Darian Kovacs

The Sweet Future of Digital Marketing: Jelly Marketing Founder Darian Kovacs Dishes on the Industry

The future of digital marketing is “sweet” and Jelly Marketing founder Darian Kovacs would know. He started in Child and Youth Care and art education but ended up discovering publishing, event production, digital marketing and PR. He now heads up his own digital marketing, working with 60-70 Canadian brands on their PR and advertising, alongside nearly two dozen staff.

Spruce Grove, Alberta is where he was born and spent the first seven years with his parents and two older brothers. His father came over from Hungary as a refugee in 1956 and his mom is a Métis woman from the St. Boniface area of Manitoba. His family moved to the lower mainland of British Columbia where he went to school and university.

When Kovacs first started his post-secondary journey, the online world was just heating up and it fascinated him after growing up with dialup internet. As he discovered the opportunities and excitement of producing events for youth, he learned a lot about marketing and applied those lessons in the book publishing and general event marketing industries and eventually into the ever-growing online space.

The way marketing moved from a one-way broadcast communication tool to a social experience excited him. In a noisy world of new media advertising, he learned it takes a lot to stand out - something his team tries hard to do for their clients. On a typical workday, Kovacs finds himself in the position of vetting prospective partners coming into the agency to see if there’s a fit, if they need the services, or if they can be trained to do the work themselves through his Jelly Academy. He still gets to jump in and play in the marketing pool but he has a strong team thriving in roles he never imagined would exist when he first got his start.

Recently, Jelly Academy’s program was accepted as a grade 11/12 four-credit course so high school students can work their way towards graduation and a digital marketing career at the same time. It’s a career he considers “one of the coolest jobs ever”, because it can be done from anywhere, it allows Indigenous youth to use the superpower of storytelling that they grew up with and the need for these roles is growing all the time. Recently, he saw there were 73,000 digital marketing jobs posted in Canada alone. He sees it as a job opportunity that takes a human touch that robots can’t do. “I think it's a job that is gonna be here for the long run, and it's not slowing down,” he beams.

Illustration by Shaikara David

His advice for those looking to move into the field is to look at what industry is asking for: industry recognized certifications, with Facebook Blueprint, Google certification, Hootsuite social media marketing certification, all free to take and globally recognized. He recommends investing free time in gaining these certifications to get a taste for it (and a really cool badge that can go on your LinkedIn, what he describes as “the resume of the future.”)

“All those certificates, all those badges, as we like to call them, microcredentials, stick with you for the rest of your life.”  

Some of the challenges he sees are around finding the right education balanced with actual experience. “With digital marketing, I'd say the challenge is getting that experience and getting people to trust you for that first time,” he shares. To bridge that gap, he suggests volunteering to start to get a chance to figure out what works and maybe help an entrepreneur out in the process.

As someone who often gets asked by large organizations to provide feedback on their Indigenous initiatives, he hopes that down the road these companies will have enough internal capacity of Indigenous staff that they won’t need to outsource for opinions. He hopes to see more Indigenous marketing executives or even an Indigenous business person on Dragon’s Den “to continue to encourage and show people that we can have a perspective and a voice, and I think really lend our superpower of storytelling and empathy and understanding of our great country in a way that I think brands need and brands want.”

He’s seeing more and more Indigenous voices in the marketing space and he’s really excited for where that could lead. He’s also proud to have Indigenous students learning from Indigenous instructors at Jelly Academy. Kovacs sees how the Canadian Marketing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau are stepping up to bring more diverse voices into marketing and has hope for the future.

His advice for Indigenous youth is to cash in on the opportunities digital marketing offers. “I think there's been a bit of a wake up call in the last few years, and there's doors that are open. Go through them and then you have the chance to influence how a brand looks, feels, smells, talks, online, in advertising, and I think that really influences others and influences culture,” he urges.

Darian Kovacs, founding partner of Jelly Marketing, knows the future of digital marketing is “sweet” and through the industry-specific training his firm offers, he’s helping more Indigenous youth take a bite for themselves. He knows the marketing world is in for a treat with all the talent Indigenous youth bring to the table and he’s excited to add more seats to the table. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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