NEW YORK: Marketers must develop a range of new skills covering areas like strategic planning and innovation to survive in an increasingly complex "ecosystem", a new study has argued.

Prophet, the consultancy, surveyed 150 executives, half of which worked directly in marketing, while the remainder either held C-level status or were drawn from varying additional business units.

For 55% of the panel, fostering a differentiated brand position was a primary concern, although just 53% of communications specialists held this view, compared with 63% of their peers from elsewhere.

Identifying paths to growth scored 41% as one of the top three challenges requiring solutions, again given greater weight, at 48%, among non-marketers than experts in the discipline, on 39%.

The ratings posted by these two groups hit 43% and 34% respectively for boosting awareness and relevance with untapped customer segments.

Some 40% of marketers also agreed that aligning brand and business strategy constituted a vital goal. This total fell to 29% if respondents occupied alternative roles, giving this area 35% in all.

Across the whole sample, determining appropriate marketing investments and spending logged 34%, and attaining better insights recorded 31%, numbers rising for communications professionals.

On discussing who "owns" a brand, 66% of interviewees thought their company fulfilled such a purpose, declining to 27% when referencing customers, in second place.

These totals reached 54% and 41% in turn for marketers, and 71% and 19% for leaders of other functions.

Looking ahead, 40% of business-to-consumer firms expected corporate control here to diminish in the next three years, as did 28% of business-to-business operators.

In establishing the factors driving brand equity, 38% of those polled agreed product service or quality is essential, decreasing to 36% after projecting forward three years.

The post-purchase experience should witness a one-point rise to 14% in the equivalent timeframe, as the actual purchase experience loses two points, to 11%, by the latter date.

Moreover, advertising, now on 19%, was anticipated to retain an integral role by just 6% of participants at the end of the assessment period. But word of mouth sees figures exactly double to achieve 20%.

When asked to cite current in-house strengths, 46% of respondents mentioned generating in-market ads, messages and creative.

This came in front of distributing insights internally, with 36%, and spotting opportunities for brand growth, on 34%.

In the coming two to three years, however, 84% believed more innovative approaches to targeting and marketing would be key, beating stronger new media capabilities, on 68%.

Another 57% stated adopting a "profit and loss" mindset is gaining in importance, while general problem-solving registered 52%, creative abilities scored 50%, and statistical skills received 36%.

Less than a third of companies already excel in most of these fields according to the featured executives, falling even lower for existing digital and targeting tools.

"Adjusting to this changing landscape will be a process," said Mike Leiser, a senior partner at Prophet.

"Marketers must adapt a more visionary orientation to more effectively guide their organisations through it."

Apple was recognised in Prophet's research as demonstrating how to meet such objectives, having engaged consumers by introducing a string of popular products.

It has also connected with app developers, is attracting media owners keen to use channels like the iPad, and garners considerable positive attention from tech bloggers, thus stimulating word of mouth.

Data sourced from Prophet; additional content by Warc staff