Can We Save Marketing?

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Image by snigl3t via Flickr

Over the last six years, I have had a personal interest on the verge of a crusade to better understand and study lead marketers and CMOs across industries. My concern, after meeting well over 300 leaders, is marketing is lacking influence and at some companies is considered “damaged goods”.

How do we fix it? The question I hope to answer over the coming months. There are three areas of concern, which I believe highlight the main issues.

1. Communications heavy, impact light

Historically, marketers and our peers in the executive ranks have been hyper-focused on communications – the latest ad, hot new website or now how many people “like” us on Facebook. We have lost substance and, in some cases, lack the will and determination to educate our organizations on what marketing is and is not. Traditional marketers seem to be less likely to hold the CMO post. In many of the companies I have spoken with, it is more likely that someone from sales, product or operations to be in the CMO role. The stinging reality… they are doing a better job. Why? Probably because they have a broader perspective on what is driving the business and how to harness it.

2. Losing influence, merging functions

Marketing leaders have lost influence. A recent IBM study of 1700 CMOs, show that less than half of the CMOs surveyed have much sway over key parts of the pricing process, and less than half have much impact on new product development or channel selection. Being a Marketing leader is such a herculean task of political gamesmanship to drive a cohesive strategy there is now wonder that the average tenure is still less than ½ that of the CEO. Despite these odds there is still hope as it seems a trend is growing in combining posts like Chief Commercial Officer or Chief Sales & Marketing Offer or Chief Marketing and E-commerce Officer. Although a great recognition on part of CEO and board that greater ownership is needed, they still lack the strategic focus on marketing in its potential long-term impact.

3. All-stars abandoning ship, lack of pride

My gravest concern is our very best are abandoning ship. The “best of the best” marketers that I have spoken to, rarely self-identify themselves as a marketer but rather opt for a “business leader”, “business executive”, “driver of the business”, etc. When I have asked do you consider yourself a marketer, their voice gets quiet and they say “no.” Despite the fear of being pegged a marketer, almost all agree that marketing is at the core of how they approach their jobs and that marketing with a big “M” is what more organizations desperately need.

Depressed yet. There is hope.

We have to start thinking about what matters again. We need to learn from those we think of as magicians of the practice. At the heart of what marketers are trying to accomplish is meaningful differentiation and capturing uncontested demand. “Meaningful differentiation” is difference that matters and customers are willing to pay for. As for “uncontested demand”, this term comes from Blue Ocean strategy and is the whitespace source of new demand we all seek that allows our products and services to occupy a new space that satisfies a real need not previously addressed.

Let’s all get back to what matters, which should deliver the impact, influence and pride marketers are lacking today. Help save marketing!

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