Market Value: Are Hong Kong’s marketing professionals being appropriately compensated?

Hong Kong’s unemployment rate has remained low in recent years, and robust economic conditions are expected to last for the rest of 2019. Yet, some marketing professionals might still be job hunting for the simplest of reasons – to earn more money. But is everyone getting their fair share? Simon Yuen reports.

A low unemployment rate may be worth celebrating for any government, but employers across all industries may not share that same sense of joy, as an increase in salaries or benefits becomes necessary to retain employees.

2018 was an all around great time for marketing professionals. According to recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley, retail, finance, tech, telecommunications, professional services, and FMCG all enjoyed positive growth.

It’s expected there will be more marketing positions opening up in 2019, meaning marketing professionals may get that sudden burst of confidence to ask for a pay rise or start looking for a new position.

It’s common practice for Hong Kong employees to jump between companies solely for a greater income. However, before making any hasty decisions it’s essential to know whether they’re already being paid fairly.

“I don’t think marketing professionals are being paid unfairly,” says Dr Henry Fock, head and associate professor of the department of marketing at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Dr. Henry Fock

Given the nature of this tight-knit industry, Fock believes other employers will find a way to discover who was behind a successful campaign – and they can then prepare a suitable offer for a prospective employee.

“When you do a nice campaign or boost sales of a product significantly, other industry players will be keen to find out the creative force behind it. They can just talk to vendors or business partners, and easily find out who he or she is,” he says.

Fock believes that the huge amount of market insights available, and the industry’s fluidity of exchanging information, are crucial to finding out the best salary of a marketing professional.

Jacqui Barratt, CEO of digital recruitment agency Salt, agrees that salary guides and surveys are important sources of information.

“Good talent have options. They don’t have to stay at a company where they are not being rewarded financially or in other ways such as flexible working (conditions),” she explains.

Although a wealth of information has made salaries transparent and has equipped employees with in-depth knowledge of their salaries, she advises that employees have to be careful when comparing different positions.

Jacqui Barratt

Employees have to consider the scope and duties of a role, size of a business and budgets being managed before accepting a job offer. It isn’t uncommon for Hong Kong companies to placate employees with promotions in name only, but not reflected with any salary increase. This also leads to a person holding a grand title, but without possessing the skills and competencies expected of the position.

Another element where judgments of fairness falter is temporal. Long working hours – often off the clock – can be a problem for marketing professionals. Though they are paid as professionals, marketers sometimes do not enjoy a salary equal to their actual time on the job.

“Marketers are now working long hours. On top of that, they have to devote time to research and learning just to keep pace with the market. If you count all the time and effort they put in, they are actually making the minimum wage!” says Andrea Leung, general manager (leasing marketing and promotions) at Sino Group.

The workload marketers undertake could be a concern for some job seekers. However, when asked whether Hong Kong is an ideal place to pursue a career in the marketing industry, all our respondents unanimously agreed.

As a dynamic and cosmopolitan city, Hong Kong has long been an important base for marketing campaigns, both regionally and internationally. Importantly, its sophisticated consumer base has the literacy to understand brand messages offered by international brands. The city’s proximity to China’s huge market is also an advantage, offering plenty of opportunities for marketers to experiment with still-evolving social classes. They are keen to discover other cultures and enjoy diverse lifestyles, according to Leung.

Andrea Leung

Furthermore, Hong Kong’s marketing industry ecosystem provides a number of permanent roles, meaning employees can grow with a brand and be in it for the long haul.

“Not every position in the job market has the title of ‘marketing professional’, but there are little jobs that do not have a single marketing element by nature,” Fock says.

Rapid growth and change have created a lot of opportunities on the horizon. To meet the needs of the digital sphere, marketers are being advised to learn new skills continuously to stay valuable to employers, namely the ability to use analytical tools and build actionable insights.

“A big issue for lots of organisations is the ability to understand what to do (with data). They may collect a lot of data, but not a lot of people are making sense of it,” Barratt says.

Currently, marketers are highly dependent on technology. Qualified digital marketers, content managers, social media managers, data analytics specialists, eCommerce managers, and SEO or SEM experts are in great demand. However, integrated marketing experience is still crucial to success.

Barratt says there are some marketers who possess good digital skills but lack the understanding of all aspects of marketing.

Innovation and the ability to use technology are crucial to engaging consumers. Other than these qualities, marketers have to nurture traditional values and emotional intelligence which are equally important to drive business.

“Analytical and communication skills are surely important. Then there is empathy – we cannot only focus on pushing our messages. You can only win the hearts of your audiences if you listen to them, and make them feel understood,” Leung says.

Other than these hard and soft skills, the ability to make ethical decisions is something marketers can’t afford to ignore.

“Though ethics and morality have been evolving, we need to exercise our judgment every day to do the business. After making money, we have to ask ourselves: Have we improved society and people’s lives?” Fock concludes.

This article was produced for the June issue of Marketing Magazine. For more features and other magazine-exclusive content from this and upcoming issues, you can subscribe to receive your free monthly print copy here or you can read our digital versions in their entirety here.

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