The Search for The Painted Ponies (and why it’s ok to be a horse, or a donkey!)

The Search for The Painted Ponies (and why it’s ok to be a horse, or a donkey!)

After 10 years of living and working in London, two maternity leaves, a year of COVID isolation and a post redundancy gap year in Croatia, I found myself repatriating with my family back to Australia in 2021. Hanging up my hat as an expat, I settled into my new life in Newcastle, NSW and began the daily job hunting scroll.

Sifting through job ads on a number of channels, a distinct trend began to emerge. Multiple listings appeared to be looking for a “marketing unicorn” under the guise of a title such as “Marketing Manager”, “Brand Manager” or “Marketing Coordinator”. Job ads listed that applicants must be proficient in Copywriting (tick), Graphic design (tick), Social Media (tick), SEO (err…) Google Ads, (umm…), Website development (oh come on!) AND MORE!

In a post pandemic world, where businesses were thrust into prioritising digital marketing, employers seemed to be looking for someone who could do it all, at an expert level which as any of us in the know are aware, is simply not possible.

A little perturbed, I began applying for roles, speaking to my experience, acknowledging my gaps and stating my willingness to upskill and learn on the job.  It was the best tactic in my mind to showcase what I could do, but also “keep it real”. Still the general feedback was “we really need someone to handle it all”. 

Handle it ALL? Were they SERIOUS? Did they really think it was possible to find an experienced marketer that was an expert in Strategy, Ads, proficient in SEO and could flex it all creatively in Canva before 11am? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This just wasn’t something that employers in the UK would dare to ask for.

Then I had interviews that asked me while I was applying for one role i.e. Marketing Management, if I could also dust off my crayons and Art Direct on the side? A graphic designer friend of mine was also asked to write all the content for the company she worked for, because she was “so articulate”. 

Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with working for a smaller company who may require you to do things outside of your job description from time to time, and perhaps be somewhat multi-skilled, or a marketing generalist who has a keen interest and understanding of it all, but what I am saying is that it appears that many employers in Australia are under-estimating just how much there is to know about marketing and how deep the disciplines go. I began to wonder, could it be that those also being interviewed for these same roles and actually landing them had a unicorn sized ego, or as legend has it, the bigger the unicorn the bigger the horn??

For someone like myself, skilled in big picture thinking, creative content ideas and team management, I was left feeling a far cry from a marketing unicorn, perhaps rather a three-trick-pony or a hard-working-donkey at best.

I found my stable

Thankfully, in April of 2022, The Creative Collective, a progressive female led and proudly regional marketing agency that looks at the changing landscape of digital marketing through a different lens employed me to manage their team of Account Managers. Each Account Manager at the company had been chosen to head up a specific service area pod, based on their specific marketing experience and skills, thus allowing them to bury themselves in the depth of their area of expertise, whilst dovetailing into each other to collaborate where required, and deliver exceptional marketing services for their clients.

No marketing unicorns to be seen, just highly skilled hard-working horses strong in their individual arenas. Each with a keen willingness to continually learn and develop their trade.

It reminded me of a line in the children’s book The Painted Ponies by Alison Lester. “The gold palomino, the chestnut, the bay, the pinto, the brown and the dapple gray, each brilliant and beautiful in their own unique way.” A veritable marketing team of brumbie ponies that perform together as a group to produce a unique show.

With many of their clients hit by the “Big Quit” also known as “The Great Resignation” towards the end of 2021, The Creative Collective had started thinking about how they could best meet the market, and as they have since their humble beginnings in 2007, began to look at things a little differently. 

Knowing they truly did have legitimate marketing experts going deep in specific disciplines, who were working alongside generalists who could coordinate on a clients needs, we began to take the offering to market, offering clients the option to outsource their entire marketing scope and save a heap on wages, or simply join their marketing clients’ “horses” with our own, thus reigning together a fleet of horses who could run faster and further than a slow old donkey.

The proposition makes a lot of sense. We all know that onboarding a new employee and upskilling in the case of knowledge gaps can take upwards of six months (and may never produce results), whereas working cohesively with an external marketing team who already have the know how as an extension of your own, can take as little as two to four weeks to activate. Not to mention the tail end of that. If an employee isn’t performing well, performance managing them out can take months and your business can suffer through the duration; but with an agency who is accountable for their deliverables inline with a predefined scope and budget, ending a relationship that’s not working is relatively easy, and thus poses less risk to the organisation. 

Meet our Painted Ponies

The Creative Collective are already working with clients in this manner, under what we call a “Partner Solutions” arrangement. Each partner solutions client has a different solution nutted out as part of an initial strategy at the beginning, playing to the strengths of their internal team (if any), and leaning on the agency to deliver in the areas where they need them now, and with the added flexibility to pivot where required as time goes on.  Asking us to deliver more on one service, let’s say SEO in one month, followed by a focus on producing some marketing collateral the next, is a lot easier and more cost effective than asking several individuals in your organisation to pivot if they don’t have the skills in the first place.

We are continuing to talk to more and more clients about this new and flexible way of working with us as an agency, by exploring the marketing gaps a client may have, and then working seamlessly for a common outcome with regular check points and reporting.

The best thing about an arrangement like this is the teams on both sides (client side and agency side) are both driven, successful and valued. Unified in purpose and objective. Changing the narrative from the need to find and hire a marketing unicorn, to instead join our herd of wild and wonderful brumbies with yours and go on a journey together with some added horsepower. 

A different point of view maybe, but no mythical beasts to be tracked down. Just hard working horses, all experts in their service area, ready to trot, canter or run by your side. 

It might not be the stuff of fairytales, but I am sure there will still be great results, which is the true glitter and magic.

Get in touch today to hear more about partnerships with The Creative Collective.

*No unicorns were harmed in the writing of this post

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