JOHANNESBURG: Brand marketers in South Africa feel undervalued by business leaders and are concerned about a shortage of talent, a new report has said.

The Brand Marketing Barometer Survey was compiled by the Brand Council of South Africa (BCSA), following responses from more than 300 senior executives in the brand marketing industry, including agencies, academic institutions, researchers, marketers, strategists and client executives.

The study found that brand marketing lacked influence at the top level of organisations. Researchers were given much greater respect in the boardroom than agencies, said the report, largely because the former provided facts while the latter brought subjective, creative ideas.

In order to change this situation, brand marketers had to be able to demonstrate a substantial contribution to business results, argued the report.

"The industry needs a shake-up to ensure that it brings long-term economic, social and cultural value to South Africa," said David Blyth, BCSA board director, who identified the skills shortage as its biggest challenge.

Only 24% of suppliers and 32% of clients expressed satisfaction with the abilities of young people entering the industry, while the remainder mostly blamed the quality of training.

Better training, "skills development and more visible thought leadership from the industry are pre-requisites for industry credibility and therefore success," noted the report.

"Addressing skills development, training and mentorship should be focused on improving understanding of the business and consumer needs," it continued.

Blyth told the Financial Mail that the industry needed to reach down to school level and promote brand marketing as a career. "We need to instil in young people the importance of brand marketing in business and society," he said.

As well as brand marketing generally, Blyth saw a need to embrace new technology. Digital, he said, "is where key pattern shifts will happen".

Some agencies are ahead of the curve. Ian Manning, MediaCom CEO, recently explained how he was sending people overseas for training and around 20% of MediaCom staff were now digital specialists.

Data sourced from Financial Mail, BCSA; additional content by Warc staff