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Marketing Has a Branding Problem


Marketing in 2015: exciting and terrifying. There’s more of everything: data, channels, technologies, opportunities for customer interactions. But that “more” makes marketing tougher; it’s harder to select the right data, optimize the channel mix, choose the ideal vendors, connect with the best customers at the most appropriate time.

And that’s not all. Many marketers are finding themselves working deeper in the sales funnel or in service interactions. Marketing today is not for the faint of heart. No—marketing today is for executives who are chameleon-like: adaptable and able to blend with their changing environment.

“Marketing is going through an identity crisis” as marketing blends more with sales, service, and the like, Schneider Electric CMO Chris Hummel said during a panel discussion at The Economist‘s The Big Rethink 2015 conference. The result? “There’s a branding problem in marketing,” Hummel said, adding that there are innumerable inconsistencies in organizational structure, staffing, roles, and the like across today’s marketing operations.

That problem is an opportunity: to redefine what marketing should be. “If you define marketing as wherever a customer touches a brand,” Salesforce CMO Lynn Vojvodich said during the panel, “then you as a marketer need to be where your customers are and take them on a journey across all those touchpoints.” In other words, Vojvodich said, marketing and the customer experience are synonymous. And considering that, it makes sense for marketers to have increasing influence on and collaboration with sales, service, and other customer-facing teams.

“Marketers aren’t talking about organizational design, but they should be,” Brian Wieser, senior analyst, Pivotal Research Group, noted during the discussion. “Some are powerless in their own organization.” If the CEO and other senior executives don’t prioritize marketing as a demand generation engine and business driver, he said, the CMO becomes an evangelist with no power to drive real change.

That’s not a good place to be. “If you don’t become a powerful CMO you’ll be out of a job,” Neeraj Agrawal, general partner of VC firm Better Ventures, said during his Big Rethink panel.

Fortunately, marketers are used to ambiguity and working with multidisciplinary teams, Schneider Electric’s Hummel pointed out. The opportunity, he said, is for marketing to move faster than the rate of organizational change in most companies today; to focus on internal change management first, adapt quickly, and use that speed to stay ahead of the competition.

“Where marketing is perceived as a core part of the company,” he said, “my instinct is that the valuation will be higher,” because those marketers are more likely to talk about what’s important to customers versus their products’ shiny features and functions.

“It’s the most exciting time to be in marketing,” Salesforce’s Vojvodich said, noting that chief marketers can take a leadership role in reimagining the business and driving the transformation needed to win in the market today.

One essential element for marketers’ success in that leadership role? “CEOs must recognize that marketing is actually a skilled position,” Hummel said. “Not just anyone can do it; there’s a functional expertise.”

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