Marketing Is Being Devalued

Redefining and Valuing Marketing

Today’s consumers are more intuitive, more informed, more skeptical and more demanding than ever. They live in a world of immense choice and personalization. They want the benefits of increased choice without the complexity of increased choice.

With the economic anxiety of our times, there is a growing generation of shoppers for whom frugality is fashionable. These changes are tailor-made for the talents of marketers. But marketers be warned: We need to be concerned about the degradation of marketing. We must redefine it–or be part of its deadly decline.

Instead of a profession, marketing is becoming a trade: the trade of managing and executing marketing communications. This trend is devaluing the role of marketing. It is true that there is a proliferation of communication channel opportunities–social media, entertainment, events, online and so on. But, communications channel management is not marketing management.

For each channel of communications, there is a marketing communications specialist. This fractionalization is affecting the role of marketing. Specialists are competing with each other for limited corporate resources. The CMO’s role has been reduced to managing this competition of battling resources attempting to force cooperation. This trivializes the role of the CMO, turning this crucial position into coordinator, mediator and arbitrator.

Effective marketing leadership is not merely about message and media management. This can be delegated. Marketing leadership is about business management. The marketing leader must be the business leader responsible for generating, supporting and activating a customer-driven focus within the organization, whether business-to-business or business-to-consumer.

The future will belong to customer-focused businesses that are best at attracting and retaining customers and generating sustainable, profitable share growth. That is why marketing is more than a marketing communications role; it is a business management role.

The purpose of brand management is the enduring, profitable growth of the business. The purpose of the business plan is the enduring profitable growth of the brand.

Marketing must be responsible for:

–Helping define the growth strategy;

–Achieving organizational alignment behind a common brand-business purpose and direction;

–Helping define the brand-business priorities;

–Developing and implementing a balanced brand-business scorecard;

–Leading customer-driven innovation, and defining the focus for the development of innovative insight-driven products and services;

–Developing the price-value strategy as well as responsibility for brand communications, internal and external.


But this is not happening. Why not?

First, there is a lack of organizational alignment. Integrated marketing cannot happen when we build our organization on segregation. The functional isolation and segregation of functions reinforces a lack of accountability for business results: It is always the other function’s fault.

Marketing is in a unique position to break down these isolated, towers of segregated responsibilities. Marketing is the common thread that crosses all functions, all geographies and all organizational levels. In particular the CMO serves as the internal voice of the customer, the keeper of the customer’s wants and needs.

Second, processes, templates and tools are king. Process dominates over passion. When indicated actions fail we say, “It is not my fault. I followed the process.” Over-emphasis on process is marketing poison.

Disciplined processes are important contributors to effective business management. But processes alone cannot be creative. Processes cannot be innovative. Processes can evaluate but not create ideas. Creative ideas require creative insight.

Third, insight has become a marketing cliché. It has been so corrupted that it has become a meaningless, useless term.

–Is it insight to discover that people’s incomes are under strain and stress?

–Is it insight to learn that people like food that tastes good?

–Is it insight to learn that dog owners prefer a dog food the dog will eat?

–Is it insight to learn that a BTB customer prefers a computer system that is reliable?

These are observations of the obvious that were actually reported as “insights” based on extensive research. Meaningful insights are more than mere information. They need to meet two criteria: Surprise at what you learned, and as a result, a change in behavior based on this learning.

Real, actionable insight will not come from superior data analysis. Superior analysis provides understanding of where we are and how we got to where we are. It does not provide insight into what kind of future we can create.

Insight comes from a synthesis of various sources of information. Marketers must return to using their expertise and their judgment and their creativity to make reasoned, informed and insightful decisions.

Fourth, the measurement mindset is stifling marketing. As business has become more challenging, business has become more cautious. The over-reliance on metrics is being used to justify marketing.

Use metrics to guide continuous improvement. However, if the role of marketing needs to be justified in the organization, then marketing has a bigger problem than can be solved through measurement. Measurement should be a learning tool, not a justification tool.


Fifth, there is a trust deficit.

People don’t trust the institutions in which they once placed their confidence. People no longer trust the government they elect, the banks they select, the food they eat and the marketing communications they receive. The first priority table-stakes are about reliability, dependability, confidence, assurance, credibility. It all comes down to trust.

Creating, building and strengthening brand trust must be a major responsibility for marketing. This includes the increasingly important role of internal and external PR. PR is a form of marketing communications. In building trust, it is often more effective than conventional paid advertising. Building and maintaining trust is at the core of effective marketing; without trust, nothing else matters.

Marketing as we know it will continue to decline unless we move to reform marketing and transform the CMO from a marketing communications leader to a brand-business leader.

Shame on us when often the first question for a new CMO is: “What will the new advertising be? Will there be a new slogan? Will there be a new advertising agency?”

–The CMO is responsible for building and managing the brand-business plan.

–The CMO is the voice of the customer, whether a BTB customer or a consumer.

–The CMO is the customer advocate.

–The CMO must lead the effort to drive true customer-insight focused innovation.

–The CMO should lead the effort to break down organizational silos.

To harness the energy and innovation of marketing, it needs to assert its rightful role making it the central force of brand-business management.

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