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How Gen X & Y Marketers Have Adapted To Modern Marketing

How Gen X and Y Marketers Have Adapted to Fit the Modern Marketing Role

Marketing isn’t what it was five years ago. The data and digital explosion happened and marketers started setting up Facebook pages and Google Analytics accounts like there was no tomorrow. But now marketing, as a role, has emerged from the ashes as a new and almost unrecognisable job function, requiring sophisticated analytical skills and an understanding of emerging digital technologies, in order to improve customer service and engagement, forecast business trends and increase revenue (on an equal footing with sales); all with ever-shrinking headcounts and budgets.

But social media wasn’t single-handedly responsible for this change- so which other factors contributed to, and continue to impact, the changing role of the marketing manager?

How Gen X and Y Marketers Have Adapted to Fit the Modern Marketing Role

The GFC happened

Hitting Australia slightly later than the rest of the world, the low point for the ANZ region was in 2010, when the ASX dropped to 3,120 points [CANSTAR].  Naturally, as businesses began to feel the pinch, cost-cutting measures were put into practice- the marketing budget included.

For those organisations that did decide to increase marketing budgets, a few years later, spending habits had very much changed- with digital now being seen as the only sensible way to invest dollars, due to the greater visibility of return on investment (ROI) [CMO].

So strong was the belief that offline activities were a waste of money, compared with digital spend that guaranteed some sort of tangible result, corporate heavyweights, such as Proctor & Gamble, announced significant budget cuts of more than $10 billion in order to ‘take advantage of the efficiencies offered by web/digital marketing’ [The Content Strategist]

Four years on and Australian and New Zealand marketers are still feeling the pinch, with 59% of respondents in Sitecore’s Emerging Trends in Digital Marketing 2014 report citing ‘limited marketing budgets’ as a major restriction in their marketing efforts (up 23% from 2013).

Marketing sales targets

As marketers, and the way in which they spent money, were increasingly scrutinised, businesses put a greater focus on actual sales as an indication of marketing effectiveness. 72% of CEOs, in a McKinsey report, admitted “Marketers are always asking for more money, but can rarely explain how much incremental business this money will generate” [McKinsey]; an attitude that seemed to sum-up many marketers’ worst fears.

Today, the focus for marketing has intrinsically shifted, with ‘sales conversions and new customer acquisitions’ guiding every activity to a greater or lesser extent [Emerging Trends, Sitecore].  Furthermore, recent research revealed that marketing and sales teams have moved closer within the organisational structure; 17.3% of respondents in The CMO Survey stated that sales and marketing teams were completely integrated (where one team works within the other) and 72% indicating that the teams worked together equally.

Fewer marketers, greater outsourcing

Unsurprisingly, as budgets became smaller, so did the marketing teams. In fact, 27% of the marketers surveyed in Sitecore’s Emerging Trends report confessed to being the only person within their organisation; a 20% rise from the previous year and a trend that looks set to continue in years to come [Emerging Trends, Sitecore].

Modern marketing graph 2

So, with shrinking team resources but increasing pressure to ‘do more with less’, outsourcing key activities became a very normal part of the marketing process. Admittedly, increased reliance on freelancers and external agencies to provide ad hoc services, in place of a permanent staff member, isn’t solely restricted to marketing; more than half of Australian businesses plan to hire more freelancers in 2014 than they did in 2013 [BRW].

Marketers have taken a notably strategic approach to outsourcing, with the most popular outsourced activities including creative tasks, such as writing (64%), design (54%), content distribution (30%) and editing (22%), with strategic (8%) and data/analytical tasks (13%) being more likely to remain in-house [CMI].  This is particularly admirable since it seems marketers are prepared to hand over their favourite parts of the role in order to focus on the business-critical activities; an overwhelming 92% of marketers admitted they most enjoy creative tasks, such as writing or collaborating with designers, in our Emerging Trends findings.

Even though most marketers have grown used to outsourcing as part of the role, it’s clear that they still very much want marketing to remain a ‘department’; in fact, 79% admitted that, while they see the benefit of outsourcing, they would prefer to see a balance of outsourcing and a small-to-mid-sized in-house team (79%), rather than bringing everything in house or outsourcing whole-sale.


The customer changed

In the background of all this change, customers started behaving differently. An increasing dependence on smartphones in everyday life (latest figures from Experian suggest we spend an average 58 minutes a day checking our smartphones), coupled with the surge of different channels through which customers could suddenly research products and services, and complain if or when any didn’t meet their expectations, created a customer that, in the words of Austrian digital expert, Dietmar Dahmen, is ‘addicted to now’.

“In today’s world, if your customer needs you, you need to be there fast”, explains Dahmen. “How fast is fast? Well, our brain is 9,000 times faster than a PC. It takes an instant to fall in love… to hate the guy that just took your parking spot… or to forgive him, if a better spot opens up”.

Making a purchase through a smartphone is now considered an ordinary activity in Australia [ACMA] and, by the end of 2015, smartphones are expected to overtake laptops as the most commonly owned, connected device [Nielsen].  In an about-turn of events, customers are now telling marketers what they want hear about, when and through which channels. As a result, marketers throughout the world are struggling to monitor, manage and act upon an influx of customer data.

The modern marketing manager

Ultimately, marketing departments have had a raw deal over the last five years. In one sense, marketers have been handed a huge opportunity to drive business decisions; the big proviso being that they must be able to back up every suggestion, change or request they make with cold hard data insights.

As we’re already seeing, the trend is away from stereotypically ‘fluffy’ creative activities, with no solid sales strategy behind them, to data-driven activities and metrics that can be easily translated into revenue. It’s no coincidence that Harvard Business Review recently listed ‘Data Scientist’ as ‘the sexiest job of the 21st century’ [Harvard Business Review], or that job titles such as ‘Marketing Decision Sciences Manager’ and ‘Marketing Data Scientist’ are appearing on marketing job boards with greater frequency.

Even universities have acknowledged the change in the marketing skillset. Comparing the 2009 and 2014 course list of a Marketing Major degree, run by one of Australia’s leading universities, we can already see a significant change, with the 2014 degree including several additional statistics modules, such as ‘regression modelling’ and ‘generalised linear modelling’- highly sophisticated analytical techniques.


In this time of change, it seems that Gen X and Y marketers, whose introduction to marketing was less data-driven, still feel more comfortable in non-analytical tasks (as per the 92% who preferred creative tasks). The good news is that, while marketers still have an extremely steep learning-curve to come, most are still eager to adapt and feel positive about their current skill-level and abilities in the new digital environment. 76% rated their digital skills as ‘excellent’, compared to just 60% last year, coupled with the 91% of respondents that feel ‘stimulated and excited’ by the opportunities that digital technologies represent, another increase from the previous year’s findings.

The future’s bright- but there’s a long way to go.
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Robert Holliday - VP Enablement Service - Greater Asia, Sitecore About Robert Holliday - VP Enablement Service - Greater Asia, Sitecore
As VP Enablement Service - Greater Asia at Sitecore, Robert is charged with driving strategy in collaboration with the local senior management teams responsible for Sales, Marketing, Customers and Alliances. Robert works closely with corporate and regional offices to implement and localise the global strategy to grow the business and ensure customer success with Sitecore's leading customer engagement platform.