I attended the Spencer Stuart CMO Summit yesterday on the state of the marketing profession, aptly titled "What Do You Want From Me?, Understanding, managing and exceeding the expectations of the CMO. The event featured a top notch panel including Andy Berndt, VP Google Creative Lab, Maureen McGuire CMO Bloomberg, Joseph Tripodi EVP Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer Coca-Cola. The panel was moderated by Greg Welch, global practice leader for Spencer Stuart.
The panelists provided perspective on a marketing profession that was characterized as being "complicated" and misunderstood by other "C" suite executives. After the opening slide show that highlighted all of the issues with the profession, I think most in the room were either depressed or ready to run away.
Several suggestions were offered by panelists on how to succeed in a complex marketing environment. I'm purposely not attributing remarks to any one individual out of respect for panelist confidentiality.
Some of the more interesting takeaways are as follows:
- When presenting to individuals outside of marketing, particularly "c" suite execs, don't use marketing jargon. Others don't understand it. Instead a just point to some business issue or problem, and how marketing can influence that issue. It's not to obscure or hide what is going on, but to make marketing understandable.
- Marketers are being hit by two sticks, the ROI stick and the Innovation stick. When you focus on innovation, the ROI stick comes out. When focused on ROI, the innovation stick comes out.
- Train your company to move away from an obsession with the :30 commercial, as this doesn't reflect the new reality of multi-channel marketing.
- The biggest difference between advertising agencies is the team of people working on your specific account, not the larger agency culture. It's easier to change people than agencies.
- All panelists wished that they had spent more time developing financial skills, although one panelist noted that marketers are rarely successful when they rotate through other departments.
- Marketing has fallen to the third career path to the CEO office, after Finance and Operations.
- Marketing metrics can be divided into those that support the brand and those that support commerce or sales. In terms of commerce, metrics should be reported within the context of dependent metrics
that often fall outside of the marketing organization. For example, retail relationships, packaging, pricing strategies can all have a significant impact on share, yet communications is often blamed for a
sales slump. By bundling together related metrics and their relative impact, the organization can gain greater insight into the relative role each has on the business outcome/sales.
- Marketing has become an incredibly complicated job as it requires a generalists understanding of multiple rapidly changing communications channels, the need to stay close to customers, and the need to continually enroll other executives within the organization.
- Company culture plays an important role in a marketers success. Since marketing often involves trial and error execution, the organization needs to support this type of activity in order to nurture those that are continually experimenting with new marketing strategies.
- Marketers need to develop generalized knowledge of multiple channels and the skill to execute content across those channels.
In terms of my own observations, it seems as if "C" suite executives understand that they need marketing, they just appear to have no idea how to measure its value. They hire marketers, and then torture them with metrics that always default to some type of lead to sales measurement, even when marketing works best when it is moving products into purchase consideration.
In terms of my own impression, as marketers, we are all becoming a bunch of apologists for our inability to measure our activities and impact to the degree that a CFO can present a budget or a sales manager can present leads to revenue information. We need to stop apologizing that we don't have the skills of a financial analyst or the tools to predict the future impact of a campaign that is yet to be executed, and focus on our abilities to conceptualize and implement new ideas that drive exponential growth. At the same time that marketing tools and channels are more accessible than ever (and even measurement/consumer behavior), we are retrenching, vs. causing the CFO to say, maybe I should learn something about marketing.
As outlined in the Al Ries book "War in the Boardroom", great marketers are highly developed right brain thinkers. Most CEOs and CFOS are highly developed left-brain thinkers. These are mutually exclusive talents. Marketers believe in the ability of the corporation to achieve organic growth while left brain thinkers find it easier to buy share via acquisition. Bot approaches have merit, but marketing needs to step it up.
Let's hope the title of the next Spencer Stuart forum will be "Great Marketers, Great Companies."