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Fair Exchange: Mind the gap — passion, commitment & knowledge

by Erna George (@edgeo23) I’m deeply concerned by those who don’t possess the hunger to progress (and progress doesn’t always mean being promoted); I’m even more concerned by those who want to be progressed without being willing to prove their mettle and value. Non-action is almost that much worse for me.

Working with the agency to get a good activation idea but not communicating it internally or leaving amplification messaging/channels too late? Halfway job. Interviewing for the same role a second time and not showing movement vs the criteria shared with you for judging good marketers in the first interview? Disinterested or overconfident.

I’ve often said that relevance and staying connected are critical to success in Marketing. Without a broader interest in the people and the world around, being a great marketer is a challenge. The behaviours I have most-often observed that become barriers are:

  1. The passion gap (no reference to the colloquial meaning in the Western Cape!)
  2. The commitment gap
  3. The knowledge gap

The passion gap

If passionate about a subject or anything, people will be engaged in learning and doing. People who are passionate about what they’re working on, or what they do, will find a way to connect with agencies, colleagues, customers and consumers to help them develop skills, resolve snags and move ahead; they want to find ways to grow in their chosen profession. Not only this, they will drive the agenda for this growth — set goals and set about achieving these. There’s greater self-reliance in getting ahead but the connection to others is not left by the wayside.

Once I had a person on my team who refused to connect. Whether it was low self-confidence, fear or arrogance, they stayed in their silo and their progress was stymied. I even remember the day when someone from another brand team, who’d joined a few months earlier, popped by and knew everyone by name except the ‘silo-person’.

While it’s not only about being known (although networking is critical), in this case it’s about being connected to people who have access to another perspective, to the heartbeat of the organisation, so you may be relevant and have a 360-degree view of the context. If you’re not known for your drive, no new or exciting projects will come your way.

Passion is a reflection that something is important to someone and this means you will do the basics, such as budgets and post-launch monitors, with as much fervour as the more-glitzy stuff, and time will fly because you are having fun. It’s about motivation and means fewer clock watchers who arrive at 8.30am, take lunch for an hour and leave promptly at 4.55pm — and this behaviour really only is noticed when your delivery is mediocre. Being motivated leads to Commitment and time will be less of a barrier.

The commitment gap

Now I want to be clear that, when I reference commitment, I am not meaning loyalty. Loyalty is for friendship, marriage and labradors — all important stuff but not necessarily for every workplace. My view is that loyalty may be fraught with very emotional and romantic views, and may result in unrealistic expectations and feelings getting hurt. Commitment is a clearer two-way street; there is something in it for each party.

In return for your commitment on the job, you get (or should request) training, access to knowledge and experience. It makes the relationship more equitable. Keep the rational in play as, when things go wrong and, heaven forbid, the business is forced to retrench, you must know what you did get out.

It means that there’ll be a transactional element to your career but, if you have a stake in something, you often give something very worthwhile (and memorable) in return (think personal branding). Businesses often can’t be loyal to every employee in the same way, especially when the chips are down, so keep your eye on the deal but behave like the best. By giving ‘the right stuff’ (even offering to capture the minutes of the marketing forum or doing the co-ordination for the team sales presentation), you can ask for more — more exposure to consumers, more invites to the table on big meaty brand discussions. Show your contribution and it’s often reflected in how the business responds to you and your growth.

Your choice: loyal lapdog or being committed to the long-term growth game called your career?

The knowledge gap

My critical challenge is those in marketing who are arrogant enough to think they know better. Those who fill their backpack with one-dimensional experiences: working one category only for years on end, only shining in activations or only perking up when it’s social media posts review time.

When you can only reference one category for portfolio strategy discussions or talk incessantly of ‘when you worked at Company Y on Brand Z who is the best at social…’, shoot me now (or, rather, your career).

Arrogance is the killer of curiosity and progress. Stretch your mind; read more; explore more; and never think that it’s enough. Are you reading new articles on LinkedIn? Who are you following? When last did you do trade and consumer in-home visits? Are you learning new marketing skills via some formal or informal platform? Without a yes to some or even one of these, be worried about your relevance to the marketing industry.

It is scary; you have to be humble to learn or admit you don’t know. And, if you still believe you know more, consider at least asking more questions in meetings so at least we don’t meet your arrogance at the doorframe. Many do only pay lip-service to wanting to learn and I recommend you tread carefully on this road, as those with great learnings to share don’t appreciate their time being wasted.

All in all, this is about action and reflection of the place you want to one day be. Now, reflecting on where you want to be is not acting as if you’re in charge; it’s about:

  • Reflecting passions and chutzpa to take on what needs to be done — sitting back is good enough if you want to stay (comfortably) put
  • Being committed to the purpose — your progress + business wins = YOUR win
  • Learning with a curiosity that is second to none extending categories, brands, media and people into new spaces

Mind the gap! You don’t often see it if you’ve too little experience, or you don’t see it coming if you’ve lots of experience yet are too disconnected to the broader marketing and consumer world.

Erna GeorgeAfter starting at Unilever in a classical marketing role, Erna George (@edgeo23) explored the agency side of life, first as a partner at Fountainhead Design, followed by the manic and inspiring world of consultancy at Added Value. She has returned to client-side, leading the marketing team in the Cereals, Accompaniments & Baking Division at Pioneer Foods. Her monthly “Fair Exchange” column on MarkLives concerns business relationships and partnerships in marketing and brandland.

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Fair Exchange: Mind the gap — passion, commitment & knowledge


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