Why ADMA is joining forces with Mark Ritson on a new marketing masterclass

Latest program offering is about helping marketers skill up so they can come out of the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever

Keeping marketing teams engaged during the COVID-19 crisis by upskilling on marketing and brand strategy fundamentals has prompted a new education offering from the Association of Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) and marketing thought leader, Mark Ritson.

The new 12-week ADMA Marketing Masterclass debuts on 20 April and will run into July. Aimed at catching a broad array of Australian marketers, the course costs $445 per person for members (plus GST) or $495 for non-members and encompasses a twice-weekly digital format. This includes a weekly lecture every Monday on applied topics of marketing and branding, supported by various resources, followed by an interactive one-hour Q&A session with Ritson on Thursdays.

Ritson told CMO the course takes its cues from experience with his well-known Mini MBA program for marketers and is pitched with executive-level learning in mind.

“It’s a chance to skill up with education at a price that no would have thought would be available,” he said. “Having previously worked with Andrea [Martens, ADMA CEO] during her time at Unilever and Jurlique, she approached me with idea of doing something for marketers who are finding themselves with more time on their hands as they work from home, who are also feeling disconnected from their networks, to produce a network of marketers that can go through something together.”  

Ritson said he’s devised 10-12 topics to give the program narrative and depth, covering tactical, diagnostic and strategic principles across marketing models.

“We’ll start with the diagnosis elements such as segmentation, through to strategic elements such as targeting, long and short positioning, then the practical stuff of communications, budgeting and so on,” he explained. “In each module, we’ll look at some of the great thinkers each week that articulated the concept of our weekly topic. For example, John C Narver on market orientation. Then we’ll talk about the concept, how it applies to business and the implications to COVID-19 at this point in time, then end with a case study to apply the concept.”  

However, Ritson stressed it’s not a course strictly about coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re not trying to attempt to have all the answers and deal with that. We will address initial issues, but my approach is to take this time as an opportunity to up skillsets. This is so when we get the end of the tunnel, we can bounce back out of it in a more advanced state,” he said. “Questions of COVID-19, recession and so on will no doubt come up, but this is about marketing and brand strategy.”  

Ritson expected three broad groups of prospective students. The first is digital marketers with digital skills but lacking marketing training. He also noted the 50 per cent of Australian marketers with no formal marketing training.

“We’re a unique profession to have half of us with no formal training. In three months, replicate a lot of content in the top business schools. This is about driving confidence and capability so we can all be better at marketing,” he said. “Already, we starting to see marketing heads putting teams on it with them as this is a way of continuing micro cultural connections.”

It’s this team connection that’s also an important outcome of the program for ADMA’s Martens.

“What we are hearing in the industry is uncertainty, the sheer change is phenomenal, and many do not know what to do,” she said. “Just look at some businesses and how they have pivoted: Many have taken years to get ecommerce up and running, for example, but now we’re seeing 50 per cent increases over the last two weeks.

“We are having to embrace technology as we’re not very connected as teams. It’s also about our audiences, because they’re in a very different place.

“Then there’s the importance of human interaction. We can’t get together physically, so we have to find another way to engage with consumers in another way. We have to put ourselves in each other’s shoes.

“Understanding consumers and their fears won’t come from the data. This is where marketers need to shift from marketers to embracing a human approach and really listening to what these customers are saying.”  

Coping with the COVID-19 crisis

Martens advised marketers right now to be looking through what they have out in market at the moment and putting a fresh lens to it in light of the crisis.

“Ask yourself: How is this being received at this point in time? And how can we help them to provide the empathy and assistance our customers need? This crisis has changed how we work, educate and interact with consumers,” she said.

“Marketers have always needed to be agile, but now more than ever, we have to innovate. We are going to need to know how to generate revenue as we are part of the solution to keep the business going. But also growing and prospering when we come out the other side. We need to be prepared for that.”  

To do this, Martens advised looking at big levers like product, distribution, current environment and pricing.

“We can make tactical changes, but until we think through the strategic changes and take that step back, we risk tactics that are either wrong or have no impact,” she continued.  

As an experienced FMCG marketer, Martens has had plenty of experiences making difficult and strategic decisions. But she agreed the current situation is simply unprecedented.

“In FMCG, you run supply chain, P&L, headcount – it’s a very broad marketing role. I had to make difficult decisions on people, supplies, investments. But it's nothing like this current situation – the speed of these changes,” she commented. “We need to be able to rely on experience and gut feel. And we need to collaborate with peers when we get stuck.

“As a leader, I need to keep my team engaged, motivated and connected in an environment where I can’t see beyond tomorrow. All my different roles prepared me for this, but still it’s hard going. The tools, skills I learnt over time are things I go back to – I come back to the strategy of what customers are saying, right now, and how can I read and anticipate their needs. It comes back to the fundamentals, which is what Mark will speak to in the program.”  

Alongside the new Ritson program offering, ADMA has translated all face-to-face courses to virtual programs, and retrained instructors.

Read more of our coverage on coping with COVID-19 disruption:

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