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Why marketers should never stop learning

The Drum 14 Sep 2021 01:30

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If marketing is about translating people’s needs into products and services, it is our duty to change the conversation and bring it back to what makes good marketers: empathy, curiosity and an insatiable desire to learn, says Dominique Touchaud, the founder of Shokunin Marketing.

I am a gen Xer. I work in marketing. And it’s a curse.

Experience is regarded in many fields as an increased capacity to come up with innovative solutions. Finance directors better have some mileage. Purchasing managers? They negotiate better. Bald tax advisors charge a premium rate. Middle-aged nurses always come up with new tricks to get young and old to smile during the vaccinations. And wait until the 25-year-old architect rings the doorbell as you are dreaming about your new house... Meanwhile, we keep celebrating the 40 under 40. And then retire them in droves.

That ‘discomfort’ with age has nothing to do with any digital transformation. It has been transporting senior marketers into an inverted ‘Hunger Games’ for decades – a parallel universe where all the 40+ have been retired en masse to pursue other, mostly personal, interests. The 2018 IPA census showed that only 6% of staff in member agencies are over 50, compared with 31% of the workforce.

In a study carried out from 2007 to 2021, James Freyer (Dartmouth College) demonstrated that there is a strong and robust correlation between the size of the prime-age workforce, centered around the 40-year-old cohort, and total productivity. Forces that are relatively (too) young or (too) old tend to have lower productivity. The more diverse a business is – in terms of gender, ethnicity and age – the more successful the business will be. Simply put, diverse businesses are more profitable.

The answer is a resounding no on all aspects:

Don’t get me wrong. I am not fighting for my tribe of elephants. All marketers do have a sell-by date. But it is determined by their individual ‘dare to care’ limit – that moment when the job becomes too easy because you know the environment too well. When getting promoted is more appealing than getting the plan right. When sending an email to your distributor in Japan is more efficient than waking up in the middle of the night to call them. When good enough becomes good.

But if marketing is about translating people’s needs into products and services, it is our duty to change the conversation and bring it back to what makes good marketers: empathy, curiosity and an insatiable desire to learn.

We should all pay attention to this. You too, my beloved 30-year-old readers (by the way, senior starts at 45 for the statistics, which barely leaves anyone time to enjoy their 40s awards). With working life now spanning a lifetime, taking a fresh approach to how we manage our career is essential: prioritizing training and personal development becomes a duty. I work with scientists and doctors. They all have continuing professional development plans. Marketing seems to be the industry where learning has a bad rep: marketers often have to pay for their education on their own dimes and it is somewhat shameful to admit that you took an online class in digital marketing or strategy unless it’s delivered by Ritson, Galloway or the Harvard executive program.

With this balanced approach, our sell-by date will not be programmed. Obsolescence will only start when you can’t get any learning out of the marketer... hey boomer, squeeze this!

Dominique Touchaud is the founder of Shokunin Marketing.

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James FreyerRex JungSpotifyDartmouth CollegeJapan
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