This year is going to be a pivotal one for the UK whichever way that you look at it. Yes, we have Brexit on the horizon, but even with that aside, 2019 is set to be another massive year of change for the UK.
On average, people in this country are now online for 24 hours a week, a figure which has doubled in the past decade, and the pace of change is still increasing exponentially. Indeed, according to recent research from LinkedIn, the fastest growing jobs are machine-learning engineers and data scientists.
Clearly I am a bit biased, but I think that marketing is one of the most exciting industries to work in specifically because of this context. Keeping up is a challenge, but never have marketers had such a wealth of tools at their disposal to disrupt the status quo in meeting evolving consumer needs.
However, in order to continue to push boundaries, we need to ensure that we are attracting more diverse talent into the industry, including those that may not have ever considered marketing as a career.
Britain is renowned for its creativity, and the marketing services sector contributes significantly to the UK economy. Advertising is a £23.5bn industry and our creative services contributed over £100bn of value for the UK economy in 2017. And yet, fewer young people than ever are considering becoming marketers.
Marketing clearly needs to get better at advertising itself to the next generation.
There are two key elements to this.
First, to attract talent, we need to tackle the stereotypes associated with our profession. There are very few teachers, parents, or careers advisers extolling the virtues of marketing to school children, so why should they think of it as an exciting and fulfilling career? It is a classic case of children in schools today not knowing what they dont know.
Second, we need to invest more in attracting people with neuro-divergent conditions such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and dyspraxia to the field.
Such conditions have typically been perceived as a disadvantage, but in fact they can be a “superpower” within marketing, delivering fresh thinking and creativity – innovation from the edges.
So many breakthrough innovations have come from people who were neuro-diverse – Albert Einstein and Andy Warhol had autism, while Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Muhammed Ali all had dyslexia, just to name a few. It is imperative that as an industry we do more to create a level playing field for neuro-diverse talent to get a foot in the door.
As the need to innovate becomes more critical, it is vital that those who think differently understand that the marketing industry not only accepts but is actively recruiting them. I want to work with the best minds – I want to nurture them, support them, and watch them use their superpowers to go on to do exceptional things.
In light of these challenges, it is encouraging to see so many past masters of the marketing industry and rising stars alike getting behind the School of Marketing (of which I am chairman) which seeks to ensure the future talent of the industry. We are hoping to fill the vacuum of knowledge around how varied and fulfilling a marketing career can be.
It is a little known fact that among the consumer-facing businesses in the FTSE 100 more chief executives have come up through marketing than finance.
All of this makes me feel quite optimistic about the future of the industry, and I sincerely hope that UK business in general increasingly adopts this point of view to the benefit of everyone.