The rise of the Innovation Manager in marketing

The rise of the Innovation Manager in marketing

The needs of business are constantly changing and the marketing job market reflects this. As a result, there are some strange and, frankly, bizarre job titles out there.

One of the most baffling is: Innovation Manager. Yet UK recruiters say it is also one of the biggest career development opportunities for marketers – maybe even the biggest. Business is crying out for ‘Innovation Managers’ and variations on this theme. So now you are asking what exactly an Innovation Manager does.

In the first of a series of articles, Just.Marketing is looking at some of the new job titles in marketing that are shaping the future of the marketing function, examining what they involve, which sectors are recruiting them and offering advice on how to get them.

Here, in describing the ‘Innovation Manager’ role, marketing recruitment specialist Karl Ramsaran, Team Manager, Interim Marketing at VMAGROUP, explains that in his opinion, it could well be “the next big thing in marketing”.

What are an Innovation Manager's typical responsibilities?

“Development of new products, services or processes. Although organisations don’t always use the term ‘Innovation Manager’, innovation management is a combination of processes and change management and so this is what it entails. Organisations often create the position and a team to respond to internal and external opportunities and create new ideas to introduce a new product or work stream.

“In my opinion, innovation management is the next big thing in marketing, just as digital once was. It’s potentially a real growth area.”

What is the salary range?

“On average, £46,125 a year in the UK based on 347 salaries submitted anonymously to Indeed over the last 36 weeks. In London, the average is £51,000 a year. Typical tenure is around one year.”

Is it usually considered a senior, mid-level or fairly junior role?

“This depends on the sector, salary and seniority the organisation attributes to it. But as a role, it’s finding its feet. It typically takes around 18-24 months to deliver an impact in the role.”

Karl Ramsaran

In which function does it usually sit and to whom would an Innovation Manager report?

“In the marketing context, Innovation Managers can report to the CEO in some businesses, or the Head of Marketing, Head of Digital, Chief Technology Officer, or Head of Product Development.”

What hard skills do you need? What about soft skills?

“The best candidates are those who are business case-oriented, so they are able to work to a brief list of assumptions to build the basis of a business case. They are also project-oriented with project management skills that involve being able to follow multiple objectives; they are able to manage failure and expectations; willing to change, curious, willing to enter new domains, are optimistic – they see obstacles as just triggers for change.

“As people, they are fast and furious, so they are focused on finding short cuts to doing things better; they believe the best things happen when things collide. They are also able to manage internal politics and inspire others with a clear vision; they would ideally have a mixed background in multiple industries.

“The absolutely key hard skill they must have is the ability to understand the end-user or customer.”

Which sectors usually hire for this role?

“Typical sectors looking for innovation managers include: FMCG, telecoms, banking, health, automotive, energy, restaurant franchises, pharmaceuticals and regulatory bodies.”

Is demand stronger than supply at present or vice versa? Why is this?

“Demand is stronger than supply because many organisations are keen to grow this function out. More and more candidates need to be aware of these roles and should upskill themselves to transfer into this type of opportunity. It’s certainly a career path worth pursuing. It’s a combination of several different roles amalgamated into one and as a lot of organisations are still finding their feet they are willing to hire people who have most of the skills; a symptom of supply being weaker than demand at present.”

What types of role do people usually have before they become Innovation Managers?

“Usually people from product management, marketing, customer-centric positions, R&D, business management, digital or creative roles move into innovation management. Candidates benefit from experience in brand management, including strategy, as well as brand building, new product development and commercial marketing.”

What advice would you give to prospective candidates before applying?

“You need to be a strong strategic thinker with strong analytical and communication skills. Excellent presentation skills, as well as being persuasive, able to lead and influence results are important. A strong aesthetic sense is valuable, as well as being able to energise small and sometimes large teams while developing and executing multiple products, often in a fast-paced environment.”

If you were interviewing someone for the post, what would be one of your key questions?

“When have you taken a new or innovative approach to achieve a desired outcome? Please describe the situation, your approach, and whether it was effective. As a candidate, being able to answer that well is a good platform for what the role means to an interviewer.”