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The future of marketing jobs

Even as virtual worlds and digital spaces grow, the future of marketing careers remains centered on human connections.

6 min read


People attend a work meeting.

Jason Goodman / Unsplash

The field of marketing is changing at a breakneck speed. Whereas marketing jobs were once about developing creative ad slogans to appear on television or in newspaper ads, today it is a highly complex and technology-driven field where data analysis tools and a sophisticated real-time understanding of audience behavior are expected norms.

What does that mean for the future of marketing jobs? 

Some things remain true: Even as audiences move increasingly into virtual spaces and what Deloitte calls “digital campfires,” marketers still need to focus primarily on establishing human connections.

The popularity of marketing in video games is one example. Coke recently decided to launch its new “pixel-flavored” limited edition cola in virtual form on a special island in the popular game Fortnite. But ultimately, its campaign had the same underlying principles as one in real life — a promotion that aimed to engage audiences and generate excitement.

To that end, marketers can be successful in their careers when they foster impactful relationships among their audiences as well as with their professional peers. They must also be ready to bring creative solutions for unexpected challenges arising within an industry that increasingly seeks to be lean, agile and seen as living within the moment.

Marketing jobs are about engagement

People have more options for ways to spend their time than ever before, and yet less time than ever to spare. Instinctively, they’ll seek out experiences that offer community, release and connection. 

The modern marketer’s job is to make that connection stick, emphasizes career marketer and mentor Kathrina Miranda of MiMA. Compared to a decade or so ago, marketers also have a narrower window in which to make their mark. 

“Back then marketing was this big umbrella,” where companies would “try to get everyone with one big marketing message, ” Miranda says, adding, “We’re all now trying to target the buyer persona of you.

Given the many competing demands for attention, marketers may have to work more collaboratively than in the past — tapping influencers and creators to help engage audiences.

The goal is to spark conversations in a targeted manner. If you can find a way to make that conversation feel personal, all the better. For big brands like Coca-Cola, that can mean giving your target demographics a digital playground to experience. Smaller brands don’t have that luxury, so they must rely on engaging through more thoughtful means.

“You have to find ways to break through,” says Bruce Cazenave, founder and principal at Inflection Management LLC. “There’s so much information that comes through to people digitally, so you have to very efficiently deliver the key points you want them to be aware of.” 

Accordingly, every customer touch matters, particularly when it comes to digital experiences.

Flexibility, self-management are key

Marketers also have to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. A few years ago, brands were given a mandatory flexibility lesson in the form of pandemic-related office and retail closures. 

They were forced to not only find creative ways to reach consumers, but also think more deliberately about how marketing professionals could collaborate with one another. After all, even with the resumption of office work and in-person meetings, virtual work seems here to stay. 

LinkedIn data shows a 177% increase in remote marketing job listings in the first half of 2021. A January Pew Research poll revealed that 59% of people able to work from home continue to do so, and 61% do so by choice. Just as revealing: 64% of those surveyed stated remote work made it easier to maintain a work-life balance, although 60% said it makes them feel less connected to their coworkers.

Working remotely means more freedom, but without the luxury of a social safety net in-office interactions could provide. This makes being organized and capable of self management essential skills for any marketer.

“Soft skills” matter more than ever

The changes demanded by distributed teams compel people who train future marketers, like Kathrina Miranda, to hammer home the importance of “soft skills.” Miranda’s company mentors young, aspiring entrepreneurs in disadvantaged communities. 

MiMA partners with Fulphil (where Miranda sits on the board and acts as marketing director), a remote learning program that develops professional “soft” skills. These skills are now considered nonoptional in an industry that cherishes human relationships.

“People will ask in interviews now: what are your personal skills? Do you get along with your teammates?” Miranda says. 

Such qualities aren’t just important for HR but also translate into your ability to connect with customers. 

“Now we really do have to be personable,” she says. “We have to get to know our customers and make sure that they like us.”

One telltale sign of the growing need for personability is that “people want to know who these founders are of these startups,” says Miranda, whereas “before, nobody cared.”

Cazenave agrees. He observes how a compelling company story acts as a powerful form of currency. When people are faced with a choice of three nearly indistinct products, he predicts they’ll ask “which resonates with me more?” 

“Customers instinctively gravitate towards businesses they want to feel associated with because they are, say, more environmental, or are more public about their commitment to inclusion,” Cazenave reflects. “Build a community around that, and people will help you build your brand.”

Marketing jobs will evolve, often

Keeping up with changing times is another top priority for marketers. Disruptions can arise at any time, and organizations expect teams to be able to creatively work around them

“We look for resourcefulness,” says Cazenave, explaining one of the emerging skillsets his team pinpoints when recruiting. “We want people who take initiative; people who can quickly triangulate different types of information to come to a conclusion.”

In a time when every moment counts, every team member has to be ready to make use of the best tools available to them in that moment, including data and their own intuition.

Marketers should remind themselves, too, that major brands such as Coke are slimming down even as they experiment with new products. What’s working now may not work tomorrow. 

Professionals in the industry have to be willing to listen to the data, and they also must be prepared to creatively respond to it. 

To future proof your marketing career, be prepared to connect creatively with consumers — and with teammates — wherever they happen to be in the current moment.

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