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Aug 26, 2017 Sarah Goodall

5 Digital Lessons Modern Marketers Can Learn From The Octopus

5 Digital Lessons Modern Marketers Can Learn From The Octopus

Modern marketers are multitasking, multi-dimensional masters of marketing (now, there’s a tongue twister!)  They need to understand, coordinate and integrate many elements of digital expertise and lead it as if they were a conductor of an orchestra.

Modern marketing is all about understanding how digital affects your buyers and how it impacts their decision-making process from research to purchase to advocacy.  It’s about shifting the balance of marketing from push to pull.  It’s about carefully selecting and managing the right mix of tools and resources to best serve digital transformation.

I recently read an eConsultancy report, Skills of a Modern Marketer, listing the key soft skills that modern marketing leaders looked for in new recruits.  At the same time, I was reviewing the submission list so far for the OctoLeaders award that my good friend Cheryl Burgess and I are compiling.

OctoLeaders are people driving social business change within their organisation in either Social Selling, Employee Advocacy or Social Recruitment and are called so because they’re smart, dynamic, and adaptive—just like the octopus.

Know an OctoLeader?  Nominate them here.

That’s when I noticed the link.  Modern marketers make great OctoLeaders.  They need to be fast, adaptable, flexible, resourceful and be analytical – again, just like the octopus.

Let’s take a look…

Modern Marketers Are Fast

Did you know that octopus can reach speeds as high as 40 km/h (25 mph)?  Whilst they can’t maintain this speed, they are one the fastest marine invertebrates.  They literally draw water into a cavity in its body and then squirts it out via a muscular tube called a siphon, propelling itself at incredible speed.

63% of marketing leaders are looking for skills that can spot opportunities and adapt quickly.  (eConsultancy)

The digital environment moves quickly.  Brand challengers emerge quickly.  Customers can switch preferences at the click of a button.

The modern marketer needs speed and agility, just like the octopus.  Observing market trends, listening to customer needs and keeping an eye on competition are just some of the ways to do this.

But spotting the opportunity and threat isn’t enough.  The ability to make calculated decisions quickly is the key skill here.  Knowing how to react and respond is critical.

Modern Marketers Are Adaptable

Most octopuses have a unique skill – camouflage.  They like to blend into their surroundings to either avoid predators or to sneak up on their prey.  Their adaptability is incredible.  The Indonesian octopus can even change its shape to mimic other creatures!


75% of marketing leaders stated that they need marketing talent that has the ability to embrace change.  (eConsultancy)

Nothing stands still in digital.  Modern marketers need to be forever adapting and it starts with the customer.  Creating community is by far the best way marketers can involve their biggest fans into the product development and innovation process.

You could argue that as technologies change (social media, virtual teams, apps etc) consumers are even demanding more dialogue with brands.  They want an omnichannel experience with brands.  To engage with brands through the channel that best suits them whether it’s the phone, chat, email or social media.

Modern Marketers Are Flexible

There is no doubt that the modern marketer needs to move like an octopus when it comes to flexibility.  An octopus has nine brains with each brain controlling different parts of its body, giving it great physical flexibility.

38% of marketing leaders need lateral thinking and are looking for people to make connections between disparate ideas.  (eConsultancy)

Whilst the modern marketer doesn’t have the luxury of nine brains, they do have the ability to shift their thinking with the one they have.

Compartmentalising marketing into areas of responsibility e.g. SEO, web, campaigns, events etc, will only serve compartmentalised thinking. Modern marketing is about understanding how these areas impact and serve to support each other.

Marketing leaders can encourage lateral thinking through job shadowing and even job swapping.  It wasn’t until I covered my manager's job for 3 months that I really had an appreciation of the wider digital impact his team had on my social business role.

5 Digital Lessons Modern Marketers Can Learn From The Octopus.

Modern Marketers Predict The Future

Remember Paul the Octopus?  The psychic octopus that accurately predicted the 2010 World Cup results and brought him world wide fame?  Now, it isn’t a natural trait for octopuses to predict the future but marketers need to learn how…fast.


51% of marketing leaders are looking for people that are comfortable with managing and analysing data.  (eConsultancy)

A modern marketer is a data-driven marketer.  Someone who is comfortable with numbers, can read the story in the data and use predictive analytics to pre-empt the buyer's next digital move.  Automated marketing will automatically adapt content and tactics to suit the buyer's needs but it takes skill to understand how this works.  Digital buyers will carve their own unique path so staying ahead of trends, listening on social and pre-empting the next move is key to staying competitive.

Automated marketing will automatically adapt content and tactics to suit the buyer's needs but it takes skill to understand how this works.  Digital buyers will carve their own unique path so staying ahead of trends, listening on social and pre-empting the next move is key to staying competitive.

Modern Marketers Use Tools

As it happens, the octopus is pretty a resourceful mollusc.  Some have the foresight to carry along coconut shells to use as protective shelters when exploring areas without any place to hide.  Incredible footage from New Scientist shows how octopuses seem to propel sand and shells at each other when fighting.  They appear to recognise and use tools.


37% of marketing leaders will be looking for specific technology skills in the coming years.  (eConsultancy)

The marketing technology stack is growing by the day.  The number of tools that are available to manage the multitude of tasks required by marketing is immense.  From awareness right through to advocacy, modern marketers will need to make technology choices.

However, technology will not manage itself and it's only as good as the data that goes in.  The resourceful marketing leader will look for skills.  Skills to optimise the technology and skills to understand the holistic picture, ensuring the tools integrate and provide value across the entire business.

My conclusion is that the modern marketer isn’t that much different from the amazingly talented octopus.  They're flexible, adaptable, resourceful, fast and (in some cases) can predict the future.

We’re looking for OctoLeaders.  Practitioners within a business that are leading the charge when it comes to social business transformation.  Leaders of social selling, employee advocacy or social media marketing.   Know an OctoLeader?  Learn more and nominate them here.

The top 100 list will be finalised and announced in September 2017

Other incredible octopus facts, in case you're interested:

  • There are around 300 recognised octopus species
  • They can live between 3-5 years
  • They have four pairs of arms
  • They have 3 hearts
  • They have 9 brains
  • They have blue blood…seriously!
  • An octopus can lose an arm to escape a predator’s grasp and re-grow it later. Handy!

About Tribal Impact

Tribal Impact is a B2B Social Selling and Employee Branding Agency.

We're a team of social media strategists, trainers, coaches, content creators and data analysts who are passionate about helping our B2B customers develop and scale their social selling and employee advocacy programs.

Learn more about us here.

Published by Sarah Goodall August 26, 2017
Sarah Goodall