In 2012 Dominique Turpin stated that the “decline of the CMO's influence is an alarming trend in companies that claim to put the customer first but in reality continue to be product-driven.” In a thought provoking recent article Queens School of Business’s Professor Ken Wong takes up the IMD President’s theme and decries the loss of the marketer’s mojo.
Professor Wong sets the context by describing the heyday of the marketer; the era when the brand management system was born and the four Ps - pricing, product, promotion and place (distribution) - were the key prerogatives of the marketer. He then describes how and why the marketer’s strategic role in the organization is shrinking. Without claiming to have the answer he suggests that customer focused companies need to re-empower the CMO if they are to create sustainable growth and they need to “start the dialogue by returning to square one and asking: Why do marketing at all? What do we really think marketing should try to achieve?”
The marketing role has changed with the change in markets. Today’s markets are hyper-segmented. Empowered consumers have more media choices than ever before and want their products customized and delivered where and when they are needed. In adjusting to this, from a traditional one-size-fits-all environment, the responsibilities for marketing activities have fragmented too and become defused throughout organizations.
Consequently the strong call of the CMO/ brand manager to focus endeavour, has been replaced with the all-powerful call for ROI and according to Wong “The unity of the marketing effort drifted from a common focus on satisfying the customer to a common focus on satisfying the shareholder.” In the process organizations failed to ask how the marketing role should change. “In an environment of constant change, the real question was whether or not this existing model of marketing could sustain consistent performance within that environment. The answer to that question would seem to be a definitive no.”
Part of the problem comes from a decline in the CEO’s trust in marketers, exemplified in a report by the Fournaise Marketing Group in 2012 which identified that 73 per cent of CEOs believe marketers lack credibility because they cannot prove the business impact of marketing, and by a survey in the Economist in the same year, in which CEOs were asked to identify the responsibilities of their CMOs and where, of all the areas listed, in only three was marketing given responsibility in 75% of all companies.
“Organizations may want to spread the responsibility for making these decisions but it would seem to me that if a decision or a function has something to do with the customer, it should fall within marketing’s purview” says Professor Wong.
His key observation is that the traditional marketing and brand management focus has drifted from strategic to tactical: “We are more focused on breaking through the clutter and standing out from the crowd, with sexy and out-there ads and point-of-purchase displays, than with fundamental issues like who we should sell to, what we should sell them, and how we should promote it.”
However marketers have has always been “transformational” and their ability to change is the best hope for the future.
“We hear so much about whether marketing is an art or a science. It is some of both. But, more important, it is a discipline of identifying customers for whom you offer a credible message of superior value versus customers who can be fooled into buying your product. You may make that incremental sale but you won’t be able to hold onto it over the long haul. We have to get away from selling grand identities to selling grand competencies, away from focusing on awareness that brands exist, to concentrating on what those brands stand for, what they are associated with.”
Read Professor Ken Wong Full Article