Company Culture in the Digital Data-Driven Marketing Ecosystem

melissaparrishupdatedMarketer’s Note” is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving digital marketing technology ecosystem.

This week, it is written by Melissa Parrish, executive director of AdExchanger Research, and research assistant Sam Spector.  

As data-driven marketing has exploded, we’re finding that marketers struggle a bit to get the right mix of talent and skills on their teams. I’m working on a piece of research right now that explores how to build a data-driven marketing team, and it’s uncovered some interesting takeaways for both hiring managers and job seekers.

We’ll be covering a bunch of interesting topics in the report, including:

  • Why hiring data scientists in the marketing department is a necessity—and how to find the right person
  • Why an academic background in marketing might not be a necessity
  • Why marketing job candidates should get used to taking competency tests
  • Why highlighting “culture” is increasingly important

Helping me with this report is our summer research assistant, Sam Spector, who’ll be embarking on his own marketing job search next summer. This last point about cultural fit struck a nerve with him, and since I’ve found his perspective interesting, I thought you might too. Here’s Sam’s take on why cultural fit in marketing is more than just allowing your team to wear jeans to work.


When I began working on this research with Melissa, I found myself stuck on the question of whether or not having an MBA defines marketers’ success in the data-driven ecosystem. Based on conversations with marketers and executive recruiters, I’ve found that the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.

There’s one major takeaway that has changed the way I view the digital marketer hiring process: Company culture is paramount.

After spending time on various companies’ online career pages, I got the impression that superficial perks were the building blocks that defined company culture. I’ve seen it boiled down to suits or jeans, cubicles or open offices and free lunches or foosball tables, to name a few examples. And during our research interviews, it became clear that these perks are often shorthand for being a “cool” marketing team, because they may imbue a stereotypical agency vibe. But as a result of this research, I’ve come to understand that daily processes and approaches to getting work done are far more important for determining cultural fit.

As I enter the workforce, I’ll be asking questions that gauge how the marketing team functions rather than rating the amenities it offers. For example, does management expect employees to work independently or in teams? What is the company’s stance on working remotely? Does the company seek contributions from all employees, regardless of title or experience when making important decisions? Or does the company take a more buttoned-up, hierarchical approach to decision-making?

For me, a company that values innovation, embraces ideas from young employees and fosters a constructive learning environment would be most compelling to work for. I’d take the opportunity to positively impact a marketing campaign or client relationship over a foosball table any day. After all, free beer won’t help a company build a great culture.

In a cutthroat hiring environment, companies and candidates both have to make carefully considered decisions about the fit—otherwise, both parties will be resuming their searches in short order. Marketers can attract more suitable candidates by giving better snapshots into how their teams function and how new grads will be onboarded and integrated into the business. You don’t need a free coffee bar to attract new marketing talent. Instead, make clear the type of personalities and skills that thrive on your team in order to draw people who’ll match.

For candidates like me, it’s ultimately important to pursue an academic field that genuinely interests you, and then leverage those skills in ways that fit the specific position and company that you’re aiming for. Culture (including its less-tangible “functional” aspects) can impact a job decision more than you may think. And before you decide whether or not to pursue a marketing degree, research the companies you’d hope to work for, to learn if current employees hold business degrees and as why people with specific skill sets thrive in those environments.

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