To see the future of marketing, ask the next generation

Junior marketers offer a range of insights that can change the industry for the better. CMOs should pay attention
Discussing new marketing strategy

Today’s junior marketers are tomorrow’s CMOs. As new trends emerge and others evolve, these 20-somethings offer a unique perspective on their generation’s interactions with the industry, providing their bosses with unrivalled insights.

Many CMOs are increasingly taking advantage. Research from digital experience platform Optimizely shows three-quarters (76%) of junior marketers said their opinion was valued by senior team members, while 86% said they have the freedom to try new things.

“They are the ones likely to shape the future of UK marketing,” says Kirsten Allegri Williams, CMO of Optimizely. “Experimentation practice will absolutely help advance their careers, along with their enthusiasm, and fresh thinking. It’s vital senior team members embrace this.”

Skills are also changing, suggests Chris Currey, director of digital & marketing recruitment specialists Digital Tonic. Good copywriting and proofreading abilities are in demand due to increases in content marketing, while strong numerical skills help derive insights from data. 

PPC, SEO and marketing automation are also important now, Currey says. Very few young marketers are being given experience with inbound marketing, lead generation, and account-based marketing, he admits.

Employers are noticing that recent graduates are being taught with “too strong a focus on social media”, Currey says. Skills that will be relevant later in their careers – like strategy, planning and developing marketing plans – should be less of a priority initially compared to learning hands-on tools.

Relevance, value and sustainability 

Junior marketers are filled with ideas and suggestions for today’s CMOs on how the industry will or should change and the campaign messages that should be considered.

Liv Jump, 26, is assistant brand manager of own brand marketing at M&S Food and currently leads its ‘Celebrating 30 Years of Percy Pig’ campaign. She has worked in marketing for four years. She believes the future will see a focus on value, personalisation and sustainability. 

“Thinking about the current customer mindset, value is more important than ever and the emphasis will only grow,” she says. “Customers want a fair price or great deal, but without compromising on quality. Marketing needs to be more relevant to more people 100% of the time to be successful.” 

I had no marketing role models. I’d like to hear more about the process of getting into marketing, not just seeing people in marketing positions

Sustainability is also critical, Jump adds, whether through packaging, point of sale or new product development. Customers want to hear “how businesses are making a difference”.

Looking to the future, she expects insight to play a key role, along with bold, on-trend and reactive marketing. Her suggestion to today’s marketing leaders is inspired by advice from her own CMO Sharry Cramond: “When you think you’ve pushed all boundaries, push it a little more and you’ll find the magic.”

Jump is personally attracted to campaigns with meaning and relevance, and she highlights the importance of social media for her peers. “Whether sharing funny memes, following brands directly on Instagram, or consuming products through influencer marketing, it makes sense for brands to market on there. The key is sharable content that will generate rich engagement,” she advises.

Embracing feedback

Lauren Fletcher, 24, has worked in marketing for two years and is currently social media executive at Lovehoney. She believes influencer marketing will “begin to bleed more and more into other marketing channels”, with influencers firmly replacing celebrities as the faces of brands.

The ability to adapt quickly is now crucial, she says. Video editing skills are also important, as “almost every platform is requiring video content.” 

Fletcher sees marketing becoming “less obviously commercial”. Thought leadership and proving yourself “as an overall ‘good’ brand” will be critical.

What’s her advice for CMOs? “Talk to and listen to lower-level staff, especially those in consumer-direct marketing roles. We hear feedback directly from the consumers and social media users which is super valuable and can help shape the overall marketing direction.” 

Fletcher says her generation prizes authentic and honest marketing, with her peers now “a lot more conscious of any twisting of the truth or unauthentic trend-hopping”. 

She also points to the importance of diversity. “As much as showing representation on your channels is important, you need to have diverse people within your teams as well. If you’re doing marketing about a certain minority, you need to make sure people from that minority are contributing, even if it’s on a consultancy basis - and make sure they’re getting paid for it.”

Technological advances

Tanaka Bofu is a graduate creative strategist at agency Armadillo. He believes behavioural design – marketing and design working together to create behaviour change – is now a key focus. “Good design can really help with the whole of the marketing process and should be involved at every stage,” he suggests.

The 24-year-old, who has worked in marketing for eight months, thinks it’s imperative to build trust between the customer and the brand. “In the loyalty space, to say ‘we are using your information safely, but also making it work for you’ is such an important message.” 

Bofu highlights AI and particularly augmented reality as marketing technologies to watch, with the latter using blank billboards so campaigns are only visible through AR. The metaverse will also be interesting, he suggests, “because brands won’t be competing for the same physical space anymore; there will always be more virtual space that can be created.”

When you think you’ve pushed all boundaries, push it a little more and you’ll find the magic

However, reflecting on his own experience, Bofu advises others entering the industry to think about the potential of first-party data, something at the core of every campaign at his agency. “We didn’t go into data in detail in my degrees, definitely not the terminology and potential. That’s something that fascinates me,” he says.

And although Bofu believes marketing is improving when it comes to diversity and representation, including by focusing on people from less affluent backgrounds, he says there are still barriers. “My parents work in the NHS so I had no marketing role models. I’d like to hear more about the process of getting into marketing, not just seeing people in marketing positions.”

Mentoring opportunities

Hannah Elliott, marketing assistant at Boost Drinks, suggests matching new junior marketers with employees from different departments or more senior roles. This would offer education, collaboration, and provide a neutral sounding board for advice. Greater industry networking opportunities should also be available, she believes. 

The 27-year-old has worked in marketing for four years. She believes reactiveness is now as much of a core skill as creativity, pointing to ‘brandter’, or banter focused on brands. “As we continue into an uncertain future, everyone enjoys seeing brandter on Twitter; viral positive comments make you feel good and make you engage with the brand. The ability to talk and react within your brand values, directly to your consumers is massive. Doing it at speed and being first, is even better,” Elliott explains.

Personally, Elliott feels she gets to know a brand best through how it communicates on social; alongside a supporting marketing campaign, this gains her trust and inspires her. “It used to be about having a website, then it was an app, now it’s a TikTok channel. What’s next?” 

This question perplexes CMOs. But as Elliott explains: “It’s not just juniors who can learn from senior marketeers, in fact I’m often asked what’s the latest trend on social media, what are Gen Z consuming in culture and who’s the new big celebrity talent we should be working with?”