CMOs, Regain Control of Your Destiny

Visionary Leaders Must Take Back and Advance the Dialog Surrounding Marketing

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Scott Davis
Scott Davis
Senior marketers, ask yourselves: Is marketing's inability to get the type of traction it seeks within your organization real or self-imposed? In other words, do you actually have control over the perception, power, influence and abilities that marketing can truly bring to the table?

A recent study by Prophet and the Association of National Advertisers revealed several alarming findings that point to the need for marketers to start taking back control of the dialogue, and their destiny, within their own organizations. Some of the more startling findings: While almost 70% of those surveyed view themselves as visionary marketers or leaders, the vast majority of them state that the way they actually spend their time is heavily focused on tactical behaviors, such as working the budget, operating month-to-month and being guided by a short-term marcomm plan.

These marketers are not spending nearly as much time on the longer-term strategy or vision as they would like to believe they do. Interestingly, two-thirds of marketers feel the reason they are not able to advance marketing's mission to help drive growth within their organization is because of senior management's lack of understanding of what marketing really does.

Thus, marketers are creating their own self-fulfilling prophecy, whether they know it or not. They are setting up themselves and others in their organization to be viewed in stereotypical marketing ways because they are not doing what they are saying, nor are they holding themselves accountable for changing the dialogue.

Work on the circular. Get the ad out. Fix the brand. They don't believe they have the stage, permission or confidence to step up and become more strategic and a key growth driver for their business. Is it any wonder that only 10% of these same marketers ever see themselves playing a role that has another C in it (CEO, COO) or as a business-unit head? The irony in all of this is that most marketers are generally charged with helping manage the image, perception and reputation of their organizations' brands, yet they are doing a terrible job of managing their own -- and the marketing function's.

Healing these self-inflicted wounds and really showing marketing's muscle will take some work. It has to start with first diagnosing what the real problem is. In our interviews with dozens of CMOs and CEOs, we found that these backward perceptions and disconnects are generally caused by one of three factors:

1. The marketer is so mired in the day-to-day that he/she is left longing for a window and a path into the more strategic dialogues and discussions.

2. There is a lack of capabilities and competencies to really move to the next level and think and act more strategically, regardless of bandwidth.

3. There is a gap between what marketing does and the value it can truly provide, and senior management will need to be persuaded, in a way in which it has not in the past, of what value marketing can truly bring to the table.

Next, these marketers have to figure out what their path forward is. Visionary marketers -- those who have won a seat at the strategy table, have the CEO's ear, an insight-to-impact orientation and are seen as co-drivers of the growth agenda -- believe there are three key enablers to help break the perceptual gap.

First, Joan Chow, exec VP-CMO of ConAgra Foods, believes that getting a key C-Suite colleague on board with your marketing agenda is critical to growing a deeper appreciation of what marketing can truly bring to the organization. She has a CEO and CFO who truly believe in the broader platform of marketing as a key growth driver. Ultimately, that lends marketing greater credibility, both vertically within the marketing organization and, more importantly, horizontally across the organization. In other organizations, the CMO has found a sales lead or a business-unit head to become that partner in crime. Regardless, marketing is not an individual sport, and the sooner the marketer finds that right complementary "team member" to go onto the playing field with, the greater the likelihood of changed internal perceptions.

Second, Jim Speros, exec VP-CMO at Fidelity, and Mark Addicks, senior VP-CMO at General Mills, both believe that bringing insights to the table in all conversations is critical for the organization, and the lead marketer, in terms of fully unleashing marketing's power. In fact, the study showed that almost two-thirds of visionary marketers use the power of insights to help drive their organization's innovation, pricing, channel, communications and business strategy efforts -- not just awareness and recall.

Third, as organic growth is a key driver for many companies slowly recovering from our economic duress, savvy marketers are seizing the moment to try and help lead their companies on the road to growth. In fact, almost 65% of visionary marketers stated that they are actively involved in driving discussions on reinventing their businesses, helping to identify new white-space opportunities, experiences, business models or approaches to gaining greater share of wallet (or wallets). To this point, Barry Judge, CMO at Best Buy, is a big believer in getting rid of a lot of the marketing speak and adopting the growth language as the language of marketers. He and his team no longer talk about the marketing strategy, plan and budget but the growth strategy, plan and budget.

Too many marketers are boxing themselves into a stereotypical, perceptually damaging corner and missing an opportunity to really bring to life what marketing can do to help drive the growth agenda. We collectively have a real moment in time to hit the marketing reset button and have more marketers start controlling their own destinies and, in a good way, their organizations' destinies too.

Scott Davis is a senior partner of Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy. He can be reached at [email protected]. Scott will be presenting these findings this week at the CMO Roundtable, to be held during ANA's Annual Masters of Marketing Conference.
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