The Chinese fire drill: 

how do marketers succeed

April 26th, 2018

In recent years I witnessed an increased workload, a 9-to-9 apolocalypse to compete globally, regular team reshuffle, and organizational culture changes. A true “trial and error accelerator program” within which I learned stakeholder and inbox chaos management, P&L magic, and the last minute “surprise surprise”  reporting function. Along the performance race I started questioning about the challenges marketers do experience recently, and if we were actually going through an “existential crisis” as described by BT’s CMO  Zaid Al-Qassab (rather than my own personal mid-life crisis).

Investigations started. I was looking for community-like pattern at a global scale

The state of work

Unsurprisingly, I found marketers do face similar challenges globally. These include generating traffic and leads, proving the ROI of marketing activities, securing enough budget, identifying the right technology for their needs, targeting content for an international audience, managing digital assets, training their teams or hiring top talent (State of Inbound Marketing 2017). Only 36% of a marketer’s time is spent on their primary job duties (The state of marketing work, Workfront, 2015). “Marketers today face a dilemma,’ says Rich Pearson, senior vice-president of marketing at Upwork. “With more ideas than people to execute, they are asking themselves how they can access the talent they need to keep pace” (The New Future Workforce, 2017). 

During the research process, I also came across the role of purpose in the workforce and learn:

  • 89% of executives believe purpose matters  (EY report, The Business case for purpose, 2015)
  • 37% of LinkedIn members globally are purpose-oriented. Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Poland are countries where the most purpose-driven professionals are located. (2016 Workforce Purpose Index, Purpose at Work, LinkedIn)
  • work-life balance comes before career progression when MIllenials evaluate job opportunities. They would like to see more opportunities to work remotely (The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey) and 63% will change job to get more flextime (State of the American Workplace Gallup 2017)
  • 16% Millenials consider sense of purpose as important (2017 Millennial Hiring Trends Study MRI Network) 
This is clear to me, the marketing profession is facing a crisis forced by the nature of markets, and the work pace that has dramatically increased.  Today executives tend to optimize their job to align with work that matters to them while their peers experience difficulties to provide flexible working conditions, and recruit internal talent.


"We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in".
Craig Davis
Former chief rceative officer, JWT

The growth agenda

Today CMOs have been increasingly asked by corporate leaders to elevate their activities from brand and marketing campaign management to enterprise-wide growth and revenue generation. Therefore they need access to a much wider range of skills and resources if they are to accelerate growth.  

To align with the growth agenda,  40% of CMOs consider acquire, develop and retain talent as one of their top 5 objectives (The Evolved Marketer, Forrester Research and Heidrick & Struggles), while marketing functions are not a priority role for HR and talent professionals in 2017 (LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends 2017). 14.6% of startup founders also confess that the hardest executive hire they made in 2017 was for marketing (First Round Review for their annual State of Startups report). It takes in average 38 days to fill a marketing position versus 30 days for other job functions. Marketing skills are in-demand, but talent hard to find.

The emergency exit

Gartner recommends to CMOS to design their marketing organizations in alignment with their strategic goals and objectives, and leverage a mix of resources to bridge the gap using a combination of in-house and outsource providers to maximize efficiency and ROI. What does the emergency exit look like in the heat of the battle?

For marketers

More than half of marketers predict that most will go remote in the near future (Workfront, State of Marketing Work, 2016-2017). Facing the economic downturn, marketers with little international exposure have had difficulties to find decent jobs. Like products and services a globalization of talent is rising, hybrid marketers too. 

At Brand Coalition we travel the world to recruit rockstars with 10+ years of experience. They work for our clients in-house or remotely on a project basis.

For businesses and CMOs

Under the Chinese fire drill actionable and effective solutions need to be quickly identified and implemented. Securing the space and safely accompanying senior executives through the emergency exit is essential. External parties who are not emotionally involved are most likely to outperform, and we know time is a crucial factor.

At Brand Coalition, we adopt a prevention-oriented approach ahead of a crisis. Thus we understand your needs and are able to deploy instantly to orchestrate your resources and focus on your KPIs.

By 2020 the number of temporary workers, freelance consultants, part-time job seekers will exceed 30% of the global workforce. Will you capitalize on the rise of hybrid ecosystems?

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