After poring through our data, here’s what we discovered.
Yes, there is a skills gap. The results from our DM1 data set support the notion of a wide-ranging skills gap between corporate marketers and digital natives. Digital-native marketers outscored corporate marketers on average by 73%.
The skills gap is driven by missing data skills. Across the three types of problem-solving skills assessed in DM1, corporate marketers lagged behind the most in solving calculation problems. In this problem type, digital-native marketers scored 109% better than their corporate counterparts. The most common errors made involved using the wrong steps of marketing funnels to determine conversion rates, suggesting a poor understanding of discrete steps. Elementary math mistakes were also common. For example, we would accept both 1% or 0.01 as the correct answer, but not 0.01%.
The skills gap is also driven by unfamiliarity with technical topics across channels. Corporate marketers scored well on questions that share an offline analogue, such as the process of setting up a campaign, or relate to their own digital experiences within a channel. However, there was a huge drop-off once questions went beyond the high-level concepts and dived into the technical requirements necessary for success. For example, the social media section had one of the lowest average scores, in part because marketers were unaware of the difference between paid and nonpaid social media tactics. Conversely, they were really good at matching audience segments with the best social network for that target, likely because of their own experiences as social media users. Other technical topics that proved difficult included programmatic advertising, A/B testing, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Top digital marketing talent can lie outside of the marketing function. The top 5% of performers on DM1 didn’t just come from marketing — they represented functions including sales, human resources, and information systems. This doesn’t mean traditional experience in marketing isn’t important — marketers still perform higher on average. But it does mean that you don’t necessarily need marketing experience to have some of the core skills needed in digital marketing. This in turn means organizations can’t rely on past marketing experience alone to infer digital marketing skill sets, and can be creative about talent management to highlight alternate pathways to digital marketing roles.
Seniority doesn’t predict skills below VP level. Individual contributors, managers, and directors had similar DM1 score distributions. At these three levels of seniority, there is no evidence to support the notion that more junior marketers are better versed in digital, or that deep marketing experience translates directly to digital marketing. This means that in general, recruiters can’t use marketing experience as a proxy for digital marketing skills. The exception to this is VPs and C-level executives, who scored higher on average, providing evidence that senior leaders either have more of the underlying skills needed or are learning the new skills at a faster rate.
Women outnumber men in marketing. Among DM1 test-takers, the majority were women. This was driven by the strong representation of travel, beauty, and retail industries in our sample, which saw higher prominence of women by 275%, 232%, and 100%, respectively. The pharmaceutical, technology, and industrial sectors saw higher prominence of men by 103%, 43%, and 3%, respectively.