As Econsultancy releases its Skills of the Modern Marketer report, the complexity of modern marketing versus the clarity of the big idea is still the major talking point in our industry.

The need for people who understand both data and brand has been evident for some time. In a Marketing Week article in 2012, Econsultancy founder Ashley Friedlein defined these people as ‘pi-shaped’:

“We used to talk about T-shaped people, who were marketers with a broad set of knowledge and skills in marketing but deep specialism in a particular area. But I’ve started talking about pi-shaped (Π) people. These are marketers with a broad base of knowledge in all areas, but capabilities in both ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ disciplines. They are both analytical and data-driven, yet understand brands, storytelling and experiential marketing.”

Back then, as Friedlein highlights, the ‘creative technologist’ and ‘chief marketing technologist’ were on the rise.

New data skills

Fast forward to 2019 and, as organisations begin to make use of enterprise machine learning tools, the need for these pi-shape people seems even greater.

Though the machine learning may be outsourced (with the help of systems integrators, vendors and agencies), marketers who specialise in brand, strategy and the consumer are best placed to align the tech with business goals.

Only somebody with generalist marketing knowledge and skills, as well as data acumen, can do this job.

Econsultancy’s new Skills of the Modern Marketer report reveals a shortage of both these skillsets, with 13% or less rating themselves an ‘expert’ in strategy, data & measurement and brand management, the three areas that should be the foundation of every professional marketer’s career.

In part, this may stem from a lack of formal education in the marketing profession, with only 46% of marketers possessing a marketing degree or certified marketing qualification of any kind.

It appears as if marketers, though, know what they’re up against. In the new report, when asked “in the future, if you could stake your career on learning one skill, what would it be?”, the top response to this question was “data analysis and measurement”.

Furthermore, more than 90% of those surveyed for Skills of the Modern Marketer ranked the ‘ability to embrace change’ as one of the top two soft skills required.

These stats and the ongoing debate amongst marketers have established an imperative – classical marketers have more to learn about digital, and vice versa.

The Modern Marketer

The new report sets out three areas that define the modern marketer – Modern Marketing Knowledge, Modern Marketing Skills and Modern Marketing Mindset, summarised as follows:

Modern Marketing Knowledge: Knowing what marketing is and understanding marketing competence, concepts and the guiding principles through self-study, formal learning or experience.

Modern Marketing Skills: Being equipped with the skills needed to competently apply marketing knowledge, best demonstrated when a marketer is able to do something with some amount of confidence. These are acquired through time, practice and professional understanding.

Modern Marketing Mindset: The driver of the behaviours and attitudes necessary to build a sustainable career in modern marketing. This mindset is essential to cope with the possibility that digital creates, the 168-hour a week economy of unlimited content consumption and product purchase.

A wake-up call

Seventy eight percent of marketers told us in our previous research, How Marketers Learn, that they receive no formal marketing training, and just 14% of learning programmes fall under the remit of senior marketers.

Organisations need to think again about how their marketers will acquire and apply new knowledge, skills and mindset essential to thrive. Without a strong Modern Marketing Mindset and iterative desire to embrace change and think critically, the modern marketer will not challenge themselves or their brand to ensure they have the right Modern Marketing Knowledge or Skills to drive growth.

Marketers are staking their futures on data skills -– analysing customer demographics, online browsing, offline activity, social media sentiment and sales – but the public is still captivated by the big idea. To be truly pi-shaped, marketers must invest their time wisely.

What next?