Marketing Teams of The Future: AI, Digital Transformation And Recruitment

by Figaro Digital

As an industry that is constantly evolving, digital transformation requires a certain agility, not just within the transforming businesses, but also in the talent making up successful marketing teams. Faced with potentially divisive and disruptive shifts, how are marketing teams adapting to cope, and what should managers be looking for when recruiting new talent? Figaro Digital spoke to Mark Evans, Direct Line Group’s Marketing Director, to learn how Direct Line ensures its marketing team is unified and flourishing in an unstable marketing environment.

Digital Transformation: Creating Unity, Not Division

At Direct Line, Evans explains, bringing teams together and uniting them is essential when undergoing transformation. “Being trailblazers in innovation is an element of our core architecture as a marketing team, so we collectively need to be like glue, rather than create friction. The change agenda needs to be something that brings us together rather than something that pulls us apart. Invoking change is hard. You need to have resilience and fortitude and the ability to bounce back.”

Digital transformation, Evans explains, is a topic that requires two conversations – one about the internal implications of digital transformation, as well as the external implications for customers.  “Externally, this means working with our media agency and our ad agencies to make sure we’re driving digital precedent, and that we form the right partnerships with Google and Facebook, for example. We’ve got to fight both agendas, and there is inter-play between the two – what we’re trying to do internally is agitate new ways of working, and showcase some of these external successes.” Having a strong purpose is important for successful digital transformation both internally and externally. “Our purpose for marketing is to agitate the business of tomorrow for today – this is about bringing the future forward and the outside in, across both an external and an internal agenda.”

AI: A Catalyst To Neurodiversity

It is widely predicted that many jobs will cease to exist or drastically change due to AI. But, Evans explains, the most interesting and important changes will be in the types of people organisations will need to hire. “AI is a catalyst to embracing neurodiversity, different types of brains and different types of thinking. It is a number of things, including dyspraxia, dyslexia, and autism.” Cultural, racial and gender diversity are already recognised and well-established at many companies, some of which form supportive groups and communities. But neurodiversity has yet to be established as a fully-fledged diversity conversation. Employing a neurologically diverse team, however, with extremes of ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’, will be important, because all the work that falls into the middle category will start to become automated. “Extremes of ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ are going to be the complementary skills sets to a world where AI is doing everything, and is running everything that is easy and repeatable. “Marketing needs to accept and nurture neurodiversity, because marketing teams of the future are going to need it”.

Direct Line has taken steps to ensure this kind of neurodiversity is represented within the wider team. “Awareness and education is the first step, as well as focusing on how we can support people already in the organisation.” AI is therefore an interesting catalyst for change from a human perspective – “the most interesting part of the AI conversation is the bigger onus on divergent thinking that it will result in”.

A Synchronised Team: Getting The Culture Right

The talents of a marketing team are often diverse, and this can pose a challenge. Synchronicity across a diverse team requires three levels: culture, strategic goals, and ways of working. “The culture at Direct Line emphasises the fact that we win and lose together, that we are a community. Encouraging your team to gel is really important, as well as having conscious leadership and being aware of unconscious biases”. Setting out clear strategic goals means alignment towards long-term goals is more easily achieved – “we have set our 2020 goals and that provides clarity.” Having a non-hierarchical way of working, with open plan offices and hot-desking, are all key facilitators that encourage an organic team that is more able to flex towards the goals of the business, Evans says “I wanted to create an environment where everyone could be themselves, and one of our core company values is to bring all of yourself to work”.

Recruitment: Painting The Right Digital Picture

“The process of recruiting now is more diverse and more digital. Another layer to that is that most people want to go to an organisation that they believe is digitally excellent”. Evans therefore recommends that marketing companies invest in their brand as an employer. “At Direct Line, all of our marketing leadership team are encouraged to have a speaker platform, for example… Good candidates have choices, and candidates will be looking and forming a view on how good that marketing employer is – external branding, therefore, is really important”.

An Emphasis On Personal Development

Personal development has been essential in order to nurture strong people in the organisation who can step up to challenges and drive change. “We have done a lot to invest in people’s personal development to help them to be the best version of themselves. We put a lot more time and emphasis on that than the average. Everyone has their own Personal Development Plan, and their own personal training budget. There’s a world of possibility for our employees about what to spend that on, and seeing talent progress as a result is very satisfying.”

For Direct Line, having strong individuals who share a vested interest in their own development is the backbone of team unity and digital transformation. To harness the potential of your team, and strengthen their ability to take on the challenges of digital transformation and AI, the team culture, mind-set and neurodiversity are elements that need to be considered by every marketing department in order to move forward into the future.


Mark Evans, Marketing Director, Direct Line Group, is speaking at The Festival of Marketing, 4-5 October 2017, Tobacco Dock, London: Festival of Marketing 2017