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Read Professor Moorman’s analysis of key survey results.

The Marketing Ivory Tower Needs to Get a Grip

In the August 2010 CMO Survey, I asked top marketers the following question:  What is marketing primarily responsible for in your firm?

Marketers were then asked to check from a list of strategic, tactical, and financial activities in firms. What I found is in the table below.

At least a couple worrisome thoughts arise from these results. First, while marketing is playing an important role in brand and social media in most organizations, marketing’s contributions to the key strategic activities of the firm are sadly absent.  This includes marketing’s weak contributions to key strategic activities such as market entry, innovation, CRM, sales, distribution, and targeting.

Ask any top business school marketing professor what marketers do and they will likely respond with something like the 4Ps (price, promotion, place-distribution, and product) and the 3Cs (customers, competitors, and company).  This leads to the second worrisome thought. I think it is pretty clear that marketing is NOT doing what ivory tower marketers think it is doing or would like it to do.  This little fantasy that marketing does important things contributes to a problem among many marketing academics, which is that they don’t contribute to building knowledge about successful marketing.

What’s happening in companies that keeps marketing professionals from making the contributions we train them to believe they should be making?  Or is the problem that academic marketing research and training need to change to increase the value of marketing to companies?  If not us, who?

What is Marketing Responsible for in your Firm? (n = 332 responses)

Activity Number of people checking Percentage of
total
Positioning 261 78.6%
Promotion 256 77.1%
Brand 255 76.8%
Marketing research 240 72.3%
Social media 231 69.6%
Competitive intelligence 208 62.7%
Public relations 193 58.1%
Lead generation 192 57.8%
Market entry strategies 190 57.2%
New products 170 51.2%
Customer relationship management 147 44.3%
Targeting/market selection 136 41%
Sales 123 37%
Pricing 119 35.8%
Innovation 111 33.4%
Customer service 83 25%
Stock market performance 4 1.2%
Distribution 0 0%
  1. These results are remarkable but not altogether unexpected. I suspect that social media has begun to draw attention and focus away from the classic disciplines of what packaged goods marketing – for example – was five to ten years ago, when CRM, pricing, and sales collaboration often separated the brand leaders from the also-rans. As for innovation, when did marketing jetison its responsibility in that area? Perhaps a failure of marketing involvement to link product innovation with consumer and customer needs, trends, and insights shoulders the blame for the high rate of product in-market failure.

    Certainly, a survey of marketers from cross-section of product manufacturers and service providers will touch some categories in which marketing has traditionally taken a back seat to other leading strategic functions. A simple example: the wine category. I can think of few if any other product categories – maybe some software – in which marketing is viewed as the red-headed step-child among all functions. Of course, that helps explain the hyper rate of brand proliferation, the lack of unaided brand awareness, the rare and typically weak levels of product differentiation (among all but the most highly-refined category aficionados), and the degree to which brands leave their identity and equity management to distributors. Yet consider the coffee industry giant Starbucks. A recent discussion with some Starbucks folks revealed the degree to which Kraft had been tasked to not only distribute and represent Starbucks coffee at retail, but lead the much of the marketing effort that touches the grocery channel. Turns out that marketing plans, research projects, and agency relationships for advertising and promotions were prepared, conducted, and managed by Kraft marketering managers. In turn, Starbucks managers were largely uninvolved until the final review round and sign-off were completed. As one category manager reported, “I came here two years ago to be a marketer; finally, with Kraft going away, I might get the chance to do some marketing.” If a revered organization like Starbucks can accept a hands-off approach to managing their brands at retail, the survey results should come as no surprise. Thanks for the information.

  2. Hi Greg, you make good points. It’s not clear what is causal here. Broader studies I have done show that when a marketing function is able to help with the connection between the consumer and product, the consumer and the service, the consumer and financial accountability, and the consumer and business model, it does add value to company in terms of tangible performance outcomes. However, it’s also true what David Packard says, which is “Marketing is too important to be left to Marketing.” Or as Stephen Quinn, CMO of Walmart says in the interview with him on this site, that all employees must realize “You are the brand.” Consumers are smart and I think teachable. They want to believe in the brands that help improve their lives and if marketing can help deliver the insights and help drive the business model to make that value proposition meaningful and sustainable, this will be a big boost to companies. I think even in organizations were the customer perspective is shared, there must be one area that advocates and goes deep on this. Do most wine companies have marketing departments or only sales groups?

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