The Upstream Battle of the Modern Marketer

Published On: January 14, 2014 | Categories: Advertising and Marketing |

Salmon swimming upstream

Have you ever read about the life cycle of salmon (yes, I mean the fish)? In short, salmon are tenacious creatures, yet their importance is often overlooked. Capable of living in opposing environments — fresh and salt water — they may travel thousands of miles in their lifetime in order to fulfill a single goal. Aware of their own mortality, salmon have a sense of urgency and purpose: succeed or die trying.

Ironically, if you replace the word “salmon” with “VP or Director of Marketing,” the story is similar. Today’s marketers (from CMOs to account executives) face a seemingly upstream battle against strong currents when developing strategies and plans that effectively reach their target audiences and measure effectiveness. The paths for achieving their desired results are practically limitless, yet budgets and patience are not. Time is not on their side and the forces against them (aka “the competition”) are fierce, making the challenge all the more daunting.

But salmon have revealed three practical lessons that marketers should consider as we begin a new year:

  1. Adapt to the changing environment. Your longevity in any marketing role will greatly depend on your ability to stay relevant and knowledgeable. The world of advertising and marketing is evolving at a rapid pace, leaving many to ponder next steps. While it may be unreasonable to master every channel of media and technology introduced, it is not unreasonable to stay informed. Pick 2-3 specific areas you want to concentrate on and master them. This means learning, testing theories, accepting results and remaining sensitive to opposing views or new “game changer” innovations. If your role extends beyond 2-3 specific areas, delegate and stay in the loop.
  2. Understand the landscape. Going with the flow is often a recipe for a short marketing career. Marketing leaders must jump in front of the competition and fight to stay there by enacting programs that work today, but also by developing the programs that will be embraced tomorrow. The “status quo” is easy, and it is also the marketing manager’s worst enemy. It is critical to remain objective and receptive to new approaches for application.
  3. Have a sense of urgency. Leaders of any kind have a sense of purpose and determination within themselves that is easily recognized by those around them. Like salmon battling their way upstream, your marketing journey will be short-lived unless you have clear goals and an absolute urgency to achieve them within a reasonable time. You were hired in your position for a reason and your window of time for achieving results is limited. Find the path and forge ahead, always mindful of the need to adapt as changes occur.

Whether your marketing career lasts a summer internship or 30+ years depends upon your ability to understand, adapt and achieve.