Welcome to the Executive Suite: Economic, Regulatory and Consumer Behavior Patterns Have Converged to Raise the Status and Strategic Importance of the Marketing Function. What Are the Critical Skills That Marketers Need in Order to Keep Pace with These Shifts?

Article excerpt

Is it true that when you were a child, you aspired to be a marketer of motorcycles?

AS A KID, I IDOLIZED THE PINKY TUSCADERO CHARACTER FROM THE "HAPPY DAYS" TV SHOW. I loved the confidence and strength of female motorcycle riders. I had a dream of someday joining the marketing department at Harley-Davidson. I wanted to help them market motorcycles to women.

At the time I thought that the company was missing the essence of female motorcyclists--whom I see as refined and beautiful as well as strong and confident Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Today, Harley-Davidson has a strong female motorcyclist brand. I never got to be a marketer for Harley-Davidson, but I did get my motorcycle license.

What size banks have you worked for?

I started in bank marketing in Pennsylvania in 1990. Because of the intense merger and acquisition activity in the state during the 1990s and early 2000s, I ended up working for a half-dozen different banks before coming to my current position in 2007. The smallest bank that I worked for was $700 million in assets; the largest was $63.7 billion.

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What's it like to work in a one-person shop?

In a small community bank, marketing budgets are limited. You have to do more because the bank's needs are not scaled back to the size of your department. There are more marketing opportunities available than there are resources--time and manpower--to act on all of them. As a result, the marketer has an opportunity to gain experience in all facets of marketing, but it's difficult for the marketer to build a specialty. Many times, the marketer is challenged by the need to react to changes that are taking place in the environment or among competitors while at the same time being proactive and focusing on long-term goals and objectives.

What are the challenges involved in working with a multiperson bank marketing department?

When you are in a multiperson marketing department, you have an opportunity to become extremely accomplished in a specialty. The problem is that you might not understand how your specialty relates to everything else that is going on in the department. The marketing function as well as lines of business are sometimes isolated in silos, and it can be difficult for marketing to integrate those silos into the bank's overall marketing effort. Bigger departments allow you to do more, but they require an unwavering focus on leadership and alignment, otherwise unproductive chaos occurs.

Bank marketing has been undergoing some dramatic changes in recent years. What is going on?

Because of changes in regulation, the economy and consumer behavior, bank marketing has grown into a more important strategic function than it was in the past. This is shown by the fact that some banks are moving the marketing director up to senior or even executive level management.

Many banks have created a C-level position for marketing, a chief marketing officer (CMO), similar to what has been done in other industries.

What has brought about these changes in the role of bank marketing?

If you go back in time, you see that this situation has been building. Back in 1970, deposit rates were deregulated. This move created a need for banks to develop a stronger competitive advantage in order to acquire new customers and deposits. Marketing began to take on more importance as a way to create this competitive advantage. In 1982, banks acquired the ability to offer money market funds. Prior to this time, banks were limited to offering checking or savings products. This change created the need for product development, product management and marketing for new-product roll-out--that is, marketers needed to educate customers and create demand for the new product.

About a decade later, the regulations were changed to allow banks to offer non-FDIC-insured investment products--which created a need for market research, market segmentation and nonbank affiliate marketing. …