Should the job title ‘Digital Marketer’ still exist?

You’ve heard it before – technology is changing so fast today that XY and Z must be the case. And while it’s all too easy to dismiss it as a hollow cliche, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t entirely true.

Just 10 years ago, we were guided by maps on a street directory (or inside a chunky GPS device, if we were really lucky). The first generation iPad was two years away. Cloud computing was in its infancy and by no means mainstream. And buying a 3D printer for $300 on the internet was the stuff of science fiction.

Work was different, too – in the field of marketing, especially. In fact, we wrote about just how much it’s changed (and will continue to change) earlier this year.

A quick look back

Marketing finds itself in an era of big data, evermore sophisticated analytics and technological disruption. The future for marketing professionals looks bright, but it won’t be without its challenges.

With new opportunities come new challenges. One of the most important will be the need for marketers in the near future to have a multidisciplinary skillset. They will need to be technically capable, yes. But, like never before, they will also need to be able to collaborate with other business areas, as well as understand the vagaries of their specific industry or sector.

In short, it’s about keeping pace with change.

In this post – a follow up to the first one – we’ll be sticking to that theme, but looking more specifically at the concept of the digital marketer in 2018... or, to be accurate, its unsuitability as a term.

You see, the heading of the post is ‘Should the job title “Digital Marketer” still exist?’ and it’s not a throwaway line or an attempt to be unnecessarily provocative. It’s a genuine question.

Have we now reached a point where the title is redundant or misleading?

What is a digital marketer?

It’s easy to say what a digital marketer was. When digital technology was in its infancy; when there was some conjecture on whether the internet would even make it, a digital marketer (we might have called her or him a ‘cyber marketer’ or an ‘e-marketer’ back then) waded bravely into the waters of the new digital media while their ‘traditional marketing’ colleagues continued on with classified advertising, with bricks and mortar retail, with phone-based public relations, and with tick-a-box-on-a-piece-of-paper market research, and so on.

We once defined digital marketing for a very good reason: it was an entirely separate category.

Professor Mike Reid believes digital marketing should form part of every marketer's role.

Today, if you made the same distinction, you’d be ignoring a simple fact: digital technology affects just about every aspect of our lives. As the Deloitte Access Economics report, The future of work: Occupational and education trends in marketing in Australia, states “...the separation between ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ marketers is becoming increasingly outdated, with “digital marketing becoming an essential part of the majority of marketing roles – no longer a job in and of itself.”

The world has changed forever

Just as a decade ago a multitude of extraordinary conveniences didn’t exist: no ability to navigate via phone, no opportunity to save work to a remote internet server and no website that let you turn your children’s drawings into a 3D-printed sculpture, a multitude of jobs didn’t exist, either.

There was no such thing as an SEO specialist, a data analyst, a UX designer or a social media manager (the big social networks themselves either didn’t exist or were still finding their feet). The concept of “big data” didn’t exist, and neither – to a great extent – did the concept of the value of understanding and analysing customer data.

For roles like graphic designer, marketing manager, account executive, copywriter, whose names may not have changed, but their nature most certainly has. Fundamentally.

Even a graphic designer who, for example, specialises only in print needs to be digitally savvy. Not only to respond to emails, discuss specs with clients by Skype and use the latest design software, but to collaborate closely with colleagues (not just in marketing, but throughout an organisation) whose entire jobs may be digitally-based.

Companies simply expect this kind of integration in 2018 – and it goes for the vast majority of marketing roles.

We don’t refer to “electric tram drivers”

No doubt, the term “digital marketer” will eke out an existence for years to come, but it’s become superfluous.

Every element of business is now influenced by digital technology and so the distinction between a digital marketer and a non-digital marketer no longer really exists. It’s a bit like referring to a Melbourne tram driver as an electric tram driver, despite the fact that cable cars haven’t run as mass public transport in Melbourne for 70 years.

To excel in the world of marketing today, professionals need to understand digital channels, make data-driven decisions and collaborate with colleagues embedded in the world of analytics.

The digital marketer is dead. Long live digital marketing.

Get ahead with a marketing degree that can prepare you for future roles. Learn more about RMIT’s online Master of Marketing program.