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Which Downton Abbey Characters Would Survive as Modern B2B Marketers?

Amidst the revolution in the modern B2B marketing world, many executives and their marketing world view remain stuck in the past, while others are evolving and thriving. Here's how you can reign supreme.

Downton Abbey Marketers 

In the British period drama television series Downton Abbey, one of the most widely watched television shows in the world, a dominant plot themes is the contrast and friction between the old order and the new.

The friction is largely the result of societal changes stemming from World War and new technology.

In the drama, some characters are firmly entrenched in the aristocratic lifestyle at Downton Abbey, and what it once represented, and are loathe to change. The best example is Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham who presides over the estate. He is fond of pointing to tradition as a justification for not changing.

Conversely, the new world order is best exemplified by Matthew Crawley, Downton Abbey's accidental heir apparent. Plucked from a middle class life as an attorney, and having survived combat in the trenches of the Great War, Matthew has little emotional connection to Downton Abbey's rarefied past. More importantly, Matthew is not impressed by the estate's antiquated business practices.

Watching Downton Abbey, one might be reminded of the current transformation of B2B marketing.

Just as at Downton Abbey, many B2B executives are both tethered to the old way of doing things, yet aware that change is a painful but necessary requirement for survival. For executives who have been immersed in traditional, somewhat static marketing tactics for most of their careers, they can feel lost and frightened like Lord Grantham.

Many marketing executives are having difficulty evolving their skills to remain relevant.

In Marketing Execs Falling Behind the Digital Learning Curve, Mark W. Schaeffer describes the problem:

Many of today’s marketing executives grew up in a less-complicated and relatively mature world of TV and print advertising. Not only are they not digital experts, they may not even know enough to ask the right questions that will lead to a successful strategy.

CMO Brian Kardon described his fear of extinction, a common dilemma for marketing executives, as well has how he evolved and came out stronger for it in a post for the Content Marketing Institute:

...just a few years ago, I was well on my way to becoming obsolete. You see, nearly everything I learned, did, and experienced as a marketer was wrong. I was analog in a digital world. I tended to be more creative than analytical. Content marketing was barely on my radar screen, let alone content marketing best practices. 

Perhaps I had become what Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s CEO, calls a “press release CMO” — pedigreed, gray haired, and no longer relevant in a marketing world turned upside down. I really didn’t understand SEO, linking strategies, web analytics, or blogging. My marketing team was beginning to speak a language I didn’t understand. I could feel myself becoming less relevant, being lapped by younger digital natives.

For those B2B marketers who want to adapt their marketing skills and remain relevant, there is only one requirement: the will to evolve. Or as Charles Darwin proclaimed:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Armed the motivation and will to change, there are lots of resources available for B2B marketing executives who want to better adapt to the new world. Here are a few free resources to get you started:

And in addition to reading Michael Brenner's B2B Marketing Insider, follow the blogs he includes in 20 B2B Marketing Blogs You Need To Read.

What do you think? Which Downton Abbey characters showed the most promise for evolving in a changing world? Please share your comments below.

Douglas Burdett
Douglas Burdett
The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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