Magazine article Marketing

#Power100 Voices: More to Life Than Marketing

Magazine article Marketing

#Power100 Voices: More to Life Than Marketing

Article excerpt

Commercial experience is essential if you want to reach the top, but knowing when to make the move away from marketing is crucial, writes Amanda Mackenzie, Aviva's chief marketing officer, and 'executive on loan' working on the UN's Project Everyone for global sustainable development.

I am very fortunate and privileged to be able to mentor for The Marketing Academy and others across the industry. When I ask the inevitable question: 'Where do you see yourself in 10 years?' I get pretty similar answers.

Ten years seems an unfeasibly long time, so people are quite startled at the prospect of thinking about it; then, when pushed, nine times out of 10 the answer is 'a marketing director'.

What I want to challenge, for people a few years into their marketing career, is the notion that the epitome of success is leading a marketing function.

I want marketing people to move to the commercial side of the business and gain the experience early on, in their 20s and early 30s. This would enable them to move between functional seniority and running bigger parts of a company until they become the chief executive.

Now, I am sure the purists among you may be wondering how you get functional expertise if you move into general management too soon. But is marketing the end in itself, or is it the servant of the business and, actually, the customer?

Also, surely if you have the broadest experience, this will better deliver for both? Or you might suggest that businesses would be better if they had more marketing experts running them. I agree - but increase the chances of this happening by complementing marketing skills with commercial experience.

People find comfort in being experts in one discipline, and that is very good indeed if you know, beyond all doubt, that you won't ever want to run a very large, FTSE 100 or 250, company. However, if you were in your late 20s with some ambition, how would you know that? And the longer you go without running a business or part of a business, the further you are going into the marketing cul-de-sac; there may come a time when you can't turn round and get out without running into a lot of difficulty.

Throughout your career, one of the important things is, wherever possible, to make decisions that keep your options open. Try to ensure that you haven't inadvertently closed off routes that you might like to take, which, for one reason or another, you hadn't contemplated before The longer you stay as a pure marketer and spend time moving from one discipline within the function to another, you are, by definition, limiting your ability to get to the very top in your company.

Now I know someone is going to tell me 'X person became CEO never having worked anywhere else than marketing'. …

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