Boardroom Perceptions: Marketing 2008 - a Discipline in Crisis

Article excerpt

A Deloitte report on organisations' attitude to marketing, published here exclusively, reveals that a worrying number of chief executives and financial officers have a lack of appreciation of the value it can offer to a business, writes Jane Simms.

In theory, 2008 should be a good year for marketing. As global competition intensifies, the pressure on firms to innovate and respond to consumer needs has never been greater. Marketers, then, should be at the centre of the business.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that this is the case. According to 'Marketing in 3D', a report by Deloitte on the role of marketing in driving growth, senior marketers' influence and involvement in the overall direction of the business is far from assured. Highly specialised, they operate in functional silos, separated from their colleagues. Meanwhile, their rapid passage through organisations - the average tenure of chief marketing officers is 22 months, according to Brand Autopsy - demonstrates their loyalty to the discipline, rather than to their employers. Happy in their comfort zone, they lack the ability and ambition to become chief executives, and, in an era of growing accountability, the only metrics in which they are interested are the size of their budget and team, and the number of brands on their CV.

The report, published exclusively in Marketing, spanned five European countries and involved 217 in-depth interviews. Its findings are not entirely negative; they show that chief executives claim to be supportive of marketing. According to the research, 81% identified marketing as a key driver of growth, 85% believe it is crucial to devising strategy, and 44% judge strategic planning to be the most important skill of the marketing director (see graphs).

Yet these figures are in contrast with the finding that 70% of chief executives do not believe the role of marketing is clearly articulated within their organisation, while 77% do not think that their employees fully appreciate its value. Crucially, there appears to be confusion between marketing as a concept, and marketing in practice.

Tim Ambler, senior fellow in marketing at London Business School and a member of the steering committee for the Deloitte report, says there is 'a frustrating complacency about what marketing-led actually means'. He adds: 'Many chief executives have no real understanding of marketing; they express theoretical enthusiasm, because that is what the City and investors want to hear, without thinking through the practical implications.'

But while there may be a lack of understanding among chief executives as to what marketing is, marketers are not doing themselves any favours by failing to do enough to enlighten them. The report finds that although 67% of chief executives claim to understand the value of marketing, only 50% of marketers feel appreciated. 'This suggests that marketers have a big job to do in evangelising the benefits of marketing within the organisation,' says Paul Philpott, managing director of car brand Kia.

The problem, perhaps, is that many marketers seem to be as confused about their role and contribution to the business as their bosses. The view of one chief marketing officer cited in the research is telling 'The board meetings where marketing is firmly on the agenda often drift into conversations about corporate social responsibility or internal engagement,' the respondent explains. 'It seems that everyone thinks they are qualified to have a viewpoint. Ownership of these issues residing with the marketing function is not clear.'

According to the report, board-level chief marketing officers claim that only 16% of board discussions are about marketing, while chief executives believe marketing issues take up almost one-third of board time. This suggests that chief executives have a wider view of what marketing involves than their marketers, who are preoccupied with territory. …

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