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Marketing Needs More Polymaths

Many consider journalism the last bastion of the professional polymath, which makes sense considering the nature of the work. Journalists live and die by their ability to facilitate discussion and communicate information en masse, which necessitates general knowledge in as many areas as possible. Journalists and marketers have much in common in this regard, yet the terms polymath and marketer are rarely used in a single sentence.

Perhaps it’s time for this to change.

The Internet has been a major source of functional and tactical disruption in the marketing industry, much the same as in most other industries, including journalism. The Internet poses a different set of challenges, however, for marketers; challenges that the industry is addressing with increasing aptitude through content marketing, social media, omnichannel marketing, and other means. But there’s still room for improvement, particularly when it comes to cultural and technological savvy.

Culture drives the social conversation, and the communities that take part in those conversations. Technology is, of course, the great facilitator. Marketers who are one dimensional  won’t get far in a multi-tiered world dominated by culture, community, and technology. It’s going to take marketers who are jacks-of-all-trades; those who are informed on the myriad topics that their customers care about. Those areas include:


Movies, music, politics, sports. These are perhaps the main drivers of online conversation. No matter the business or verticle, your customers are intimately interested in one, or all of these subjects. In a world where relevance rules, marketers must understand and embrace the cultural forces that move their customers.


Polymaths—especially those in communications fields—are known for their general expertise, but when this jack-of-all-trades is a marketer, she must be a master at understanding the inner workings of the community her business represents and serves. Understanding a community begets understanding of the culture of that community.


There was a time when technology was the sole domain of the curious techie. That time is long past. Consumers follow tech brands, such as Apple and Google, much the same way that they follow a  favorite sports team. From smartphones to 3D printers, marketers cannot afford ignorance in the ever-advancing area of technology.

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