Panel after panel of speakers at the recent AAF-KC Advertising 101 conference talked about the future of advertising, as the marketers of tomorrow listened intently. The main demographic of this "Career Day" was college-aged marketing students, but among the speakers, there was something I noticed that seemed relevant to the changing landscape of advertising these students will soon be venturing into.
For agencies and brands to be able to challenge themselves and find non-traditional ways to identify and engage audiences, they need to adopt wider perspectives. Plenty of speakers at the event (including myself) come from non-marketing backgrounds or have no marketing degrees. A very informal poll I took found several attendees and speakers with fine arts degrees. Others had degrees in anthropology, psychology, English, film, and music history.
Callahan Creek Vice President of Channel Planning Jan-Eric Anderson said something during his panel that dovetailed with this observation. Essentially, the gist was this: Higher education is often looked at from a purely vocational standpoint, and students have a very limited view of their learnings.
The general thinking, for instance, is that a marketing degree will make the student a better marketer. But limiting perspective to such a narrow focus doesn't help anyone become a better marketer.
Expand Thinking, Develop Community
To keep pace with the speed of change in marketing today, agencies and brands must develop unique points of view. The most effective marketing, especially for specialty brands, will speak to an individual's own sensibilities. It will resonate with them emotionally. It will give them a feeling of community. And it probably won't even be recognizable as advertising because of its seamless integration into their lives.
It will come in the form of niche communities and specific content sponsored and curated by brands that have identified their interests. It's localized, it's experiential, and if it's good enough, it will feel personalized.
This new evolution in marketing is both broader and deeper than the traditional, top-down "messaging" it is replacing, and a traditional marketing degree may no longer be enough. Higher education should be used to expand minds and help students think differently.
A good marketer is passionate, curious, and adaptable.
Michael Jordan wasn't just the best player in basketball; through his unique skill and enthusiasm, he raised the effort of his entire team to a higher level. A good marketer must be a similar team player, and bring the best out in others.