Managing Marketing: The challenges facing CMOs today

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Andy Lark is the Chief Marketer and Chair of Group Lark. He is also been a CMO, a board adviser, a Non-Executive Director and industry commentator and here he discusses with Darren the challenges and issues facing CMOs and Marketing Leaders today. Exploring everything from lack of alignment in objectives to increasing market diversity and complexity to issues with recognition and support.

Andy-Lark on challenges facing CMOs

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I’m sitting down and having a chat with quite a high-profile person around the marketing industry but also in business and technology and that’s Andy Lark, Chief Marketer and Chair at Group Lark but also a high profile CMO and commentator for the industry.

Welcome, Andy.

Andy:

Hi, how are ya doing?

Darren:

Good. Your experience and certainly your profile with the pieces of business that you’ve worked on makes you the ideal person to have a chat about the role of the CMO today and really what’s going right and what’s going wrong?

Andy:

You look at the surveys, whether it’s the Spencer-Stuart survey, the Heidrick and Struggles survey (everyone’s got a survey) they paint a dire picture. And there’s no question CMO tenure is shortening, particularly in the mid-market it is under real threat.

There are not many CMOs (and I talk to a lot of CMOs) who are genuinely happy in their role and feel safe and secure and feel like they’ve got a great future ahead of them in the business they’re in. Most of them feel under threat, challenged, excluded, so it’s a tough thing being a CMO. I’m not sure there are that many people who want that job anymore.

On top of that you’ve got this layering of new roles. And wherever you have layering of new roles it’s quickly followed by rationalisation. So, the CEO ends up with too many reports. They’re quick to go, ‘oh my gosh, I was talking with our advisors at Deloitte; we’re going to create a Chief Customer Officer role’ and then three months later ‘oh, we need a Digital Officer’ and then ‘shit, I’ve got too many direct reports—we should consolidate all of these’.

The CMO being the first in is the first out. Suddenly you see more Chief Customer Officers running marketing.

Darren:

Or, in the case of Pepsi, I think they introduced the Chief Growth Officer.

Andy:

The larger the company the more ridiculous they are about what they do with marketing. Normally they’re more inept because most of these particularly large brands that are wedded to very old-world media models, they’re the ones losing the most market share and under the most margin.

If you look at the top CPG brands in the world, the majority lost share, lost profit, and saw declines in their distribution footprints, which are their most precious assets I would argue, other than the brand. So, they’re not doing very well.

The industry’s quite strange in that we listen to a lot of CMOs who are managing ever shrinking product and revenue portfolios and we celebrate the opinions of these people, like the job they’re doing is not particularly awesome.

Darren:

People talk about social media creating echo chambers. I think the industry has fallen into its own echo chamber.

Andy:

Absolutely.

Darren:

We’ve got trade media organising events every other day where they just wheel out a whole lot of people.

Andy:

And it’s largely ‘pay to play’.

When I got to Australia I never said I’m going to build my brand as a CMO. I never did one of these pokey should you become a thought leader? That never occurred to me but what I was intent on doing was I found the conversation around marketing in Australia to be really dull and boring.

And whether I agree with them or not, Byron Sharp and the like, I’m grateful that they are at least lighting up the conversation. Because if I have to suffer through another episode of the Gruen Transfer I’m going to kill myself. It’s just stupid. It has nothing to do with marketing.

Darren:

I think it’s a diluted, populist view of advertising, which they then lay the term marketing across.

Andy:

Precisely.

Darren:

But one of the things is that the industry doesn’t seem to be particularly good at having conflicting or opposing points of view. They can’t embrace complexity. Advertising is dead. Digital, T.V. is dead. It’s these extremes but not actually an intelligent informed conversation.

Marketing as a recognised profession

Andy:

The only time I ran into that last year was when Adam from Thinkerbell hosted a really good panel at Mumbrella to which he invited me and a few others. We debated the Ehrenberg-Bass school of thought and was it good or bad for marketing?

I took the view it was good and others took the view it was bad and it was a good healthy debate. But I do think that the malaise that marketers suffer from today is that marketers don’t take the profession seriously because the businesses they work for don’t take it seriously.

So, my standard little acid test and I speak to large marketing teams every week (I was off doing a keynote yesterday to a big financial brand here) is I go, ‘everybody stand up. Now, everybody who doesn’t have a professional marketing qualification, sit down’ and inevitably 2/3rds of the room sits down at that point.

Then I say, ‘Now, sit down if you didn’t attend a really professional (I’m not talking like Google Webcamp—but you went to the University of NSW and did a marketing strategy week course or you actually read one of Byron Sharp’s books cover to cover and took lots of notes and tried to summarise it for your peers, or you instigated a recent research project) ‘now sit down if you did that’. And inevitably what you are left with about is five people out of 100 people.

Now I say to them, ‘I want you to imagine that I’m the CFO and I’ve just asked those same questions but related to finance’. Because I can promise you that everyone that’s sitting down you’re no longer working in finance. There is no way you could work in finance if you didn’t have professional qualifications.

I’m not making the case necessarily that we have to certify everybody but it’s time we took the profession a whole lot more seriously.

Darren:

Well that’s the first point: it’s not a profession. It’s not actually recognised anywhere as a profession yet. Modern marketing’s been around since post Second World War and yet no one anywhere in the world has managed to actually get it certified as a recognised profession like accounting. Bean counters, they’re a recognised profession. Lawyers are a recognised profession.

Andy:

Yeah, so it suffers from this delusion of the new as a result. I look at what Byron does, at a lot of the work academics in the U.S are doing, even getting your hands on academic level marketing journals in Australia—good luck.

You go into the average CMO’s office and there’s no evidence that they’re studying modern marketing. We’re all quick to jump on the Airbus and head to Silicon Valley and hang out for a week with Google and drink the Google juice or the YouTube or Twitter juice or whatever juice is flowing.

But if I said to you actually we’re going to go to L.A. and sit in the USC campus and learn about modern marketing strategies and segmentation techniques and middle-class evolution in economics, it’s like I’d rather die—sorry. I’m going to Buzzfeed instead.

Darren:

Well, it’s sexier and more interesting. And I think the other problem is people are learning from reading things like web pages, from the Trade Press and opinion pieces.

I mean Mark Ritson got stuck into Gary Vee for a video he put up where he gave this advice to a father, which is his daughter shouldn’t waste his money going and doing a marketing course she should just get out there and do marketing because that’s the best way of learning.

Andy:

Yeah. Mark’s another interesting guy, right? In many ways, I love what Mark and Byron and the gang are doing because we need more people who have an informed point of view, that have an opinion based on science, fact, information even if you disagree with it you’ve got to have an alternate.

I think that’s fantastic. On the one hand, the flattening of information is a nightmare because everyone thinks they know everything. And it ends up that everyone’s got a soapbox from Gary Vee to whoever. But then at the other end of the spectrum what blows my mind is how marketers don’t take advantage of the richness of all that information.

The number of times I can say hey do you watch Scott Galloway—his stuff on the L2 YouTube feed? It is a must watch every week; you must watch it. He has some of the best thinking on modern brand building, consumer trends, digital, on the four horsemen of the apocalypse. You’re nuts if you don’t watch it.

And yet, marketers don’t watch it.

Darren:

I think part of it is because a lot of them don’t have any sort of formal academic training. What often happens (and I’ve had these conversations with marketers) is they’re looking for a solution; they’re not looking for information.

Study to learn how to adapt and change

Andy:

I think it is one of the best pieces of career advice I got fifteen, twenty years ago and I can’t actually remember the person but I was at the GE campus and this speaker was talking and said, one of the most important things you can do is establish a course of study for your life.

So, if you said this year I intend to learn everything I can about philosophical Socratic literature and ways, so I’m going to read Plato, I’m going to read Socrates etc, that’s what I’m going to do this year. Go do it, but don’t read every newspaper and every magazine, don’t read every random book. Instead determine courses of study, I think that’s really shaped my life a lot.

If CMO’s could get their head around perhaps saying, as the intellectual thought leader for marketing and my respective organisation, I am going to set us on a course of study, on a three month or six-month cycle, whatever it might be, where I bring really valuable science data driven information into my organisation and elevate the marketing aptitude and competency. You suddenly are a different person in the organisation, right.

Darren:

You are more informed, you are more rounded, you practice critical thinking, you start to establish philosophies and approaches to life and to making decisions and evaluating arguments, these are all important skills that are often not taught any more in school, just in basic education.

It is interesting, the best piece of career advice I had apart from make the CFO at the agency your best friend, which I have always lived by, was no one knows anything but everyone has something to contribute.

Andy:

Absolutely.

Darren:

Listen to all the divergent points of view, think it through and then test what seems to be most applicable to you and if it works keep doing more of it and if it doesn’t work, do something different.

Andy:

Exactly.

Darren:

I don’t see that happening because you picked Byron Sharp, I think What Makes Brands Grow, is really applicable for consumer packaged goods because most of the examples he uses are consumer packaged goods but if you put me into a technology area or financial services is it still applicable?

Andy:

Certainly it is applicable if you are a large multinational brand with incredibly deep pockets and you are spread through traditional distribution channels. If you’re Four Pillars Gin, maybe not so applicable because you are distributing actually through much newer means.

You’re targeting via email, you are building large community groups, you’re building the world’s number one Gin company; it’s a different level, so it’s great for what I call incumbent brands. It is less great for a challenger brand where you have to do things radically differently so what we see increasingly is a lot of these challenger brands are not being built using traditional means, they are built by using completely new means of building brands.

One of the biggest challenges that marketing faces that is distinct from say the accounting question is the way we do accounting fundamentally has not changed for say a hundred years, you know there is a left column, a right column and hopefully the two reconcile, and you are off to the gym, so it is great but now marketing has so many different philosophies that relate to the nature of business to products whether you’re B2B, B2C.

We have seen massive revolutions occurring in the distribution channels, and I do think marketing, as a function, is the first to feel the impact of market shifts and we are the canaries in the coal mind but are very rarely listened to, and I think that’s a real challenge for the modern marketer and the modern CMO.

Darren:

It’s a good point because a lot of businesses put all their focus on listening to the sales team because they actually think that the sales team is at the coal face, but in actual fact the sales team has a very particular relationship.

The marketer is about building the relationships and the positioning of the organisation with those customers and is doing it in a way of constantly monitoring not just those micro relationships but also the macro changes that are happening as well.

Andy:

You look at these model brands that have been built, there are only four brands in the world today above a billion-dollar revenue growing at more than 50%.

Darren:

What are they?

Andy:

Airbnb, Uber, Alibaba, and Indeed.com, largest job board in the world. Spoken to any of their sales people lately?

Darren:

No, they don’t exist.

Andy:

So, these modern brands have been built with radically new ways, where they own their distribution, where they’re completely shifting the economics of industry and you go and talk to their CMO’s and they are real radical modern brand builders.

They are in a different world than the incumbent CMO of Macca’s or the CMO of KFC, they are great marketers too, but two different modalities and if they were a finance function you still wouldn’t call one of them marketing, because that is just not marketing any more.

Darren:

You have a very global perspective, you are doing business in the States, in Asia, and it really strikes me that even for the same brand and the same organisation that when you move regions or markets, you have totally different circumstances as far as brand maturity, distribution models. Indonesia if you are not doing mobile first you are really lost because it is the dominant communications channel in Indonesia.

The role of marketers in driving change

Andy:

It is how media is predominantly consumed there. What you are alluding to is probably the most fundamental challenge the modern CMO faces, which is how do I drive change?

You’ve got this inherent dilemma in the marketing function where up to 50 % of your budget is locked in head count, retainer fees and costs so your cost base is highly rigid and stratified.

The other 50 % is largely habitual, like you are doing largely what you did last year and in many cases, you’ve signed 3 to 5 year multiyear deals and so you are locked up in big sponsorship agreements, big TV buys, big whatever’s.

So you look at it and then you go, how do I change? How do I turn right when even though I know I need to turn right, I’d have to get rid of most of my people? I’d have to break a whole lot of agreements? I’d have to cause such tectonic upheaval it would probably kill me, or I would be killed in the process for not towing the line.

The challenge that the modern CMO faces in most organisations I see, is there is no value of trust and there is no value of transparency, so they don’t just say look you’ve got to turn right, turn right. If you have to get rid of half your people, do it. No, that’s not going to happen, right?

Most organisations are rife with political complexity and dynamics that aren’t healthy for the marketer anyway. If you look at the logic and go, never has there been a greater premium on the ability of someone to change, never, right.

Why is Myer in such deep trouble, why is David Jones going to be in even more trouble than it’s in? Why is JB HiFi and Dymocks not going to exist in three years? Because they failed to change. Toys Are Us went out of business this week; chapter eleven, bankruptcy.

This time last year (I’m going to get the quote a little bit wrong, but it is largely right), the CEO said and I quote almost specifically ‘Amazon is not a threat, they are not an issue for us, we can be a success with or without them.’ At what point do marketers go, no, no, no, actually we are in deep trouble, we need to change dramatically.

Darren:

I think you are right, you said before, the marketers, they are the bell weather, they often see these changes. You know Bernie Brooks when he retired from Myer (I went to a farewell from the industry), he stood up and he said there are many things I wanted to change, I just wasn’t allowed to.

So, even as CEO of Myer, when marketing had identified the problems and he’d identified the problems, then the Board and the shareholders wouldn’t invest in change. It’s almost like being on the Titanic, there’s the iceberg but let’s just hold on and hope that we are going to survive this.

Andy:

Absolutely. What it all comes down to, if you take the Gordian knot of marketing complexity, for me if you’re a good marketer (forget whether you’re a CMO or not), if you look in the mirror and go, ‘you know what? I’m a pretty good marketer’. Own your career or someone else will.

Make hard choices to do everything in your power to work for world class brands that get this stuff, that do embrace change, that do know how to pivot, that are investing in marketing because these companies that don’t do that they don’t deserve you.

Myer doesn’t deserve good marketers. It simply doesn’t.

Darren:

Do you think that’s why the CMOs that have built the reputations for making changes and delivering benefits to the business are the ones who seem to be the change agents who last the two or three years and then have to move.

Because there is also this mentality that if you come in and make those changes and stand true to your belief and your strategy at some point the organisation’s going to go, ‘well, thanks for making the changes? Now go away and well get someone else.’

Andy:

Yeah. All organisations have classically suffered from quite a high degree of CMO indigestion. They love eating the new CMO but can’t digest what comes with the feast and so that’s been an age-old problem.

Darren:

That’s a good quote.

Aligning marketing performance to business objectives

Andy:

We do a lot of work with CMOs and we go and look at their strategies, audit their strategy for them. We don’t go down the TrinityP3 like let’s look at your supplies etc, but we’re looking at the high-level alignment.

The thing that is most disturbing to me is that I would say that more than 70% of the time there is a lack of alignment in the CMO strategy and the actual strategy beat that the business is running to.

So, you’ll end up with the business saying we want to grow at …. and the CMO has actually said ‘yes’ to that while reducing spend. And I go, ‘the economic model you have suggests there is no way you can achieve that growth without the spend’.

‘I know but they cut my budget’ ‘Well you should have told them that the business strategy is at risk. You should have written to the board and said, ‘Dear Board, I know that Bill is telling you we’re going to smoke the numbers but we’re not. It is simply an economic and statistic probability. The statistical variance is too great at this point.’

I find that the other problem a lot of CMOs are running into is this ability to map the marketing model to the business model effectively. It doesn’t have to be a precision guided line to predict the outcome. But you should be able to see the pattern clearly and go, ‘a dollar here equals this many out here so you reduce the dollar here.’

Darren:

There’s the impact of the top line.

Andy:

I’m not a vending machine. It’s not that binary but there is a correlation here. I remember when I was on the advisory board of Market Share, which was a very very big, probably one of the world’s most advanced attribution companies. They were sold to New Star a year or so ago.

And the number of marketers whose companies were looking at Market Share but were like ‘oh man, it costs a lot, like $2.5 million’ and I’m like ‘yeah, but you spend $200 million on media’. If they save you 10%.

Darren:

You’re way in front.

Andy:

It’s free money. It’s really hard for CMOs to change when their inherent model is rigid. So, building flexibility into your model and then aligning more tightly with business models and really owning your career you can do amazing things as a CMO but you’ve got to have a strong stomach to be a CMO these days.

Darren:

Largely it seems to be thankless because we see so many CMOs that make these changes and before it even gets a chance to pay off they‘re on this merry go round of moving. How many times have we seen CMOs moving from one organisation to the next?

Andy:

I think a lot of CMOs are quite tightly coupled in the executive suite to the CEO. I loved my career at CommBank. I had a great time: I got to do amazing things. And if Ross McEwan and David Lindberg had stayed I would have loved to have stayed much longer because I just loved working with them.

You see so many CMOs change their roles when the CEO that they’re the counterpart to changes. So, one of my arguments as I coach CMOs in their careers is do attach your trailer to a great CEO truck where you build that long-term relationship and partnership.

Look at the CMO of Qantas; she’s done a great job in aligning with Allan and they’re a great partnership and team and they succeed together and I have huge admiration for that. I think more CMOs, if they could build that tight a bond in the C-Suite and align with the CEO that would give them a lot more career velocity over time.

That’s what I’ve seen happen statistically when I look at those CMOs with the longest tenures. Probably the best example in the world is Beth Comstock at GE, who went from being Head of Comms to CMO to now Chairperson of GE, the largest industrial conglomerate on earth because she was so closely aligned with Jack Welch and then with Jeff.

There are some really interesting playbooks for CMOs to look at and go ‘o.k. if I love this place and I want to be here what are the tacks, and strategies I might deploy?’ So, it’s not a matter of how successful you are as a CMO but how successful can you make the CEO?

Darren:

And, as you say, build that connection because the two together is quite a powerful combination.

Andy:

Conversely, when you’re sitting there and you look in the mirror and go ‘my relationship with the CEO, it sucks. We are like oil and water. We do not gel. This is not a romance made in heaven’. The chances of it working are very low at that point.

So, you’ve got to be honest with yourself as well and see your own canary in the coal mine squawking.

Darren:

The writing on the wall.

Andy:

Yeah, it’s there for all to see. So, it’s a really interesting dynamic.

Darren:

You were at Dell?

Taking a data and performance focus

Andy:

I was at Dell twice. I was at Dell in the very early days of Dell as Head of Comms, VP of Comms, and then Chief Communications Officer, and then I went back to Dell as the Head of Dell.com, which was the largest ecommerce site in the world at the time (we were about a $20 billion business). I was CMO of the large enterprise group, Head of Comms at Dell, and then had various CMO roles there. I was there for a long time.

Darren:

Because it has a reputation for being a very performance-data driven marketing and business model, isn’t it?

Andy:

Completely. Everything starts with numbers, at the expense of creativity, so, I would never regard Dell as a great creative brand builder, though it’s a great scientific brand builder. They knew precisely which page of the newspaper to be on, on which day of the week if you wanted to reach that audience with that message. They could precisely tell you that.

Darren:

Which is direct marketing isn’t it, in its purest form?

Andy:

It’s super-scaled direct marketing, which then became web marketing, and then…the list goes on. So, it was staggering to be part of that machine and the emphasis on attribution. You started with attribution; you didn’t end with attribution.

Darren:

I feel that as a basis of understanding marketing that really gets you into that combination of marketing sales driving company performance and profit. The addition of creativity and strategy beyond that and the emotional brand building.

Andy:

And on top of that probably the most ruthless execution machine on earth. Probably now Amazon’s that machine but Dell was (and probably still is) ruthless in the supply chain efficiency within marketing–ruthless.

When we consolidated all the agencies into WPP I was one of the leaders on that project. It was about a $billion of spend. We took a billion out and we moved all creative production to Bangalore and Bangladesh and built new studios so we could do low-cost production overnight.

Ruthless, like if you were a vendor you couldn’t bring donuts or muffins into a meeting—out of the question. You cannot charge us for that stuff. We don’t want you spending our money on that stuff. It was ruthless to the point of someone turning up at a meeting with Michael or any of the executive team, with a Mac. They’d send them up the road to buy a Dell. We weren’t going to watch the presentation on a Mac. Many a creative fell for that one.

It was the most driven environment from a cost, investment, science. I say to young marketers, ‘pick the most data-driven place to go to first. Learn the science of how the engine of business relates to marketing—that’ a huge gift that will pay back.’

Darren:

It’s interesting because 20 or 30 years ago it was go to P&G, Unilever, all the consumer package goods companies because that’s where you’ll learn marketing, son or daughter. That’s where you’re going to get the basics whereas now it’s, as you say, where do you get experience in understanding data informed strategy and then, more importantly, performance measures?

A lot of people we see are running off and investing in technology platforms to become data-informed but they’re missing out on the second and most important part: measurement to feed back into the data in the first place.

Andy:

Right on. Very much so. And the thing that is so radically different about these high-growth companies, whether it’s a Dell or Amazon, is that there is no line between marketing and revenue. There’s no ‘but I built the brand and brand vibrancy is up and our awareness has done this and consideration has done this’. It’s like I don’t care. Revenue is flat.

This relationship between marketing and revenue being so polarised in so many brands I go into; it just does my head in. I just don’t understand it because I’ve come from a world where anything less than double digit growth and complete alignment between a dollar into marketing equals an improvement in revenue outcome (not median improving outcome but steadily improving outcome).

And a philosophical view that the job of marketing is to eliminate sales. That was a commonly held belief at Dell that marketing causes us to grow at an exponential rate to that which we would need to add a salesperson. That’s why you’re here. Otherwise, we should just hire more salespeople.

Darren:

It’s interesting you say this because one of the questions I’ve asked quite a few marketers over the 15, 16 years I’ve been doing this, is what the company’s IRR is? And it’s interesting how many marketers don’t know about Internal Rate of Return because they’re not even, as you say, aligned to revenue.

Marketing exists on a budget, which basically makes it a cost of business, when in actual fact if they were aligned to driving revenue or revenue performance then they would be worried about things like what is the Internal Rate of Return or cost of money for the organisation?

Andy:

Exactly.

Darren:

So that every dollar I spend is out-performing what the cost of money would be for the CFO.

Andy:

That’s right. And you look at the problems so many of the retailers for instance have run into in the U.S and elsewhere confronting Amazon. I was sitting with a bunch of CMOs several months ago (from big retailers) and they were lamenting how hard it is. And I said, ‘your problem is not your brand and it’s not actually sales, the problem is capital intensity. The problem is your stock price has fallen through the floor and become an un-investable asset so your ability to attract capital in….’

Darren:

Which drives up your cost of money.

Andy:

Amazon has infinite access to cash at zero cost. You have no access to cash and if you wanted it, it would be at an extraordinary cost. You can’t win. There’s nothing you can do. You have to be willing to make absolutely radical moves and I think the best marketers that I see making those radical moves are those that are able to really get into product.

You’ve seen what Kmart’s done with some of its category killer product stuff; it’s right on the money. Because you can’t win unless you have something that others don’t and can say we have this great new Swedish range of interior design things and you’re going to love ‘em at Kmart prices.

I’m going to want those and go there and get those. Or you’ve got a vacuum cleaner that sucks like a Dyson but doesn’t suck money out of your wallet like a Dyson, you should get one of those and you need a new vacuum cleaner, I’m going to go to Kmart.

And that’s marketing, for me, doing clever stuff because you’re actually attracting new traffic, new footfall with differentiation at great price points. You’re fulfilling your brand promise and they do well as a result.

I can’t tell you why I would go to Target. Why would I go to Target for anything I want?

Darren:

It really is applying marketing in every aspect of marketing. It’s not just about promotion. They’re looking at pricing, product innovation, all of the areas that were traditionally part of marketing.

Marketing as a growth driver

Andy:

That’s right. I was talking to one of the Heads of one of the big agency groups here and I said, ‘if you look at the problem with agencies today—agencies were built on a three-legged stool. Leg number one was amazing artisanal or creative.

Leg number two was media and supply chain integration—you had a way of stitching everyone together from world class videographers to world class media footprint and footfall traffic and everything like that and you owned that. You’ve lost that completely. That’s gone. It’s programmatic now, owned by little media shops, strategists, I’m building my own team to do it. You no longer provide any value there.

And the other thing I went to you for was amazing customer insight and you’re the last people I’d go to for amazing customer insight so you have a one-legged stool that’s not particularly comfortable to sit on anymore.

You either need to create an entirely new stool with new legs or you need to reclaim your legs. Now, conversely what’s happened that’s amplified your problem is marketing had its five-legged stool, built on the 5Ps of marketing. And we lost every leg except one: promotion.

We are the people you go to to promote stuff? We don’t typically own pricing, placement, distribution, sales owns that, product so promotion.

Darren:

The colouring-in department. I went to a CEO forum and that was what marketing was referred to, as the colouring-in department.

Andy:

Those of you who have kids listening to this podcast you should put earplugs in. I have a really strong view on that. I become borderline hyper-offensive with CEOs.

Darren:

That say that?

Andy:

But fuck you. What are the fucking silk tie and suck-up department to your Board? No, these marketing people work bloody hard and you’ve dis-empowered your marketing team by putting sales people that know nothing about pricing and finance people that know nothing about marketing, in charge of your pricing. You’ve lost total control of your distribution channels, right?

You should empower your marketers. Stop referring to them that way. I go ballistic because it’s like this cheeky sign of disrespect that’s kind of cute; they actually believe that.

Darren:

They do believe it. This guy had just finished saying that sales was his most important revenue driver and yet no matter how many sales people he was losing market share.

Andy:

Of course.

Darren:

And someone suggested that perhaps it was a bigger issue than sales; it could be a marketing issue. That’s what he said in the context: marketing is just the colouring-in department. So, he completely misses the power of marketing.

Andy:

He should actually be fired as CEO because he is incompetent. He actually knows nothing about marketing, modern organisational development, creating value in markets and that is a real problem.

I sit on a number of large boards including Mercury Energy, which is one the largest power companies in New Zealand (the Origin of Australia) but just about all renewable energy—an amazing company to be working on. I remember sitting there a year ago as a Board member (this is an NZX10, ASX100 Board) and sitting with the CEO and we as a Board said we really want to challenge you on the brand strategy, the positioning of the brand, and the relevance of the brand.

And man, he took it all in. I give huge credit to the Chair of the Board who had the courage to put a marketer on the Board to drive that conversation and then huge kudos to the CEO for listening to that Board. But as a result, they’re winning every marketing award in New Zealand.

They have done unimaginably cool things to rebuild their brand.

Darren:

Getting the benefit of that.

Andy:

It’s a great example of a CEO; Stocks are at an all-time high, shareholders are loving it, customers are loving it, customer churn’s down dramatically. It’s a great example of the kind of alignment that I think marketers have to look for.

Darren:

That is a category which is low consideration and low customer involvement, so of all areas to achieve those sorts or results has to have come from marketing first of all and as you say, driven and owned by the board and the CEO.

Andy:

I think great marketers need to work much harder at engaging with boards and getting into the board room, and finding ways to nestle.

I was sitting with a CMO the other day, where she said they were having trouble engaging with the board. And I said, I’m assuming you do all these stupid big company events that big companies do. The supplier dinners and the fund raising for the whatever and then you have this oh yeah, we do like twenty of those a year. Every month there is something going on and I bet your board members attend those.

She said Yeah.

I said do you make a point of sitting next to them? Do you make a point of going and introducing yourself? She said, no, I don’t really, and I am like, you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to network like a maven; you’ve got to be a connector. You’ve got to go over and point out what you are doing, point to your work, make sure the board sees you’re creative and make sure you see the messaging, you talk about segmentation and you lead with data.

Darren:

That’s great advice. You see so many marketers that are externally focused and they forget the important stakeholder group actually exists within the organisation they work for. They have to sell marketing to the management and to the board.

Andy:

Yeah, it’s probably the biggest sales effort you ever have to do. The opportunity is there, I just hope more marketers go yeah, this is an amazing career, this is an amazing job and function, it’s so vital.

I was with a recruiter here the other day, who was in a hunt for a CMO and was asking me to point people their way, which I am always happy to do for them. He said, who do you rate marketing and I said there are always so many people I rate marketing, but there’s so many good people now at that middle marketing level. I get really optimistic as they start to come up through the ranks. You see all kinds of amazing stuff happening, there’s some great marketing talent out there.

Darren:

In the industry. Look we have run out of time, but great to catch up and chat.

Andy:

Yeah, thanks for the opportunity and keep blogging.

Darren:

And one last question. Out of all the jobs in your career what was your favourite?

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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