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Tara O'Sullivan


Chief Creative Officer

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Micro-learning and the maturity of marketers


“The use of mass psychoanalysis to guide campaigns of persuasion has become the basis of a multimillion-dollar industry. Professional persuaders have seized upon it in their groping for more effective ways to sell us their wares -- whether products, ideas, attitudes, candidates, goals, or states of mind.” [Source]

That was one of the first things I ever read about marketing. I was 12 and found it in one of my Dads’ books, ‘The Hidden Persuaders’, written by Vance Packard about the secret dark arts that advertisers used to influence consumers. I was hooked and it started off my lifelong obsession with marketing and how to engage people. It was then that I knew what I wanted to learn to be in life.

I started to read everything that I could around marketing. I’m the same now. I remember the first few TED Talks when they started; real specific, gritty first hand experiences, like the Brené Brown ones where she lays herself bare, talking about the importance and joy of failure.

Without failure, there is no innovation. Now, every weekend, I watch 4-5 TED Talks when I’m doing the ironing. You have to look for every opportunity to learn from others, to find out more, to challenge what you think, to always be learning.

This is one of the most important things I understood early on in my career – the importance of always learning, otherwise you are going to get left behind.

Especially with marketing as it’s always changing. I always take responsibility for learning at work. When I first started working in Ireland we had instructor led training, but it was not ongoing and was not enough for me. So, I did a part time masters on international marketing.

This helped me get a better idea about the theory of marketing (there isn’t one, there are lots) and where the professional was going. I talk to a lot of people about the need to keep ahead of new marketing, especially the likes of digital and social. The issue is that if you do a course on this, it’s probably out of date by the time you get your diploma in your hand.

Daily and micro-learning

As Skillsoft, we talk about daily learning, micro-learning that happens when and where the learner needs it, and that’s what I do personally. So that means that I am always learning.

As well as always learning and teaching myself, I encourage others to recognize the importance of it. Very early on in my career, I would always share a lot of articles with the marketing team, some useless, some useful…but the idea was just to get people to think, to question what they thought. I would get people asking me where I got my ideas from, so it was almost like I was mentoring them to embrace as many of these different ideas as possible.

You see, that’s the thing about marketing, everyone has an opinion!

Marketers need to continuously learn and adapt.

A lot of marketers are not being taught the right skills by third level organizations or their organizations. Marketing has a bad reputation still as some sort of trickery. I watched an interview with Tom Ford, who I adore, he epitomizes branding – he controls all aspects of his brand from the light wattage in his stores to the design of the zips on his bags.

In this interview, he said would bin any CV with marketing on!

Coming from someone who personifies marketing, but the only way this is going to change is if marketers learn the right skills to make an impact across their organisations, and then be able to help teach others the importance of this. You can see that people are learning this though. I’m seeing more and more CMOs get a seat at the table and really teach others about the importance of brand reputation, internal marketing etc.

I mean, look at Uber and United, there’s no way that they would have made so many mistakes if they had marketing and brand reputation as a central part of their company. 

It’s not just the why you should learn, but the how that has inspired my own behavior. From reading physical books to watching TED Talks, you need to find the best way to make the information stick. One really exciting psychological method that we have been implementing at Skillsoft is micro-learning every day.

This is the idea that you break down learning into to as many nano pieces as you can throughout the day using technology to help aid retention.

I adore technology. I think it’s helped people learn so much more, and it will only get more effective as we learn more about how the human mind works.

The most important thing though is always the passion behind learning, and I’m happy that I have the same enthusiasm now as when I first opened that book at 12.

2 Responses

  1. It seems that marketing is
    It seems that marketing is more than just putting up advertising signs for the public to see. There are many different approaches which we can utilize according to the level of marketing we wish to apply. I guess it takes a certain level of expertise to fully comprehend what marketing is truly about and how do we go about taking advantage of it to sell our business. It could seem complex at the initial stage and daunting but eventually it would be fun to play with the different techniques available.

Author Profile Picture
Tara O'Sullivan

Chief Creative Officer

Read more from Tara O'Sullivan

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