Previous research by Marketing Week shows that even marketers agree that we do not market marketing very well. Further research showed that only 39% of finance executives have confidence in marketers to make good commercial decisions.
Are we really such a sorry bunch? Are we really not able to step up, be bold and ambitious and show leadership at a time which surely must be a great opportunity given all the customer-centricity flying around?
I have written with great excitement about the opportunities provided by modern marketing and the chance for marketers to lead digital and cultural transformations, and indeed become CEO, but the data suggests a marketing community that is surly rather than impassioned.
In a broad sense I see the opportunity for marketers currently is to expand the remit of marketing and become more involved in the business, engaging with more functions, in order to drive changes that improve the whole business not just marketing.
If we do not want to be doing the proverbial ‘colouring in’ or ‘putting lipstick on the pig’ then we have to contribute to changing the actual product, proposition or service itself. We are, after all, the voice of the customer.
One area I see lots of passion, creativity and great marketing is in start-ups. Slack is the latest sensation from Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield.
A recent interview with him talks about how they have managed to attract over 30,000 teams to using their app, and are already valued at over $1bn, and yet have not “run any big integrated marketing campaigns — they don’t have an elaborate email strategy or buy million-dollar billboards.
In fact, Slack hit those user numbers without a CMO. The suggestion is that in this digital age marketing is not needed.
If you read the interview, however, you will immediately see that Mr Butterfield is an excellent marketer. If they do not need a CMO it is perhaps because a natural marketer is already running the business.
And, yes, he talks the talk of modern marketing (“every customer interaction is a marketing opportunity”, using social for service, product feedback and iteration) but he also shows a great understanding of the power of PR and advises us not to “underestimate the power of traditional media when you launch.” He is not a purely digital apostle but a multichannel marketing man.
Last year the Marketing Academy ran its Inspire event and identified five things that kept them from becoming leaders. Being risk adverse was one, underselling marketing and not being curious about the rest of the business were two of the others.
Meanwhile I see real passion and vibrancy coming from other functions and disciplines, notably product managers. There is a risk that marketing is marginalised to something that is added on rather than being integral to business, proposition and service design.
Just as I was lapsing into despondency about the apparent inertia within marketers an unlikely champion rode to my rescue. McKinsey has just announced “the dawn of marketing’s new golden age.” It talks of creative minds expressing themselves through digital, of marketing transcending the marketing organisation itself and extending ‘into the guts of the business’, particularly by leading the transformation of customers’ experiences, of marketing being the ‘glue across the organization’.
That is more like it. Fighting talk. So where do you stand? A marketing Eeyore or bathing in the glow of our new golden age?