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09 May 2022
Marketing teams need generalists and specialists
Brand managementManaging the marketing function
Marketing teams need to contain some generalists with broad skills and some experts who focus on areas like data and user experience, a leading executive from Unilever has argued.
Aline Santos Farhat, Unilever’s chief brand officer and chief equity diversity and inclusion officer, discussed this subject in a LIONS Marketers Series event held by LIONS, which, like WARC, is owned by Ascential.
The state of play
“I think that one main difference from the past, compared to today, is that in the past we had the luxury of being generalists,” she said.
In the past, these marketing executives typically knew “a little bit about everything in marketing” and applied these skills to a broad range of activities.
Marketing teams of today, however, need some members with these broad-based skills, and a range of “new professions” based on deeper knowledge of certain activities.
The role of expertise
One of the specialisms that is vital to leading-edge brands involves data, with expertise from acquisition and visualisation to privacy.
Some other capabilities that also need a deeper focus are consumer experience, user experience design, social commerce, and working with influencers.
“There's so much that we need to know now that it is impossible for one person to understand everything with the depth that is required,” Santos said.
Insights still matter
Even as capabilities evolve, however, a few traits will remain consistent in the marketing world.
Santos suggested that a “passion” for understanding consumers and society is integral, as is the ability to translate data into insights.
While it is easy for marketers to get distracted by new technologies, they still need to focus on “exactly what is the job to be done”.
Equally important is the “craft” of marketing, an area where the industry has perhaps been “losing focus” over time.
At the broader level, marketing leaders must drive the inclusion agenda. “I think it's very, very important that you understand how to represent underserved groups,” Santos said.
It is essential to be “change-makers” – a position that will require bravery and fortitude. “Without guts, there's no glory,” Santos said.