Why marketers need greater neurodiversity

by Mark Evans, Marketing Director, Direct Line Group

Despite contributing over £120bn to the UK economy, marketing is one of the most misunderstood industries amongst young people. As a result fewer people are considering becoming a marketer than ever before. According to research by Unidays, just 3% of students aged 18 to 24 believe marketing is a good career option, and only 2% believe it is the best career for long-term success. Marketing clearly needs to get better at marketing itself! 

I may be a bit biased, but I believe marketing is one of the most exciting industries to work in – it never stops evolving as consumer needs and the media landscape continue to change. However, in order to continue to make a difference to consumers’ lives, we need to attract more young people into the industry, and from more diverse backgrounds, than we do today, including those who may not have ever considered marketing as a career. 

To attract this talent, we need to tackle the stereotypes of marketing. The School of Marketing seeks to address the industry’s image problem and give the marketing stars of tomorrow the head-start they need. It offers pupils a practical route to gain a foundation qualification in marketing. An interactive course, the School of Marketing’s Foundation offers a route to a qualification that has been designed to be accessible to all. Alongside the course, pupils can access some of the industry’s most successful marketers to get advice and support as well as potential placements. neurodiversity.png

As one specific component of the talent imperative, I believe we need to invest more in attracting people with neurodivergent conditions, such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia. Such conditions have typically been perceived to be a disadvantage, but in fact in marketing they can be a real 'superpower', delivering fresh thinking and creativity – innovation from the edges.  

Many breakthrough innovations have come from people who are neurodiverse; Albert Einstein, and Andy Warhol had autism, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Muhammed Ali had dyslexia, to name a few. Within Direct Line Group’s marketing team, we’ve been focusing on how to better harness the talent of those with neurodiversity, consistent with one of our values to “Bring All of Yourself to Work”.

There are great examples in our business particularly in the analytical space. We have started to recruit via Auticon (who only help people with autism into employment) for particularly challenging technical roles. Bearing in mind that only 16% of people in the UK with autism are employed there is a huge pool of untapped talent. In one example someone completely rebuilt the approach to data processing for one of our products. Prior to this a team had been working on an equivalent project for over 6 months whilst this person completed a first draft of the build in less than two months.

With such a clear value for having a more diverse mix of talent within the business, it’s imperative that as an industry we do more to make it easy for the talent to get a foot in the door and hopefully the School of Marketing can contribute directly to this.  As the need to innovate becomes more critical, it is vital those who think differently understand the marketing industry wants them on board. Collectively we need to hire and nurture the best minds and watch them use their superpowers to do exceptional things.

For more on careers in marketing, see directlinegroupcareers.com

January 14, 2019

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