Why Marketing Needs to Change: A CEO’s Perspective

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In the coming months C-suites from around the world will be presented with the marketing budget proposals for 2011.  Once again, many will approve them without real conviction.

After all, when it comes to marketing, many financially focused CEOs find themselves in a quandary.  On the one hand they know that the people who work in the marketing department are smart, creative, well-intentioned and hard-working.  On the other, they have difficulty figuring out what these people do all day.  Whether their beautiful initiatives actually make a difference.

The world has changed, and marketing needs to catch up

A few years ago, McKinsey framed this dilemma in a painfully accurate way.  Marketers, they found, were seen by the C-suite as energetic, inspiring and passionate.  But also frivolous, lacking business sense and sometimes being “more akin to a recalcitrant child”. (source: A credibility gap for marketers).

 Half a decade later, not enough has changed.  Not that all is bad in the land of marketing. From the CEO’s perspective, it’s just not good enough.  In spite of all the glitzy PowerPoints and new style agencies, not enough has changed in the actual behaviours and beliefs of those that are in the trade. 

A new corporate reality

In the C-suite, however, something has changed.  Something that will force the marketing community to take notice.  In the coming years, CEOs that want sustainable growth need to make sure their business becomes customer-centric.  Not because of a moral or cuddly customer imperative, yet simply because this is one of the most effective ways to make more money.

As a result, they will expect their organizations to come to grips with concepts like engagement, reputation management, relevance.  They need to communicate to customers as individuals and brand themselves through behaviours rather than words.

A new role for marketing                                    

Even the biggest marketing cynic needs to admit that many of these topics are in the marketing remit, and inevitably this will be where the CEO’s eye will turn.

Marketing leaders that make tangible (financial) contributions will be offered real seats at the executive table.  Equally, structural underperformance or misalignment will be “sorted out”.  In either case, marketing will be expected to empower itself into a bigger role than it holds today.

So rather than wait for this reality to happen, marketing people must take the lead in this corporate transformation:

– If you are already transforming your marketing to be more customer-centric, profit-oriented and aligned with the rest of the company, double your efforts and do more.

– If you feel that you’re lagging and need to do better, pick up the phone and go see your CEO.  He will probably be pleasantly surprised with your initiative.

– And if you have got no clue what I’m talking about, be prepared to get out of the way, because the days of benign tolerance are ending.

It’s time to #ChangeMarketing.  Let’s get to it.

This post is one of a series to accompany the launch of the #ChangeMarketing Manifesto.  This is a call to action for marketers world-wide to change the nature of marketing itself.  To reconnect the profession to the needs of the customers and the businesses they serve. 

CLICK HERE to download your copy of the #ChangeMarketing Manifesto, or explore the #ChangeMarketing tab at the top of this page.