Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

Soft skills you should look for in marketing executives in 2021


Numbers play an important role when hiring a new marketing executive. After all, you need objective proof of a candidate’s performance before entrusting them to make strategic decisions for your brand’s image. However, there’s more to finding the perfect marketing executive than just looking at numbers. When you have to choose between several candidates who have similar achievements, soft skills can make the difference, and, now more than ever, in the post-pandemic landscape, neglecting them can lead to disastrous results.

According to a study conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center, a whopping 85% of job performance comes from having soft skills, and only 15% from technical skills. We’ve known for over a hundred years that qualities such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and communication are essential for succeeding in a key role, and yet, if we look at the statistics, there is a major disconnect between the resources that go into hard skills and soft skills training.

Marketing is one of those fields where the wrong person for the job can ruin the company’s image and, especially in the past year, we’ve seen many negative examples of what can happen when the people at the helm of marketing don’t have the right soft skills to handle a crisis. At the same time, we’ve also seen brands that managed to thrive precisely because marketing executives knew how to touch on audience pain points in a humane and considerate way.

So, what are the soft skills you should look for in a top-class marketing executive?


An exceptional executive plays a critical role in brand success. When the rest of the world is overtaken by panic and raises the white flag, an exceptional marketing executive can adapt quickly and find new opportunities for growth. In post-COVID marketing, it’s essential to hire an executive who can work well under pressure and isn’t afraid to handle the unknown. Now is not the time to leave the marketing department in charge of someone who prefers sitting in their comfort zone and loves routine. Now is the time to look for an executive who can quickly assess the impact of new challenges and apply crisis management, whether that’s from home or from the office. Even as events are being canceled, clients are cutting their budgets, and the very foundation of marketing is being shaken up, a great executive is able to adapt, sense new opportunities, and motivate the rest of the team.

Emotional intelligence

The pandemic has changed consumer behavior, and some say that these changes will last for a longer time than we initially expected. In this new context, your clients may have different priorities and concerns. They may worry about money, they may feel anxious, or they may need reassurance that they can still count on you for support. To address these concerns, you need an emphatic marketing leader, who knows how to listen to people, anticipate their fears, reassure them, and create marketing messages that are grounded in the new reality. Unfortunately, there are too many examples of successful brands that addressed the pandemic in the worst way possible, with tone-deaf ads that made them look like greedy, out-of-touch corporations. Or, they tried to come across as empathic, but they did it with cliché phrases, like “people are struggling”, “navigate the new normal” and other out-of-touch messages that don’t really add any value.

Nowadays, clients want brands to be human, and they seek support above all else – and that’s something that a world-class marketing executive can accurately convey.


Communication is essential on two marketing fronts. Firstly, the marketing executive should be able to communicate well with the rest of the team, let them know what’s changed after the pandemic, how they can be better, and what is expected from them. One might argue that these communication skills also mattered before, but now there’s the added challenge of remote work. Most companies still have their marketing departments working from home and may switch to remote work indefinitely, so the marketing executive should be able to apply the same skills when interactions take place via a computer screen.

Secondly, a marketing leader should know how to communicate with the audience. As clients grow anxious and uncertain, their tolerance for long waiting times, vague and aloof responses may be lower, so you need someone with exceptional people skills.


From crunched budgets to canceled events, 2020 has been one big collection of problems, and 2021 won’t magically fix them. Plans have gone haywire, clients have stopped responding, and we’re all being thrown in this huge unknown. Not everyone can survive when this is the state of the industry, and it takes a truly gifted marketing executive to tackle challenges calmly. When conducting interviews for this position, ask the candidates for specific examples of problems they’ve faced at previous jobs and what they did to solve them. This is an excellent indicator of their problem-solving skills and will give you an idea of how equipped they are to handle critical situations.

Thinking outside the box

Some market conditions called for tried and tested strategies and for traditional approaches. However, these are not standard marketing conditions. The pandemic is not only a test of resilience for brands, but also a test of creativity. These times will make the difference between the brands that crack under pressure and let themselves be overrun by challenges and the ones that can adapt and think of creative solutions. For example, if you have a travel agency, you might think that investing in marketing is useless, but a great marketing executive will know how to create meaningful content that keeps audiences engaged even though there are no travel packages to sell. Of course, no one has been through a pandemic like COVID-19 before, so it’s not like you can check this on their CVs, but, during the recruitment process, you can ask candidates about the more out of the ordinary projects they’ve been a part of to see if they can look at things from a fresh perspective.