Marketing education is holding us back
Marketing is an important profession that grows businesses and fuels economies in an unambiguously positive way. In Ireland alone, our industry contributes €5.3 billion to the national economy1; and this is just the advertising component of marketing.
However, the industry still lacks credibility; 73% of global CEOs believe that marketers don’t have the ability to generate growth2.
The clear reason for this failure, in our view, is the inconsistent standard of marketing education and the lack of a professional level qualification that provides the industry with a licence to practice.
Marketing practitioners (client and agency side) do important work that often succeeds, but many people in the industry are not trained to know why, nor are they skilled to build a business case for their marketing campaigns in the first place. Too much advice is given and too many decisions are made based purely on opinion, rather than on marketing laws and facts.
A recent study carried out by Core Research in Ireland clearly shows this; only 21% of marketing professionals considered themselves highly familiar with marketing effectiveness proof3.
This brings us to another point, which is the absence of a continuing professional development (CPD) culture. The communications landscape is changing so fast that all practitioners need be up-to-date with latest industry developments, research and thinking. But this is not happening; only 13% of marketing professionals in the Republic of Ireland have a strong commitment to CPD3.
This lack of CPD results in some poor marketing investment decisions being made as practitioners are swayed by hype or biased commentary in relation to what is and what isn’t effective. We explore this point in more detail in the Core Learning section of this report.
There are several problems with the way marketing is taught:
– Tutors’ knowledge is not cutting-edge. To keep up with market developments and latest thinking, there must be a greater involvement of practitioners in college faculties.
– Courses are mainly theory-based. More practical work is necessary as that is how people really learn.
– There is no business-case training. Students need to know how to build solid, analytical cases for marketing investment, so they can argue their position effectively.
– Media planning is not adequately covered. €1 billion is invested in media in the Republic of Ireland each year – it is important that marketers have a good understanding of this subject.
– Newer marketing textbooks are not used. Third level faculties do not embrace research unless it has ‘stood the test of time’. Therefore, scientific text (in some cases, published a decade ago) that is robust, credible and adopted by the industry is not covered.
The significance of the above points varies between undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The standard of postgraduate courses is higher, but there is still considerable inconsistency between the various programmes on offer.
The problem should be tackled in two ways. Firstly, we should engage with academia regarding the future development of undergraduate level courses. The Marketing Institute is well advanced in this regard and plans to consult with stakeholders this year on a draft competency framework that it has developed.
Secondly, the industry should agree a plan that establishes a ‘licence to practice’ for all marketing practitioners (client and agency side). This, we believe, must sit at a postgraduate level. However, for this professional-level qualification to achieve the standard required in a quality-assured way, the industry will need to invest in building a new (not-for-profit) graduate school of marketing dedicated to this goal.
This college would provide students with a compulsory foundation in general marketing in the first year, including finance, business strategy, leadership and business case development. In year two, the students would specialise in their chosen field, be it brand management, media planning, research, data, public relations or creative.
Once qualified, graduates would commit to 80 hours of CPD per annum to retain their licence to practice. This is an essential element of the plan; without this commitment to continual learning, the graduates’ initial qualification would become less and less relevant with each passing year.
This plan will only succeed if the industry unites around this issue and establishes a true and long-lasting commitment, not just to the school, but to only recruiting graduates who have achieved the required professional standard. This means that the new college would be the exclusive channel for providing marketing graduates in the future.
There is another point to consider: marketing is not in the top tier of preferred career options in Ireland. Just 2%4 of third level graduates consider a career in marketing as very appealing. With this in mind, we should think of the new school of marketing as more than just a centre of learning; it needs to be a place of inspiration and creativity that inspires visitors and projects a powerful image of what marketing can achieve.
So, what are the next steps? Core is working with a consultant to scope this project and conduct a viability study, which we will share with industry stakeholders before the summer. The purpose of this session will be to listen to feedback and discuss alternative ideas that people may have. If you would like to take part, please feel free to contact me. This is an important project for the future of our industry, and we are keen to start the conversation.
I hope you find our Outlook 19 report thought provoking and useful. It covers the important matters that we foresee for the year ahead through our nine Practices in Core: Creative, Data, Investment, Learning, Media, Recruitment, Research, Sponsorship and Strategy. If you would like to discuss any of the content, please feel free to call me on +353 1 649 6458.
Best wishes for the year ahead.
1. Advertising: An engine for economic growth, Deloitte (2013)
2. Interviews with 600 CEOs in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia, Fournaise Group (2011)
3. Survey of 148 marketing professionals, Core Research (2018)
4. Core Research Omnibus (2018)