The job of turning that aspiration into a reality is fraught with obstacles – some self-imposed and others dictated upon marketers by their organisations. Business leaders speaking at The Marketing Academy’s inaugural “Inspire” event in London this week outlined the five challenges and how they can be overcome in order for marketers to get to the top of their careers.
Mistake #1: marketers are underselling marketing
Marketers are “best placed” to become future CEOs, but they need to reframe how they and the skills they have are seen within the business, according to founding partner of creative agency 101 Phil Rumbol, who also draws on his experience as marketing director at Cadbury and alcohol giant InBev.
He said: “Part of the problem is too often people equate marketing to advertising and promotions, but I think marketing is about a whole lot more than that. It’s about doing things that make a brand or service relevant, but the whole image of marketing is skewed to the fluffy, spin, marketing men getting people to buy things they don’t really want. Marketers need to go back to basics and use [and talk about] advertising once the core and basics are as strong as they can possibly be.
That warped image of what a marketer does (or should be doing) in their role, is affecting their ability to influence the finance director.
As Rory Sutherland, executive creative director and vice chairman of OgilvyOne, acerbically framed it: “There’s a danger marketers are suffering from kind of Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a bit like being [Josef] Fritzl’s [- found guilty of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years, alongside four of the children he had fathered with her -] children to the finance director. It’s been going on for so long [marketers] have started to take on some of the attributes of their oppressors”.
The result has seen marketers trying to speak the “deranged” language of economists – a lexicon that implies human behaviour is predictable – in justifying their actions, which means many finance directors still see marketing as a cost centre: a source of inefficiency rather than competitive advantage, Sutherland said. In order to obtain the budgets required for marketing innovation, marketers would do well to learn behavioural economic theory and apply it to marketing, using the “scientific terminology finance directors have come to expect”, giving them the opportunity to fight back with case studies of marketing effectiveness.
Mistake #2: marketers aren’t curious enough about other areas of the business
Former Procter & Gamble marketer and now CMO of holiday rental site Housetrip Zaid Al-Qassab said a good marketer is “insatiably” curious about people, but for many marketers that stops at their customers rather than looking internally too.
“An awful lot of people have a major blind spot where they’re not insatiably curious about all the other people in the business around them. I speak to a lot of marketing directors who do not know what they key performance measures are for their finance director and other departments…it’s hard to make it on to the board if you’re not curious about what they are trying to achieve,” he added.
Richard Robinson, managing partner at marketing consultancy firm Oystercatchers, shared Coke’s mantra: “the only brand you will ever manage is yourself”.
“That stuck with me, knowing who the hell you are, what your personal brand was and managing your career across all those different brands: it’s all about you and how you can enable all the other people around you to succeed. To do that you have to be hungry, hoover up as much information as you can to be interesting and have a point of view,” he added.
Mike Hughes, director general of ISBA, advised marketers to be particularly curious about the procurement department – not least because they report into the chief financial officer.
He added: “Procurement has to be embraced, cuddled or part of the team, one thing a marketing director should not do is be excluded in the conversation about the agency…because procurement can completely undermine what you get from an agency as if their margins are slashed wafer thin, you won’t get the best people.”