings asserted that marketers need to stop focusing so much on technical skills and instead focus on the ‘soft’ skills necessary for leadership positions.

Recently, we covered this trend by summarizing Mr. Cummings’ previous talk about how marketers can improve the likelihood of reaching CMO by understanding the ‘five essential steps to CMO’.

This time, however, Cummings noted that underlying these steps are a shift in skills from ‘doing’ marketing to being able to manage change in a company.

Specifically, he noted that the skills required are:

  1. Vision
  2. Leadership
  3. Transformation
  4. Change management

Detailed in the infographic above, professional marketers need to develop each of these skills in order to progress in their career. This trend is particularly relevant for those in organisations going through the changes described in point 1, above.

3) Marketing departments need a digital strategy

Another trend highlighted by Mr. Cummings is that marketing departments now need direction for their digital efforts.

This trend first came to light in January of 2017 when P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Mark Pritchard told an audience, “the days of giving digital a pass are over…It’s time to grow up.”

While Mr. Pritchard was specifically referring to his company’s agency relationships, the words should now resonate with marketing departments as well.

One way marketers can adjust to this change is by thinking deeply about what they are trying to achieve and committing to a detailed strategy in writing.

As an example, Mr. Cummings explained that while he was at Standard Chartered, content marketing was not just another communication channel, it had a detailed strategic direction. Its purpose was described using six categories:

  1. Who we are as a company
  2. Who are our stakeholders
  3. What our stakeholders want
  4. What content themes reflect who we are and what we want
  5. Our chief distribution channels
  6. How we will amplify our message

Admittedly, these categories are often thought about and even discussed by content marketers. Few organisations, though, have had the discipline to put pen to paper and say what it is they are trying to accomplish with digital and why.

Doing so will clarify thinking, improve the effectiveness of digital and help marketers explain how the work they do contributes to the business.

4) Marketers must understand digital transformation – beyond the buzzwords

The final trend which Mr. Cummings discussed was the need for marketers to understand digital transformation beyond just being able to speak about it using buzzwords.

The reason for this is that digital transformation is not a foregone conclusion; it has to be carefully engineered by its proponents, and its proponents are typically the marketing department.

To highlight the peril digital transformation efforts face, Mr. Cummings quoted a 2017 IBM report which concluded that more than four in five (84%) of companies fail at digital transformation.

To learn more about the fundamentals of digital transformation, we encourage you to read our previous posts on the topic, but, as a quick reminder, here are the five essential components of a sustainable digital transformation programme:

  1. Strategy
  2. Engagement
  3. Innovation
  4. Technology
  5. Data & Analytics

Again, do read our previous posts on the topic for more detail on each of these, but the main takeaway is that marketers should understand the components of digital transformation in order to improve their chances of leading a successful programme.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank Damien Cummings, CEO at Peoplewave and Principal Consultant at Econsultancy, for his insightful talk about the 2018 marketing trends which professional marketers should be following.

We’d also like to thank all of the professional marketers for joining us for Digital Outlook 2018 – and we hope to see you all at upcoming Econsultancy events!