Direct Line Blog

There's No "I" in C-Suite...Okay, There Is—But There Shouldn't Be

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We're all just links in the chain.
We're all just links in the chain.

It's pretty easy to get sucked into a departmental silo in the C-suite. Things get busy, everyone's working on their own thing. There aren't enough hours in the day (etcetera, yadda, and so forth).

But executives who fail to communicate with each other and neglect to encourage inter-departmental conversations are just asking for trouble, especially CMOs.

“In some respects, every aspect of business is marketing,” says David Pennino, CEO of LogicSource. “Whether it's with shareholders, customers, suppliers, or partners, ultimately marketing determines the overall success of a firm.”

Perception is nine-tenths of the draw. A bad experience, even with a third-party seller, could mean a marketing headache—and most consumers are not shy about broadcasting their complaints (which is why CMOs and other C-suite notables probably need to buy stock in aspirin and Alka-Seltzer).

“Think about how fast information travels with social media; the slightest misstep in a company—or a huge misstep—can seriously affect marketing, and the CMO bears the brunt of that,” says Pennino. “Let's say a rogue store manager takes it upon himself to do something silly, for example—that's still going to impact the CMO and that company's marketing.”

Say a company's CFO is involved in a scandal or a brand's CEO says something offensive (oh, hi there Mark Jeffries)—that's not the CMO's fault, but he or she is no doubt going to feel the unpleasant aftershocks. Try to capitalize on a tragedy and consumers will be on you faster than a jackrabbit in heat. For example, several brands that sent out ill-timed and unfortunately phrased promotions related to Hurricane Sandy quickly felt the wrath of the Twittersphere (cough, American Apparel, cough).

“In some cases the innocent CMO is probably sitting incorporate headquarters with no idea,” says Pennino. “And then when the idea ultimately backfires, it looks like the brand was trying to make a profit off a tragedy.”

When you look at it from a certain angle, everything is marketing—even the supply chain. “The most effective CMOs think about their role not just from the concept angle, but all the way through to the customer and the store,” says Pennino. “I don't care if you're a CMO, a CFO, or a CPO, if you're just thinking about your own function, you're doing yourself a disservice.”

Easier said than done, but communication will pay dividends.

“When you think about some of the most successful companies out there, their brand extends beyond their products or their look and feel,” says Pennino. “It's how they run their business.”

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