A changing vocational landscape

Vocations, platforms, industries, they all describe groups or classifications. A vocation is a career—a choice of professional occupation. A platform is a base upon which other system frameworks are built and an industry is a categorisation of product producer. A single industry can offer multiple vocations. Let’s look at the Marketing industry. Its primary product is people ready to trade, however it has some secondary products in the form of media assets, however they are primarily produced to aid in producing the primary product.

There are many vocations people make a living at today that never existed as little as a decade ago. One industry that illustrates this quite clearly is the communications industry. This industry provides a platform for the education, training, public relations, marketing, information, entertainment and enlightenment industries. These industries provide a platform for most other industries, as all industry involves trade and commerce to survive and that requires interaction with people who need to be enlightened.

All trade and commerce relies on marketing and sales. Marketing is about finding traders (customers and clients) or convincing them of the need for your product and bringing them to you, while sales is about closing deals and making transactions happen. Marketing supports sales, leaving sales specialists to concentrate on closing deals and not be distracted by finding customers.

The act of marketing is optimised through information and communications. However other specialist skills areas are in play today that include monitoring and analysing results of marketing initiatives and efforts. A simplified view of today’s marketing structures shows how many vocations have evolved due to demand in marketing. Marketing involves locating suitable marketplaces, advertising and promoting a brand or product (a brand can represent many products), monitoring the results of that effort, making adjustments to those strategies—looking for optimisation, and funneling prospects to a sales team.

Advertising is a blatant concentrated form of promotion. Promotion can be through advertising, or a more subtle approach of opportunistic name-dropping in social interactions, or in doing the same through providing community education, how to, explainer or enlightenment services and publications—so popular in today’s social media networks.

People who are interested in these things (that relate to a company product) gather to consume… You have a captured audience of interest—what better opportunity to drop a little promotion. These are the principles behind social media marketing.

Looking closer at the marketing vocation, it can be seen that it is made up of a number of other vocations. It can be divided into business system design and administration, public relations, journalism and media creation, information and communications technology and sales. Vocations include:

  • Communication system designer vocations—looking at communications concepts, technologies (digital design), trends and competitor initiatives.
  • Public relations and business analysis vocations—looking at the message in public responses, new initiatives and methods of monitoring and analysing results.
  • Media purchasers and producer vocations—journalists, writers, graphic artists, fine art producers, photographers, animation artists and producers, video, audio and multimedia producers, printers, electronic and digital media publishers and/or media stock libraries and advertising space publishers and agencies.
  • Information and communications technology vocations—Development and maintenance of technologies deployed in communications. Computers and computer networks, electronic databases, television and radio technology systems, integration and migration of data and media across platforms, platform development—web, email, VOIP, social media and more.

While some of these vocations have been around a long time, some were dying until demand for them increased with today’s marketing technology rollouts. Vocations that die migrate to enthusiast hobby status for most. Take photography for instance, new technologies at affordable prices are giving everybody the potential to produce photographs they deem acceptable for their particular application—at the detriment of the professional vocation. Photographers will need to incorporate graphic art or video production into their skills portfolio for more assurance of remaining in such a vocation in the future.

At the same time this technology boom that is taking away demand that sustains a photography vocation is also prolonging it for a while through demand for composite image creations that are proving effective in audience captivation in digital marketing. This is a skill beyond most snap shooters. It moves into the graphic art vocation. These new technologies have created a demand for digital stock image and media libraries—open to all, as well. Suddenly there is a call for photographs that meet a standard, as stock images for a commercial media provision library—also helping prolong the photography vocation for a while longer. Technology giveth and taketh away…

Graphic arts have expanded into graphic design that includes web design. Not just the aesthetics, but also the functional concepts that optimise the user interface and thus the user experience. Part of their vocation is merging with web development that was traditionally a specialist vocation within the Information and communications technology (ICT) vocation.

The marketing vocation has a sub platform termed the digital marketing platform that has grown so big in the last few years that this sub platform is likely to engage more personnel than any other part of the marketing vocation soon. It brings in ICT vocations, in-house electronic media production and web master vocations that are exclusive to it. Trends indicate a demand and move towards motion graphics, video and audio-visual media formats. This is covered through the video production and multimedia vocations. Currently graphic designers are advocates for the media formats used, but few in that vocation are specialised enough to actually work in all those media forms, so specialists are commissioned or employed.

Vocations at risk if the digital platform no longer held value in marketing would include specialist media production vocations—electronic media; video, audiovisual and animation production. Although traditional marketing would still use these services in production of television advertising campaigns, there would likely be a dramatic cutback. There would likely also be a downturn in demand for graphic designers, photographers, writers, marketing analysts and definitely web developers. Although marketing is not the only application employing these vocations, it is one of the largest. If in many vocations, skills available exceed demand for them, then a scenario like this would only exacerbate this problem. Looking at this from the other end, many of these vocations are only possible due to the demand of marketing applications on the rising digital platform.

Ad blockers posed a threat to commercial investment in advertising on the web and perhaps the whole digital platform, but were not effective in blocking organic promotion within content. However they are also not too effective in paid advertising on social media platforms either. It does raise the question though of what the digital platform community wants. Social users find advertising intrusive, while commercial users fund much of its development through advertising. One solution offered by some social media platforms like YouTube, is to offer two membership streams. Ad free at a subscription cost, or subscription fee free but accepting advertising on the platform.

It is no more likely that the digital platform is a passing fad as television was. Television is still going strong after half a century and it was not until 2016 that revenue spent on digital platform advertising exceeded that of television in the USA. The biggest risk to the continuation of some vocations are new technologies that circumnavigate the need for particular skill sets through technology. The construction of web sites is getting easier and easier through new technologies based on smart software. Existing website frameworks are fleshed out through addition of plugins and theme templates. Future products will make it simple enough for any computer or mobile device user to put one together and acquire a range of media from stock libraries. They will start off simple and grow more complex in their form and function as time goes by. You could speculate a drastic change in the digital and web development vocation (part of the ICT vocation) in the next decade.

Applications development does pose a threat to many specialist skills as it grows in complexity, automating many processes of development… but this is not new. When was the last time you had a technician fix a TV or home sound system. It is now cheaper to buy a new one. Even computers are starting to fall into that category now. Their only saving grace is salvaging data stored on them may still require the specialist skills of a technician.

When choosing a new vocation, consider its current potential and its future potential. Fundamental vocations like management, public relations, sociology and psychology and in fact any vocations in everyday trade and commerce that technology can not replace have a longer future of demand. That does not mean avoid ones that technology will eventually replace, just look at the speculated timeframes, as specialist skills can be very lucrative in the meantime. Just have provision for development into other areas of that vocation within that speculated timeframe.

Part 2 of this article focuses further on the marketing vocation: http://gavinldigital.com/dmt-industry/marketing-vocations/

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