How Marketing Can Reclaim the Strategic High Ground

Late last year, Marketing Week published a thought-provoking article titled “Death of the CMO?” The article highlighted the views of Dominique Turpin, Nestle professor and president of the International Institute of Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Professor Turpin says that the chief marketing officer position is no longer tenable because most CMOs are simply executing a communications strategy. As Turpin put it, “The chief executive sets the overall strategy, the research and development and innovation teams design the product, and the chief financial officer determines pricing and departmental budgets.” Professor Turpin argues that the CMO should be replaced by a “chief customer officer” whose primary role would be to listen and communicate the views of customers across the company.

Whether or not you agree with Professor Turpin, it seems clear that many CMOs have a significant credibility problem in the C-suite. In a study by The Fournaise Marketing Group , 80% of CEOs said they don’t really trust marketers, and 64% said they have taken away product and pricing powers from CMOs because those functions are too important for business success to let marketers control them.

Marketers must share some of the responsibility for this unfortunate situation because we have given too little attention to several important aspects of the marketing function.

In 1960, Theodore Levitt wrote a landmark article for the Harvard Business Review titled “Marketing Myopia.” In this article, Levitt argued that companies will cease to grow if they define their business too narrowly. Today, some marketers are afflicted with another type of marketing myopia. This new strain is characterized by an almost exclusive focus on marketing communications and the technologies that support/enable them. As practiced in many companies today, marketing means marketing communications and not much more.

Marketing communications are vitally important and, for obvious reasons, I happen to think that technology is now essential for effective marketing communications. However, there are other aspects of marketing that are equally important.

For more than four decades, the term marketing mix has been used to describe the various aspects of the marketing function. The term became popular in the 1960s after Neil H. Borden published an article explaining the concept in the Journal of Advertising Research. Borden’s marketing mix included product planning, pricing, branding, distribution channels, personal selling, advertising, promotions, packaging, display, servicing, physical handling, and fact finding and analysis. E. Jerome McCarthy later grouped these ingredients into the four categories that we know today as the “4 P’s” of marketing—product, price, place, and promotion.

The point of this brief history lesson is that marketing has long had a mandate that is broader than marketing communications (promotion). All of the activities in the marketing mix make important contributions to enterprise growth and profitability. Marketers should take the lead in performing these activities because they have (or should have) the specific knowledge and skills needed to relate an enterprise to its current and prospective customers and deliver outstanding customer experiences.

If marketers want to reclaim their strategic role in the C-suite, they must avoid marketing myopia and think beyond marketing communications.

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Author:Jan Dejosse

CMO - ADAM Software

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