Marketing islands

It’s rare find a Marketer criticising his profession, so I was intrigued when the Chief Marketing officer of HP had this to say last month: “Marketers risk forming a parallel universe and distancing themselves from the business.”islands

Lucio was talking to a point we have raised before in this column. Very few Marketing Directors in East Africa seem to manage to earn the respect of fellow directors from other disciplines.

Says Lucio, “The mission of marketing is to build brands that stand the test of time, not to build brands for the sake of it.”

He called on the profession to do better and assume a more strategic role within business. “We must be responsible for generating revenue and demand today and identifying new opportunities for tomorrow.”

It’s interesting to note that a common feature of senior marketers named in the Forbes Most influential CMO list is that they all make significant impact on driving top and bottom line business results. Kristin Lemkau at Chase, Raja Rajamannar at MasterCard and Leslie Berland at Twitter are all cited as valued members of their companys’ senior leadership teams. Recognised as business people first, and specialists second. That’s what company’s want.

Forbes calls these people culturally bilingual, capable of translating highly technical terminology into business impact. That’s a complicated way of saying they don’t hide behind marketing jargon.

They also speak up on all issues affecting the business and customer experience. When did you last see a senior marketer writing in anything other than vocational publications? When did an East Africa CEO last delegate a serious media interview to his Marketing Director?

Lucio says many marketers have become “islands surrounded by mirrors”. Obsessed by discussions about the Millennial audience or the implications of digital channels on broadcast media. But these enthusiasms don’t seem to produce any recognisable opinion leader able to articulate a solution. In my experience, when there is debate in the Marketing world there is also procrastination. Marketers fear to take a direction because their articulation of issues and opportunities may not stand up to debate at executive board level.

HP’s Lucio highlighted three ‘must-do’s’ to help senior marketers win more respect:

  1. Marketing must become more externally focused. The discipline needs to showcase its business-building to the world. It needs strong spokespeople.
  2. Business results must be paramount in creativity awards
    It is time to stop rewarding creativity for creativity’s sake. Design, engagement and communication were never intended to be ends in themselves.
  3. We must reignite the power of brands in the digital world
    There has never been greater need for brands than now. The digital world requires constant engagement. Brands must have a clear, unique, meaningful and memorable narrative.


Bravo, Lucio!


Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside

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