That’s “pi” as in the capital Greek letter pi that looks like this: Π.
It’s a riff on the label “T-shaped people” that has been popularized in digital marketing over the past few years. T-shaped people have a specific expertise where they go really deep (e.g., graphic design, software development, data analytics, etc.), but they also have broad interest and sufficiently useful surface-level skills across many other adjacent disciplines. Many marketing technologists have had this profile: expertise in technology and engineering, but interest and skills across more traditional marketing capabilities.
According to Friedlein, pi-shaped people are “marketers with a broad base of knowledge in all areas, but capabilities in both ‘left brains’ and ‘right brain’ disciplines. They are both analytical and data-driven, yet understand brands, storytelling, and experiential marketing.”
(Emphasis added is my own.)
This comment was made in the context of Friedlein giving broader insight in response to the question: How do you create a marketing function fit for the future? He talks about how brands advance along a digital marketing maturity model by integrating digital into the primary organization, not sequestering it in a separate silo. “Integrating digital into the organization properly reaches nirvana only when there is no left in the organization with ‘digital’, ‘e’, ‘online’, ‘internet’, ‘new media’, or ‘interactive’ in their job title,” he writes.
It’s at that point that he makes the case for pi-shaped people as the leaders in this new generation of integrated marketing.
“Of course, it is asking a lot for someone to be talented at everything creative and analytical,” he admits, “But these people do exist and represent the future of truly integrated marketing. Witness the growth of job titles such as ‘creative technologist’ or ‘chief marketing technologist‘. You want people who focus on the customer, understand data, like change, are curious and passionate.”
He also notes that marketing processes are changing, embracing an agile marketing approach. “There’s a move towards more agile ways of working, which should affect marketing as much as project management or IT. We have to move from highly linear, highly specified, rigid ways to more fluid, reactive, dynamic approaches.”
Do take a moment to look at the full article — it’s a great read.