Change Agents Are Irrelevant

Marketers are facing the potential of a lost generation. The next five years is set to mark the largest attack on talent we have ever seen in the industries of marketing, advertising, and branding. If you work in any of these industries, it is time to ask yourself: will I even be employed in five years? I’m serious.

It is a fact that if you are not working for Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or any number of the “anythi.ng.com.net.co.tv.org” companies that have digital affluence, then you might be fooling yourself about your chances of being employable within the next decade.

Uber is the 150th largest company in the world and Facebook is only 11 years old and these guys mean business.

From a macro level the history of how organizations deal with change is simple: They look for change agents, people like me – the proverbial magicians who will hopefully change the organization through the execution of innovation. But here is the catch: Strangely, the challenges that faced organizations over the last 50 years have been largely due to operation or organizational theory and not really consumer-driven.

In the ’60s we needed to find TV marketers, in the ’70s it was consultants who told us to “diversify” and acquire, the ’80s saw financers help us divest and “focus on our core,” the ’90s was six sigma who helped us “remove defects,” and by the new millennium “innovators to help reintroduce defects.” This was fine because every organization looked and operated very similar. This also meant the only way to grow your career was to follow the path up the ladder at a big organization.

But something else also happened in 2000. Something unlike any other decade in history: the digital revolution of the consumer. And we learned consumers adopt tech faster than companies and out of the crazed adoption, tech companies were born.

While all traditional companies tried to hire the digital change agents and recruit their own magician, what has become increasingly clear in the last 15 years is that the real wizards were being trained at tech companies. Whilst Fortune 500 desperately relied on the same tired card tricks, there were armies of conjurers already reinventing our industries with or without us. For example, everyone at BuzzFeed is a “change agent.”

So how do we reinvent ourselves and in turn transform our organizations? This is something I have been thinking about for the last seven years and have learned a few things over my career. So over the last six months I have secretly been working on a closed-door passion project called BRAND U Events, which asks each 20 select attendees from Fortune 500s to focus on their careers with the same attention we give the brands that we work for.

Here are five key takeaways that I believe can help accelerate your career.

1. Execute

It goes without saying that execution is the key.

2. Get an Executive Coach

Even LeBron has a coach. Coaching literally changed my life. There so many facets to how you present yourself in an organization that can have an effect on your career. If you learn and focus on them, it unlocks a roadmap to success.

3. Manage Your Reputation

Managing your reputation can add value beyond what you can create just by executing. Online and offline reputation and network management is crucial for success. One great example is simply managing your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is the most underutilized platform in the history of social media.

4. Learn How to Translate Technology Into a Business

Everyone wants to force technology into models they already understand. But why not understand what the tech is changing and then figure out how to change your model to take advantage of technology? After all, I don’t need Facebook to operate like TV; I need my marketing to operate like Facebook – don’t let your partners or agencies tell you otherwise.

5. Maximize Your Time Outside of Your Four Walls

I spend every waking hour thinking about two things: 1) Growth of my business and 2) and how can I source growth from what’s new. I’m so scared to become irrelevant so I try to spend time constantly learning what’s new. Even better, through speaking on panels or keynotes you maximize your time at industry events. Because instead of having to find people to talk to, they all come and talk to you after. I learn so much after a presentation and in such a short time because it’s rapid-fire ideas being thrown at you.

Although I think these apply to us all, it is those in the middle ranks who need to pay attention the most. You are at very formative times in your careers and you want to make sure you maximize growth. It’s the difference between C-suite or not.

I’m a big believer that if you know the inevitable, then you can plan for it. As such, I am without doubt that marketers on the client side actually have an amazing opportunity to leap frog and transform their careers faster.

The start is believing, with every fiber in your body, that this digital thing has the power to unlock unbounded growth not only for your organization but for you as well. Because that’s what Facebook believes, and if we wait for them alone to figure out how to transform marketing, then the people who helped bring about that transformation will have our jobs.

So the next time you look at a graduating class from college and see many of them go off to Google or Facebook, ask yourself: Will they be more qualified than me in three years’ time?

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