Philip Morris Cos.' recently departed chairman-ceo, Mike Miles, is a highly-regarded marketing executive, and PM is one of the world's premier owners of brand names. But that relationship flopped. Mr. Miles, so it's said, was too brand-oriented; not concerned enough with the next quarter's profits; had poor rapport with Wall Street.
Despite that, we are still certain that marketing talent is getting a fresh appreciation because other businesses show us that's so.
Corporate chiefs drawn from the company finance staff or the ranks of Wall Street "turnaround" artists-managers who look inward for "growth" through cost-cutting and restructuring-are starting to give way here and there to executives whose strength is divining what consumers want and how to give it to them.
At CBS, President-CEO Larry Tisch, a savvy investor, arrived in 1986 and put the company's finances in order. But the situation at CBS is no longer one of cleaning up balance sheets and tables of organization-it has had its bottom-line bang from restructurings and downsizing. CBS' future is in what it does in the marketplace, both the current broadcast market and in new markets that a new leader can detect and grow.
We don't suggest the likely new CBS boss, Barry Diller, is disinterested in balance sheets or earnings curves. But he's built his career on understanding and developing markets, specifically markets for entertainment that can be delivered to the home by TV or other means. And that's what CBS is getting: a marketing person at the top.
In another arena, General Motors says it is seeking a tough and resourceful marketing person to sit at the right hand of GM's North American boss. Someone who can show how to make the GM consumers see-seven different car and truck brands-understandable and relevant again. Someone, perhaps, from outside the company because GM's emphasis on engineering, manufacturing and design isn't providing the answers it needs.
Dare we suggest: Someone like Mike Miles?