Ritson’s Monster vs. The Unicorn Marketer

Nov 30, 2020 |5 min read
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I recently joined Marketing Week's webinar, 'Ritson's monster', in which marketing guru Mark Ritson outlined the 12 traits of his perfect marketer. I was drawn to this, in no small part, by our recent work collaborating with the World Federation of Advertisers exploring similar ideal marketing characteristics. Reassuringly, there are a number of parallels between Ritson's work and our white paper entitled 'The CMO conundrum and the search for the unicorn marketer'. However, there are some differences too, most notably our emphasis on the need to share roles and responsibilities across a team rather than expect one unicorn marketer to possess all the ideal traits.

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The context to our report was the notion that 'the CMO is dead', that the senior marketer's role was under threat from the rise of the CFO, competing roles like the CGO and CCO, and the need to prove short term ROI (anathema to traditional marketers with a longer-term, strategic mindset). We concluded that more needed to be done to meet the short-term sales objectives of others in the C-suite, while also proving the longer term value of marketing. This is something Ritson also recognises, with the best marketers able to balance a multi-year vision with short term return on investment. But realistically this can only be achieved through collaboration, both with other senior executives and with those throughout the business.

We highlighted that greater collaboration with others requires broader business acumen and softer, people skills like empathy and ethics. Similarly, empathy tops Ritson's list as he emphasises the importance of humility and understanding the consumer perspective. However, we would add to this, that understanding other people's perspectives should apply, to colleagues as well as customers. This is more pertinent than ever as themes of diversity and inclusivity pervade the zeitgeist. Marketers need to be more aware of their cognitive bias, welcome more diversity of both individuals and ideas then work hard to ensure they are inclusive in the work they do.

Tied to the need for greater understanding of others are a number of Ritson's other ideal traits - curiosity, learning and adaptability, and "managing" creativity. This is about not being content with normalcy or standing still, but consistently challenging the norm, testing yourself and welcoming the ideas and contribution of others. Ritson highlights that marketers should be careful not to impose upon other collaborators (in his example, true creatives) who should be left to their own devices (with good briefing) to deliver the best work. Likewise, in our report, we concluded that senior marketers should not be expected to fulfil all roles and responsibilities, but should empower a team that, when inspired, can deliver something greater than the sum of their individual, more specialised parts.

But it's not just about teamwork and collaboration; sometimes marketers need to tread their own path. We found that senior marketers are looking for more leadership and entrepreneurialism in their teams, whilst Ritson extols the virtues of 'choicefulness' (decisiveness and making the right choices) and rule breaking/transgression (not always following convention and sometimes even crossing the line to differentiate your brand). After all, in a time of economic uncertainty, squeezed budgets and political upheaval, the marketers and brands that are boldest are likely to differentiate the most.

Whether our 'unicorn' marketer or Ritson's 'monster' exists is up for debate, but one thing is crystal clear: they both highlight that expectations on senior marketers are very high. In our report we concluded that, while unicorns and monsters may be in the realms of fantasy, improving the reputation and influence of marketing is not. Through harnessing the power of the collective, marketers can not only fulfil brand purpose but have the potential for wider societal impact.

Download our report on the search for the unicorn marketer

For more information on how marketing can improve in your business you can download our full report 'The CMO conundrum and the search for the unicorn marketer' here https://wfanet.org/leadership/marketer-of-the-future