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Rethinking your marketing team for the digital age


LAST UPDATED: 07 March, 2024

For some marketers, the digital revolution appears to have come out of nowhere. Sure there’s been heat and buzz around social for some time, but budgets have been slow to shift from traditional channels to digital in any substantial way.

Not so for our customers. Globally, we have been shifting our purchases online for half a decade – the digital economy contributed $2.3 trillion to the GDP of the group of 20 major economies (including Australia) in 2010, and in 2016 is expected to top $4 trillion. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the digital economy is growing significantly faster (over 10% per year) than the global economy and certainly faster than Australian GDP.

Meanwhile, forward thinking organisations have been investing in digital technology behind the scenes – with major projects covering social, mobile, analytics, and cloud. These four converging technologies, when combined, provide a powerful platform for business innovation that is centred around customer experience.

But what lies beneath these technologies and what do they really mean for the marketer?


Ever wonder how LinkedIn knows that you may have worked with someone in the past? Or how Facebook knows to suggest old colleagues that you’ve lost touch with?

Every tweet, new friend or connection, check-in, update, and photo that we share creates a range of data points that add to our digital footprint – and all this social data is being collected by your social networks ready to be connected by smart algorithms designed to learn and understand patterns in the data.

The shift to social is challenging marketers on a range of fronts — from strategy to content and everywhere in-between.


Because we carry our mobile devices with us constantly, they are also acting as a catch-all sensor, tracking our movements, interests, and locations.

Moreover, we use mobiles to create, share, and consume content, making them invaluable to our sense of connectedness and belonging (not to a place, but to a social or interest graph). But mobile is not just about data — it’s about real-time experience. It requires specialist knowledge, expertise and capability.


Data is relatively meaningless without context. But machine learning algorithms are connecting the dots between disparate sources of data to reveal fascinating insights about our actions, behaviours, expectations, and experiences. And with big data comes big challenge.

This is the realm of the data scientist.

Cloud computing

We now have access to powerful online tools, services, and platforms that can deliver quality, consistent, branded experiences on any device in any location.

Just think about the way your new Australian Netflix account can be setup to stream directly to your home computer, via an Apple TV, on a tablet or on your mobile phone. It’s the same account, experience, library of content, billing and viewing history.

This is cloud computing in action and it requires the skills of a new breed — the marketing technologist.

The majority of marketing teams are already stretched delivering on their current range of commitments and objectives — yet digital marketing appears to require yet more resources and deeper levels of expertise. Too often, technology is seen as the “silver bullet” to marketing challenges – but comes with little training, insufficient strategy and poor integration across the various platforms.

To survive and thrive, marketers will need to rethink marketing teams.

Recycle and reinvent

The basics of marketing have not changed in the shift to digital. We still need to reach and engage customers, delight them, encourage them to buy and deliver fantastic products, services and customer experiences.

It’s time to work with your experienced marketing practitioners and translate those important skills into the digital world. Recycle the experience of your traditional marketing teams and help them reinvent their expertise for the digital world through courses, small projects, and reverse mentoring.

Send your PR folks on social media courses. Have your designers work on apps and web projects. You don’t need to know everything, but you need more than one expertise in the digital age.

Get your geek on

Marketing is increasingly challenged to solve business problems. And the way this is achieved is through digital.

For marketers to succeed, you’ll need to work with that emerging breed — the “marketing technologist”. With one foot in the IT camp and another in the marketing team, the marketing technologist will help you bring technology to bear on your customer experiences while keeping your CIO or chief digital officer on-side.

Leverage the hub and spoke model

Large marketing teams have the opportunity to build deep skills in a centralised team which can then be used to support other marketing functions. For example, hiring data scientists to create a Centre of Data Excellence can generate a significant ROI on your technology investment. Take the same approach to the areas where you need deep expertise – from CRM to mobile and social to cloud. But don’t let this make you lose sight of your customer.

These are some suggestions for reorganising your marketing teams – but there are plenty of other models out there. What have you tried? What worked? And what did you learn?