What qualities maketh a marketer?

Marketing people need to be many things – here are some important traits you should look out for.

I read an interesting blog article recently, titled ‘11 BEST PERSONALITY TRAITS FOR MARKETING’. It was on as site called www.honestoutloud.com and it was really well written, and full of good insight.

And I found myself agreeing with most of it.

Not sure why it was 11 traits rather than 10 but hey ho. In fact there was an additional trait added on at the end as the one ESSENTIAL trait that all marketers must have.

So that’s 12.

Anyway, I digress.

So I hear you ask, “Is this a blog article about another blog article… and isn’t that cheating?”

Well, yes it is, sort of. And yes, it is… sort of.

Normally I wouldn’t bother commenting on other pieces – but there was one trait that I just couldn’t accept. And it got me thinking.

I had to agree with most of them – for the most part they were reasonably straightforward:

1. Curiosity
Agreed. As a marketer, we all need to ask questions. We need to be willing to explore new ideas. We need to stay up to date. Not just as marketers, but in life, generally.

2. Adaptable
Yep. No two brands are the same. No two solutions will produce the same results. Platforms, channels, market dynamics are changing all the time. So we need to flex and adapt to meet the challenges in front of us. I’ll buy that.

3. Objective & Perspective
Technically that’s 2. Pedantic? Yes, but do I disagree? No. Objectivity in particular is a really important one. We need to be able to remove ourselves from our own biases and subjective preferences and put ourselves in the shoes of the customer. At the end of the day these are the people that us marketers represent – so always be objective. Perspective, yes – probably belongs in the next bit:

4. Thick Skinned
That’s thick-skinned, not thick. Having a thick skin (or a sense of perspective) is also important. It’s weird how everyone has an opinion about marketing, particularly advertising. It’s a bit like being the England football manager – there are millions who (apparently) know better than you.

5. Good listener & observer
Undeniable. It’s about having your eyes and ears open. Hearing what customers have to say, observing their behaviour. Whether you’re undertaking research or analyzing the data, marketing should always be built on evidence. Yep, 100% agree with this.

6. Oh wait, there’s no number 6
Ah, confusing.

7. Collaborative & Diplomatic
Again, that’s 2. How many do we have now? Never mind. Yes, diplomatic – although I’d say that’s true of being part of any team. And collaboration, definitely. I’ve learned more by working alongside colleagues and customers than I ever did from any book. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great books out there – but work on a problem alongside a team of experts, and you’ll learn heaps.

8. Decisive
Yes… but… maybe. OK yes. It’s true that in marketing, there are always questions left unanswered, there’s always some subjectivity. So sometimes, you’ve just got to suck it and see. Go for it, give it your best shot – then analyse, refine and go again.

9. Competitive
Yeah, OK. Not my favourite one this as ‘competitive’ can be read in different ways. There’s ‘good’ competitive and there’s ‘knobhead’ competitive. Competitive is fine as long as you’re competing with the right people. Compete with your competitors and maybe your past performance / results, not with your teammates.

10. We’ll come back to this one.
This is the one I’ve got an issue with.

11. Honest & Opinionated
Anther double act. Not sure these sit together because you can be one without the other. Opinionated sounds a bit aggressive, and there’s no need for that. Plus I’m not sure how well that sits with ‘Diplomatic’. I’ll buy into ‘honest’ though – as marketing professionals we have an obligation to each other to cut the bullshit. The industry doesn’t have a great external reputation in that regard. We always need to act professionally – and that means with ‘integrity’.

12. An excitement for marketing
At least it’s not passion – don’t get me started on that. But this was the big one – the ESSENTIAL trait. I’m not sure an excitement for marketing per se is necessarily it though. It’s possible to be really good at marketing without being excited by marketing. But I get what they’re trying to say, I’m not going to argue with this one.

OK so according to the title, that’s the ‘eleven’ essential traits (it’s actually 15, but let’s not be picky).

I agree with most of them, they’re all relevant – some are more important (in my opinion) than others. But they all make sense.

That is, apart from the one I missed out. Number 10.

What do you think trait number 10 is?

Bet you can’t guess (without reading on)?

Don’t cheat!

Go on… guess.

OK, I’ll tell you.

This article, the one I’m talking about, states that one of the 11 (15) qualities that the best marketers have in common is:



Controversial huh?

The article says that the best marketers are LAZY.

This is how the article justifies LAZY, and I quote:

“The hard solution is rarely the best solution. This is especially true in marketing. Great marketers are lazy enough to find a smart, simple solution. They want to do less work for the same or greater impact.

It’s easy to think that the more complicated something is the more impressive it is. Often this is exactly the opposite. Lazy marketers know to scale down and back until their idea is clear and executable.

Lazy marketers are also likely to implement time saving tactics like batch processing, repurposing content, and strategic outsourcing.”

Now, I think I know what these guys are trying to say. And I know they’re saying it in a way that’s meant to be provocative. But I just think the message they’re trying to convey is landing all wrong.

There’s some truth in the explanation. Complexity in advertising and branding (whether in your positioning, your proposition, your copy or your design) is rarely a good thing. Granted.

But it’s not about laziness. It’s about simplicity.

The best ideas are the simple ones.

Simple ideas are easy to understand. Simple ideas are easier to remember. Simple ideas don’t get lost in translation. Simple ideas are easier to communicate. Simple ideas resonate.

I have a dream.

Simpler advertising concepts work harder. They last longer. They deliver more value to their brands.

Just do it.

But simple marketing ideas don’t come from laziness. Simplifying copy isn’t something lazy copywriters do.

In the words of Mark Twain (allegedly),

“I apologise for such a long letter – I didn’t have time to write a short one”

Take the creative brief.

A creative brief is supposed to be BRIEF. It’s supposed to be focused on what’s important.

Some of the ‘laziest’ marketing I see comes in the form of a very long brief. A brief that’s got all the data in it. That’s got loads of research in it. That’s got loads of proof points in it. The complexity of long briefs stems from the laziness of the marketer who fails to sort the wheat from the chaff.

The diligent marketer, on the other hand, not only gathers loads of information, they also distil it down to what really matters. They get to the heart of the marketing problem – they identify the insight.

That requires effort combined with intelligence, and a little bit of know-how.

So, I don’t buy into LAZY.

Yes, an ability to simplify complex ideas is a strong trait to have.

A good marketing strategy will focus on what’s really important, identify information that’s a distraction and cut it out.

A good creative execution will be entirely single minded and delivered in its simplest form.

But lazy marketers don’t deliver great marketing strategies and creative executions. Lazy marketers deliver CRAP.

Really good work comes as a result of a lot of diligent work.

Not laziness.

So what are the qualities to look out for?

OK, so I’ve gently pulled apart someone else’s (pretty thoughtful and largely excellent) blog article. There’s a lot of good stuff in there to consider (apart from number 10 – a red herring, in my view), but I don’t believe in criticising others without offering an alternative view.

Here’s a different list. There’s a bit of crossover with the list I’ve just been ‘critiquing’ – that’s because I agree with a lot of it.

But after following my own advice, I’ve honed the list down to just 7.

Let’s called it something like…

The seven heavenly virtues of marketing

If you’re hiring a marketing bod, or a marketing agency – here are the qualities to look out for.

In our (subjective but informed) opinion, the best marketers are:

CURIOUS. They’ve got to be interested in stuff. In life. They’ve got to be open minded. They should ask questions.

DILIGENT. They put in the hard yards. They research. They dig. They find nuggets.

OBSERVANT. Of the world around them, of competitors, of behaviours.

INTELLIGENT. They can identify true insight from a whole bunch of information. They spot the needle in the haystack. The diamond in the rough.

OBJECTIVE. They can stand in the customer’s shoes, and do not get caught up in their own bias or anyone else’s subjective opinion. They can stand back.

INTUITIVE. OK so it’s 90% perspiration… but a little bit of genius goes a long way. It’s the je ne sais quois, and not everyone has it.

EXPERIENCED. There’s just no substitute.

So that’s it. Seven virtues to look out for. Seven marketing virtues to measure yourself by.

Maybe there are others. And maybe we can’t be all of them all of the time.

But one thing’s for certain. There’s no room for laziness.


Footnote: I don’t agree with LAZY as a trait we should seek. But at least LAZY got my attention. It inspired this ramble. It got me thinking. So well done HonestOutLoud, that’s a good piece of work.

Not lazy at all.