LeanIn Belfast Chapter member Member Siobhan Gallagher writes about CIM Ireland's April event,  held at Baker McKenzie's offices, on the Challenges and Opportunities facing marketers.

"In today’s customer led world, marketing has never had such a perfect opportunity to shine” - with these words, Chris Daly, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, gave us an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing marketers in 2017.

Based on research from two recent CIM surveys, one hosted by YouGov and the other taken from CIM members, the results made for an interesting session.

The current socio-political landscape has created external opportunities that are directly impacting marketing decisions. Of these, Brexit was the main concern amongst 55% of those surveyed and one of many creating challenges for marketers. This was particularly relevant as the Chief Executive was in Belfast to speak to the Northern Ireland based marketers.With Northern Ireland being the UK’s only land border with Europe and the Republic of Ireland being Northern Ireland’s largest export market, the Belfast based audience echoed these concerns. However, as Chris pointed out, Article 50 has only just been triggered, thus giving marketers the next two years to see what unfolds. It may just be a case of ‘Keep calm and carry on’!

In an increasingly digital world, the role of a brand has never been stronger. Marketers feel pressure to build an ethical brand through reputable marketing – Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer just an acronym! Increasingly, outside factors can impact our ability to protect the brand. Almost 90% revealed that the Internet and in particular social media, was felt to give consumers greater access to brands with increased power to affect change. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018 carrying fines of €20 million or 4% of a company’s global turnover. It brings wide-ranging implications for almost every aspect of marketing, however only half of marketers surveyed understood it’s implications. One in three marketers were aware of their businesses preparedness but just 11% have strategies in place. However, a worrying 16% thought that GDPR was not relevant to their business, displaying a lack of understanding of the far-reaching consequences of the Regulation.

The proliferation of new marketing technology presents challenges as well as benefits, with many nervous of losing market share to more tech-savvy competitors. Improving the performance of digital channels and tracking ROI are key priorities for most. However, only 13% felt fully confident in managing social effectively, whilst others admitted that their business was easily distracted by the latest gimmick. The role of marketing has clearly shifted with a renewed emphasis on the customer experience. Marketing may lead the strategy on customer engagement, however, there is a danger of being pushed out of the picture. The lines between IT and digital marketing are becoming blurred which can lead to a confusion on who owns the customer relationship. This is compounded by the frustration of many by a lack of investment in marketing. Whilst there is a desire to improve core skills, the core values of marketing, as identified by Peter Drucker, remain the same.

The majority surveyed feel that marketing plays a strategic role within their business and contributes to the long term vision for the business. To summarise, the Chief Executive stressed that marketers need to take the business lead and set a higher bar for themselves if they want to sit at the top table. This is demonstrated in organisations such as HSBC and Severn Trent where their Chief Marketing Officer is sitting on the Board. CPD must be at the heart of every marketers career path, with the Chartered Institute there to guide.

Photocaption : Jason Marty now Baker McKenzie Global Chief Operating Officer (formally Executive Director in Belfast), Chris Daly, CIM Chief Executive,  and Eleanor Gilliland, Baker McKenzie Senior Business Development Manager, pictured at the seminar in Belfast.