Oh, marketing. We could go to lengths discussing its true definition and compare various theories. God’s honest truth is – almost everything is marketing. I know, I know, sounds fishy and vague but further in this article, you will realize exactly what I am talking about and why today’s marketer has to be a know-it-all.
A T-Shaped Marketer is a marketer with a vast spectrum of knowledge concerning all spheres of digital marketing, with a specialization in one or two main areas.
The ‘’T’’ stands for a horizontal comprehension of multiple areas, and vertical in-depth expertise.
Marketing is a wide window to the outside world – without it, everything we do remains hidden. As the explanation above says, marketers are more than just storytellers, even though that is exactly how it all began (but we will get to it shortly).
Let me put it this way – marketing was, is, and always will be absolutely necessary. Not just for businesses, but for everyone and everything that wants to be known to the public. Trends, tools, strategies, and even entire paradigms change, but the real need for marketing remains.
Marketing Was Born a Long, Long Time Ago
Political campaigns are marketing, right? Well, then marketing was invented thousands of years ago. You have to think out of the box for one minute – the form of rulers and ruled naturally changes, yes, but essentially we are talking about the same thing since the beginning of time – a person or a group of people that rules over everyone else.
And what does every ruler need to preserve the ruling position? Legitimacy. Where does that legitimacy come from? A majority of people who believe their rulers are deserving of the title. How do people know if their ruler is worthy of the title? Marketing.
All the songs about the kings’ bravery, all the speeches of their wisdom and divine origins, every coin given to the poor, every public appearance to boost the morale – yes, ladies and gents, this is marketing at its finest.
Who is there can rival his kingly standing, and say like Gilgamesh, “It is I am the King”? Gilgamesh was his name from the day he was born, two-third of him a god and one-third human.
Throughout the centuries, marketing changed as its instruments changed – spoken word, carved slates, papyrus, handwritten paper, printed paper, radio, television, and finally the Internet.
After Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, the information spreading went on another level – words traveled faster. The only thing left for marketing to start its modern journey was The Industrial Revolution(s) that created an entirely new society.
Modern Marketing (The One We Actually Think of When We Hear the Word)
We can place the beginning of modern marketing in the 20th century. A well-known documentary series dubbed The Century of the Self talks about governments’ and corporations’ persuasion strategies – from Freud to addictive consumerism. Initially, consumers were considered to be ‘tabula rasa’, and marketers’ task was to give them an opinion. You need this product, it is so practical.
It was believed that you could persuade your audience to buy and do anything you want, and they would just listen to your commands. And that was okay for a while but then the manufacturing diversity skyrocketed, and focusing on products per se was no longer a good enough marketing strategy. Suddenly, you weren’t just selling the product, you were selling the story.
Bear in mind the context behind this switch, this is a revolutionary time in terms of discovering one’s individuality and rebelling against the old norms. And just like that, the homogeneous society disappeared, and new divides were based on much more than pure demography.
Naturally, the old way of e.g. selling a car had to change; you were no longer focusing on the fact cars are useful for your consumers but you started to allocate models, colors, and features to different groups of people, to help them express themselves.
Internet Era – What Does This Button Do?
Every marketing channel requires a respective approach – for a long time, the only way to advertise your product or service was printing – e.g. posters and newspapers. Things changed a bit with radio and pictures, and a definite upgrade came with television programs. What’s the difference here? Before television, your advertisement didn’t directly enter people’s homes so naturally, the effects were now different and the game was changed forever.
However, a true game-changer in the history of marketing was the Internet. This little invention shaped the world we live in today and, among other things, changed the idea of what a marketer should be.
Digital marketers need to know the technological background in detail, too.
To put an ad in the newspaper, you don’t have to do the printing, or selling, or distribution. You don’t have to know what a newspaper printing press looks like. The digital sphere, on the other hand, is something else entirely.
And, alas, we come to the t-shaped marketer theory. In this colorful but crowded digital world, your brand needs to stand out. Yes, a relatable brand, since products are simply not enough anymore. To achieve this, you’re ought to have:
- Unique value proposition
- A clear visual identity
- Precisely defined audience
- Established channels and messaging
- Social media presence
- A trusting community
- Valuable content
- Good website management
It all depends on your business model and what you are trying to accomplish with your business in general, but my point here is: from a simple billboard in the town center, we evolved into dozens of digital processes. Naturally, you expect your marketer to at least comprehend every aspect of these processes and to be specialized in one or two.
Or three or four, that also depends on your marketer’s (lack of) social life.
T-Shaped Marketer – Examples
From content creation to email marketing, over data analytics, design, and even HTML & CSS – a true marketer has to know it all. Not to mention the ‘’analog’’ methods, too. Naturally, nobody can perform flawlessly in all these areas but to perform brilliantly in the area of expertise, a t-shaped marketer has to understand the background of everything.
For example, you can be a social media specialist and Facebook Ads Manager can be your best buddy, but you always have to bear in mind the bigger picture and what e.g. drives traffic on your website besides social media. Meanwhile, the colleague on your right will be a PPC specialist. Both of your lives will be so much easier if you know exactly how, by doing different things, you are contributing to the same goal.
And somehow, our parents still think all we do is click ‘’tweet’, but that’s a story for another blog.
So, the model of t-shaped marketing has three components: base knowledge, marketing foundation, and channel expertise. Base knowledge is knowledge applicable outside of marketing – psychology, storytelling, research. Marketing foundation is a set of skills useful in multiple marketing areas – copywriting, customer support, funnel management. Lastly, channel expertise represents a specific focus on the concrete acquisition channel and audience – paid ads, SEO, community management.
To sum it up, if you want to become a marketer, your educational background can be practically anything (any type of social science, languages, etc). You can easily extend this base knowledge into a marketing foundation and particular channel expertise. Even better if you are a curious person who eagerly jumps into new waters to test them – then you, champ, are platinum marketing material.
From Caesar to His Salad
Now you know how marketing has evolved throughout the centuries – from epic storytelling to all-digital skill sets. The history of humankind carries various paradigms and drastic societal changes, but what’s archetypical can’t be erased. And the need to be seen and heard is very archetypal, nevertheless.
We live in a world where everything is relative – behaviors, choices, and actions. We celebrate our individuality, tear labels, and coexist in a big global community. A good marketer should have a clear understanding of the world that surrounds him/her. And this world is complex yet intertwined, and so is our job as digital marketers.
Embrace the beauty of this functional chaos – choose to learn, adapt, and grow – both as a person and as a marketing professional.
Title photo by vectorpocket, Freepik.