Infographic: What’s a Purple Squirrel, and How Do You Become One?

The many attributes of the elusive, extraordinary marketer

The purple squirrel is made up with magical attributes.
The purple squirrel is made of magical attributes. Carlos Monteiro
Headshot of Ko Im

Hiring recruiters look for them. Executives bring them along when they move to different jobs. Purple squirrels are magical marketers who can do it all. Although the exact origin of the term is unknown, they’re known for having technical skills, financial know-how and emotional intelligence. We asked several marketing leaders including Greg Welch, practice leader, Spencer Stuart, who led a panel on purple squirrels at Adweek’s CMO Moves Summit East in New York earlier this year, to list what makes up a purple squirrel, including but not limited to: passionate, customer-centric, business savvy, focused and even funny

“The way I describe a purple squirrel is the optimal candidate who has both qualitative and quantitative skills and thrives in an entrepreneurial environment, for example, a vp, creative director who can pivot quickly from diving into data, extrapolating insights and implementing them to overseeing a global photo shoot and inspiring their team,” said Emily Culp, CEO, Cover FX.

Marketing experts already excel in some of these areas, but not all—and that’s OK.

“Such a list can feel somewhat intimating for potential candidates as they do their own self-reflection on the skills they need to possess to succeed today,” added Welch. “However, instead of being exhausting, we instead ask executives to think about what their ‘super powers’ are—and where they have opportunities to grow as leaders.”

This story first appeared in the March 16, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@koimtv Ko Im is the community editor at Adweek and co-host of Adweek's podcast Yeah, That's Probably an Ad.