Original insights in international business and marketing

The Decline of the Marketing Empire

Ruins of Ancient Empire

There is a sobering image of Marketing’s perception within the corporation which is emerging. One that spells opportunity but also rings the death knell for traditional Marketing models and organizations.  According to research done by the Fournaise Group entitled “70% of CEOs admit they May be responsible for Marketers Poor Perceived Performance” (which I picked on from Mitch Joel’s blog), a startling 80% of CEOs are unimpressed by the work done by Marketers and believe that Marketers are poor performers.  Ouch, that hurts.


Behold the Demise of Marketing

It’s hard to argue with the facts.  Over 1200 CEOs from companies around the globe participated in this survey.  And whether the exact number is 80% or 60% isn’t as important as recognizing that in the mind of Chief Executives, the majority of marketers don’t seem to cut it anymore.  As painful as it sounds it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.  There have been too many clues along the way to ignore this pattern:

  • Parades of new Marketing leaders over the years treating Marketing as a playground for pet projects with little substance and few concrete results. How many times have we seen changing logos, mission statements, branding, …?  Lesson:  We’ve been too Image focused.
  • On boarding of marketers with the wrong profiles or poor skill sets.  Lesson:  We’ve put people in the wrong seats on the bus.
  • Failure to adopt and measure pertinent Key Performance Indices (KPIs).  Lesson:  We haven’t adequately measured our contribution to the bottom line.
  • Dilution of primary responsibility (Demand Generation) with other activities like Sales Support, Business Development, Product Management, Market Research, Pricing, Competitive Analyses, etc…  Lesson:  We’ve seen a carving out of Marketing’s traditional responsibilities.
  • Long term love affair with Classical Marketing and Traditional Advertising tools/models.  Lesson:  We’ve focused too much on Outbound Marketing activities.
  • Hiring and staffing that has far exceeded Marketing’s demonstrated ROI over the years.  Lesson:  We’ve put too many people on the bus when there really weren’t enough seats for them all.
  • Failure to actively embrace principles of Inbound/Digital Marketing which are inherently more cost effective and easier to measure.  Lesson:  We’ve been slow to adopt new technologies and embrace new ways of doing business better and for less.

If any of these sound familiar, then you know what I am talking about.  The writing has been on the walls for quite some time and the new high-paced digital era we are in is simply bringing the expiration date forward by a few years.  Why else is it that Marketing has experienced a disproportional share of travel freezes, program cuts, cost reductions and layoffs?

I believe it is because Marketing has failed to clearly articulate and demonstrate its value to senior management.  We have been perceived more as a cost center with ambiguous value to the organization.  A still-necessary function, perhaps not entirely for its contribution to the bottom line but at least for the organization’s self-image.   Perhaps as a result, traditional Marketing domains such as Product Management, Strategic Pricing, Training, Market Research and even Marcom have slowly been cleaved or placed under separate leadership.  Let’s face it, we’ve also seen global marketing shift from a centralized function to more of a local or regionalized model.  The former role of Marketing as the “hub of the corporate wheel” has been broken up and spun off into smaller fiefdoms.  Consequently the former “greats lords and ladies of Marketing” have seen their lands shrink and now pay homage to the CEOs no longer as a first among equals but as an ordinary vassal.

Marketing Strikes Back?

This is all gritty, grim and unpleasant stuff.  Let’s be honest.  That said, it is only by being honest with ourselves and by removing the rose tinted glasses that Marketing will come to terms with the stark realities of its current and future role in the corporation.  The healing can only begin with a comprehensive audit and reflection on where & why we have failed in our mission.  This journey should start with a deep dive in self reflection and a review of where Marketing has not lived up to its true objective:  Demand Creation.  I might suggest a multi-day workshop to identify the gaps and goals to be set for the New Marketing.  It should continue with a candid discussion with Senior Management to see how and where Marketing can return to a leadership and indispensable role within the organization.  If 80% of CEOs are unhappy with Marketing, best check with your current CEO and see what he or she feels Marketing could be doing better or differently.  You then should continue with a staffing and skills audit to see if your Marketing organization is properly staffed/trained to handle the changes and challenges that lie ahead.  Chances are, there may be a need for some considerable re-engineering.  Lastly, shift most (although not all) of your attention to measurable and more cost effective Inbound/Digital Marketing initiatives.  Switch from an image creation and creative messaging culture to one that emphasizes content creation and social media to deliver true customer intimacy through relationship building.

Photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) / Foter / CC BY-SA

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December 2012

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Andrew Hyncik

Andrew Hyncik

Parifornia is the creation of Andrew Hyncik, an experienced International Marketing executive who's lived and worked for over 20 years in both Europe and North America.

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