I'll scream and scream and scream

  • This week I went to a Chartered Institute of Marketing event to hear the results of a study on the role of marketing in large organisations. Carried out with Accenture, the very title of the study: 'In search of a strategic role for marketing' hints at desperation.

    Marketing can be divided into two main parts: tactical (management of the marketing plan; brand management; lead generation) and strategic (customer insight; development of the value proposition; strategic planning). In most organisations the role of the marketing department is tactical, which leads to predictable wailing that marketers are misunderstood and undervalued.

    But hang on a minute, let's look at this more closely. A business needs a marketing department to design and deliver the tactical activity. This is what provides the measurable revenues and there is nothing wrong or devaluing about it. A well designed marketing plan is firmly rooted in a detailed appreciation of the strategy of the business and the most successful marketing directors have the ability to turn business objectives into effective and actionable tactical plans.

    The trouble with Marketing, though, is that it can't be satisfied with this role and wants to run the whole company. By the time we have been through the 8P's of product, price, place, promotion, process, people, physical evidence and positioning there is very little left for anybody else.

    Many marketers thump the desk and demand a position for marketing on the board, refusing to believe that any business can properly function without it. These people are failing to draw a distinction between marketing as a concept and the individual abilities of the people in the marketing department. The remit is simply too broad and too important to be the exclusive domain of one person or one area of the business: it is the role of the board as a whole to set the strategic direction and the role of marketing to provide the insights and framework.

    If individually marketers have the talent, they will rightfully earn a place on the board of the businesses within which they work. No business, however, can afford to offer board appointments on the basis of job title alone and the challenge for many marketers is to develop a sufficiently rounded level of experience to merit their promotion.

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