Time To Rethink Our Marketing Qualifications

What I Learnt From Richard Branson: Time to Rethink the Marketing Qualifications.

Our education system is outdated. I spent a year with Freeformers exploring the future of work and how to prepare the workforce for the demands of a digital economy. In short, it’s much more about mindset, skills and behaviours than it is about qualifications.

A lot of the postgrad qualifications don’t help you, a growing number of entrepreneurs and business owners in this digital economy are not traditionally skilled. There are 101 courses out there telling you how to make your first $50million, but still 99.9% of the workforce doesn’t break six figure salaries. Yet, we know grads earn x% more than the rest of the workforce. FACT CHECK: Is this changing?

I first met Richard Branson, not when I worked as CMO at Virgin Wines, but when I was being interviewed for a  marketing exec job in Virgin back in 1996.  I was waiting patiently in a meeting room when he came in and asked me a few questions: “what are you doing here?” and “why do you want the job?”. Not that he was running the interview process, it took five minutes of his time but made a world of difference to how I perceived him and Virgin- and the questions he asked weren’t about my qualifications. When I eventually ended up as CMO at Virgin Wines a few years later, I met a huge number of leaders from his companies who all wanted something more than the norm.

I’ve always admired the fact that some of the most inspirational people I know haven’t followed traditional paths and qualifications.  Sometimes due to dyslexia, which allows you to think in a compelling and unique way- but not in a way that can easily be measured. Other times, the system simply wasn’t right for them.

Don’t get me wrong, technical knowledge is essential, but education should be about preparing us for the future of work.  Just as I remember when I came into my first office and didn’t know how to mark up creative or operate the fax machine.  A number of recent grads or new entrants don’t know how to apply social marketing skills to the real world; no, not Instagram, but the real world.  Not all of us are going to be influencers with our own successful content marketing strategy. We need to know how to apply these skills to real work and real business.  It is the mix that makes it powerful.

That’s why I will look for  a combination of life and work experience over qualifications.  At Freeformers we talked about mindset, skills and behaviours.

7 Hiring Rules That Richard Branson Lives By
  • Personality always wins over book smarts…
  • New hires don’t have to ‘fit in’ right away…
  • Look for experience and transferable skills rather than qualifications…
  • Define your company’s purpose to attract the right people
  • Hire for the skills you lack…
  • Promote from within when you can.


You can read more about it here.