Big brand marketers should take on the startup challenge

Charlie Spargo's picture

Alberto Macciani, Chief Marketing Officer of Paysend, says the world of business has changed - and so, too, must the careers of marketers. It's no longer enough to stay with legacy names - startups are the future.

The world is changing, and changing fast.  

Disruption from advancing technology, evolving demographics and an ambiguous political climate, means many big corporates in traditional industries no longer follow a linear progression.    

Rather than achieve steady year-on-year growth, they go through transformations, with uncertain futures.  

And just as big corporations no longer follow a clear progression, so the marketing careers of those employed in these organisations have been forced to change. 

The new normal 

Until relatively recently, those in big brand marketing might have expected to spend they entire career, or most of it, within one industry or even one company. 

They may have moved between different consumer product and brands, from coffee to toiletries to detergent for instance, but that would be the extent of it. 

Change between sectors was extremely rare. But now big brands are being disrupted by start-ups.  

Just look at financial services. What was once the preserve of big institutions and high street banks is now being done by smaller, more agile FinTech startups. 

As firms are being disrupted, so too are the careers of those in marketing. It is no longer enough to continue in steady roles, repeating the same core activities but failing to learn how to do things differently. 

To survive and thrive in today’s new normal, marketers need to develop new skills and new competences that better reflect the changes in the economy.  

Taking the leap 

But quite often, new skills and competencies aren’t leaned in traditional big corporations where work can be boiled down to process after process. Instead, big brand marketers must embrace the new normal and join the disruptive startups and scale-ups that are driving change in our economy and society more broadly. 

This means big brand marketers need to be brave enough to leave their corporate comfort zone. It means they need to put aside their team, their resources and their ego. 

It can mean taking a leap into the dark. I spent 20 years at Unilever, most recently as a global VP responsible for 70 people. 

Big brand marketing at Unilever was a fantastic foundation for my career. I’ve delivered more than 200 campaigns while building brand equity, and learned how to plan and deliver effective marketing. 

As a colleague used to say: “if you can sell detergent, you can sell anything." But this is no longer enough. To build new skills, we big brand marketers must seek out new technology-driven sectors and disruptive businesses that force us to learn more. 

And it must be embraced. 

Learning again

Learning again is hard. It’s like starting a new sport, where every muscle aches because it’s not been used in that way before. 

But with time and practice you start to build muscle memory, and each day you learn how to do something a bit different and a bit better. 

To thrive, marketers must be able to handle change. It requires mental agility and a growth mindset. You must strip out your past and start each day only with what you can learn and improve upon. 

And, more than in any other role, you must have a single-minded pursuit of your objective. What are you trying to achieve that day, week, month or year?  

You must be driven by your objective and to see the impact of your actions. For many from big corporates. this will be a novel experience. But they must embrace it and master it. 

Reaping the rewards

The benefits of taking on such a challenge are clear.

First, you get to work with amazing people who are continually pushing at what’s possible. People who are leaders in their field and who have a vision to change how the world works. 

Second, you work in a business that is challenging traditional business models. Every day is about finding a solution and continually thinking how you can better serve your customers.  

Just look at Paysend. Over the last two years at Paysend, we’ve helped more than 1.3 million customers transfer money worldwide. We grow each day as more people use our service for instant and flat-fee transfers. 

Most importantly, by working with others who thrive on risk and change, you learn to embrace both. But big brand marketers shouldn’t forget what they bring to the party.  

The consumer should always be at the heart of what we do as marketers. Creating a brand that answers their need or desire is the way all businesses succeed.