whining, defend your role to get ahead
July 15, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
all marketers whiners?
Sitting at a conference featuring five high-powered marketing
professionals, I thought of Seth Godin’s book, “All
Marketers Are Liars”. Godin says great marketers don’t
focus on product attributes and features, they create powerful
stories that motivate us to buy $225 pairs of Pumas rather than
$15 “no name” shoes.
Did Godin get it wrong? Why are marketers whining so much?
Why is it when marketers get together, we complain about the challenges
of demonstrating ROI for marketing investments, the short tenure
of CMOs and the ceiling that keeps marketers from rising to the
helm of the company?
Marketers should be telling stories about their contributions
to corporate success not complaining about their collective lot
in corporate life.
At the recent University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
Management Conference, marketing professor Pradeep Chintagunta
fielded an all-star panel of top marketers including: Interbrand
Corp.’s Chief Strategy Officer Gary Singer; Wal-Mart Stores
Inc.’s Marketing Communications Senior Vice President Julie
Roehm; PepsiCo Inc.’s Marketing Vice President Ann Mukherjee;
and the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business
Executive Director of Marketing Chris Iannuccilli--a leading ad
Panelists were provocative and outspoken when it came to the power
of the Internet and consumer-controlled media to build brands
but defensive about the role and tenure of top marketers. The
case was the same at the recent CMO Summit held by global executive
search firm Spencer Stuart and at the national conference of the
Business Marketing Association.
Marketers are experts when we talk about our craft, but whiners
when we talk about getting ahead in our corporations.
Take Wal-Mart’s Roehm: She’s super savvy when speaking
about the power of new media vs. traditional advertising. “The
marketers (who) are succeeding are the ones (who) are delving
into the other opportunities to express your brand,” says
“We can get too wrapped up in the same old medium. We get
enamored with the sexiness of Hollywood and its presence by being
on television,” adds Roehm.
Roehm’s right, and she conquered her inner need to make
30-second movies in Los Angeles. That bodes well for Wal-Mart’s
market share and stock price.
Why don’t more marketers utilize consumer-controlled Web-based
media instead of TV commercials? Again, Roehm is highly articulate.
“Consumers today are taking a lot of alternative mediums
into their life. The consumer has control. The idea of television
is one where the consumer isn’t in control. I think it is
a crutch that advertisers typically lean on, where you are in
control and you can push.”
Roehm’s point: If you can let go and engage with consumer-controlled
media and understand your customer and how your brand connects,
you can gain a real advantage.
The U of C’s Iannuccilli--who built Olympic ad programs
for Budweiser before becoming the business school’s executive
director of marketing--is equally authoritative on the impact
of Web-based media. Blogs are affecting the MBA admissions process.
Says Iannuccilli, “Thirty minutes after an MBA candidate
is interviewed, the candidate might post the interview questions
to the Internet where others can read them.”
When it comes to knowing our trade, we’re eloquent. It’s
when we digress about our progress in tackling the “C”
suite that we suffer.
Complains Interbrand’s Singer, “Marketing and branding
are held to a higher level of scrutiny than almost everything
else that goes on in the corporation.”
Singer points to a French company in the energy business making
a billion-dollar investment in wind turbine equipment. “The
entire recommendation was captured in 20 binders of data,”
says Singer. “It rested on one assumption: What’s
the French government’s subsidy of wind turbine power going
to be in the next ten years?”
“Trying to predict what the French government is going to
do next month is a virtual impossibility, yet this billion-dollar
decision rested on some poor schnook’s recommendation of
what the government is going to do over ten years. Why is that
more disciplined than the kinds of things we marketers do every
day,” laments Singer.
Maybe it was the reference to the turbines. I could hear them
whine like jet engines.
So why are marketers wise about new media and whiny about their
role in the organization and their potential to become CEOs?
“We are certainly high maintenance,” says Roehm, who
thinks the nature of the organization determines the opportunity
for marketers to prosper. The former DaimlerChrysler marketing
exec says many companies are manufacturing- and finance-driven
so marketing has to really make the case.
PepsiCo’s Mukherjee agrees. “I think it goes back
to what is the heart of the company,” she says. “At
Kraft, you were told the CEO is going to come from the marketing
Mukherjee thinks you can make it to the top even in a company
where marketing doesn’t rule the roost. It’s a question
of effort. “If you choose to go to an organization that
celebrates marketing, the tide’s going to be a lot easier
if you want to become CEO. If you choose to go against the tide,
that shouldn’t stop you.”
For insight I turned to Hershey Foods Corp. CEO Rick Lenny, a
veteran marketer who now resides in the top job at the Pennsylvania-based
Speaking at the Spencer Stuart CMO conference Lenny said, “The
biggest contributor to the gulf that you see is CEOs treating
marketing as a collection of activities as opposed to an end-to-end
view of how marketing helps the company win.”
Lenny’s right. If marketers are going to make it to the
top of the corporation, they need to stop complaining and apply
their skills to telling leadership stories that explain how marketing
is contributing to the company’s success.
Whining just won’t cut it.
Krauss is a partner with Marion Consulting Partners based in Highland
Park, Ill., and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Marionpartners.com