Audi's Hugh Fletcher sets out the key attributes of the digital marketer of the future

What next for the digital marketer of the future?
What next for the digital marketer of the future?

As digital marketers, we're used to questions about the future of digital marketing. But the question that is often avoided is: "Where does the shifting digital world leave the digital marketer of the future?"

Back when I started in the discipline, it was simple: a digital marketer looked after the website, while the traditional marketing functions spent the greatest percentage of budget on traditional ATL marketing.

But all that’s changed, and digital has broken free from comms, and the parameters of marketing itself. It’s no longer a vertical function, but a horizontal one, pervading all parts of the business from marketing to retail and information systems (IS). Exciting? Yes. Frightening? Absolutely.

So what does this mean for the digital marketer of the future?

Be strategic. When I started at Audi, strategy conversations revolved around existing platforms and expansion into new ones. Now, they are about how digital will shape the company’s future. The digital marketer needs to possess the strategic capability to influence the overall direction of a business.

Be multifunctional. If digital is to be fully embraced by the organisation, integration with other functions is essential. Demonstrating digital’s ability to solve commercial, rather than marketing, challenges helps this. Take our Audi Vision application, which brings old-school brochures to life using multimedia elements; this is a digital retail solution.

Be commercial. The recent commercial pinch forced us to analyse what we do, why we do it and what it delivers to the business. These conversations are hard – try explaining the long-term benefit of an Audi fan on Facebook to the FD. What sets a good digital marketer apart is fluency in the language of the business, and that language is profit.

Be IS-literate. When our graduates ask "What’s the most important skill to have in my role?" I say: "Understand our systems." Without knowing where data comes from, where it goes and how it gets there, how can you give customers the information they want, when and how they want it?

Communications. There’s still a comms role to be played in digital. After all, most of us will be responsible for the assets and platforms that get most traffic and visibility. So your well-oiled comms skills still apply.

More is now required of digital marketers. Will we even still be considered "marketers" in the future? Who knows – and, more to the point, who cares? Because for the digital marketer who can adapt to the ever-changing strategic, commercial, multifunctional and IS landscape, the future looks very exciting.

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