Many CEOs do not employ a very broad perspective on marketing and it makes them commit silly mistakes. However, they alone cannot be blamed for their short-sighted marketing decisions because the pressure of achieving results in the short term is so high on them that rather than focusing on a long term and broader impact from marketing, they use it to drive sales. It’s why rather than seeing marketing as a strategic function and investing in it for long term value, they see it as an expenditure to generate revenue and profits. Kotler and many more top marketers of this era emphasize the strategic value of marketing for full impact. The idea is to not to see it just as a function but to see it as a part of the strategic team as Nirmalya Kumar of London Business school has noted in his book “Marketing as Strategy: Understanding the CEO’s Agenda for Driving Growth and Innovation”. The book underlines the strategic value of marketing for achieving long term impact and not just revenue and profits or other short term benefits. Nirmalya spells out how marketers can prove their strategic value in their organizations and make their businesses win. The problem is that marketing is being seen in seclusion and as distinct from other functions, which consumes a lot of money and does not provide proportionate returns. The task before the marketers is not easy and companies and leaders are looking for a stronger impact. If marketers are to prove their strategic value for their companies, they need to use a broader outlook and not just remain stuck with the four P’s.
The problem as he spells out is how these roles are seen across organizations. These marketers are not seen as strategists providing strategic support to the CEOs, helping them lead initiatives with organization-wide and long term impact but only as tacticians mainly immersed in the four P’s and not going beyond product, place, price, and promotion. This Nirmalya sees as a short-sighted perspective on marketing. However, there is also a strong reason that these CEOs are forced to wear this limited perspective. The pressure from investors and shareholders on them to create short term financial value is high and it makes them lose sight of the long term value of marketing. You will easily encounter roles like COO (Chief Operating Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), and even CTO (Chief Technology Officer), but coming across a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is difficult. Marketers must not think that the CEO or someone else will help them acquire the position but the burden is on the marketers themselves to excite the fire and prove their value. CEOs remain unsure if the spending on marketing is going to generate real returns. In such a scenario, it is upon the marketers themselves that their ideas can excite the CEOs and have definite organization-wide and bottom-line impact.
How can marketers achieve this? The first thing that Nirmalya highlights and which is to be considered most important is that Marketers need to be more open-minded and more cross thinking to make their ideas win. These things cannot be handled by the marketing function alone. The role of other functions like HR and finance is also critical. The same is true about the impact of marketing efforts. Their impact too must be cross-functional. Marketers must work to engage the top leadership and the CEOs to add value to their company. They can engage them to meet two major challenges that almost all the companies face. They are improving customer loyalty and reducing downward pressure on prices. To meet the challenge, companies are looking for growth solutions like expanding or growing new distribution channels, not selling products but solutions that address needs and pursuing radical innovation. Marketers can take leadership positions and lead initiatives if they are willing to include other functions. Moreover, the needs have changed in the modern era and the global markets have given rise to new needs where balancing between the global and local strategies may become difficult. Marketers must see where their efforts are adding real value. The need to balance between the global and local strategies creates tension. Market research and cross-cultural movement of managers are two answers to this problem. Market research allows you to examine the issue in a more objective manner and by moving managers across nations to enhance communication, companies have been able to grapple the challenge to a large extent. The value of communication is important because at places cultural differences can give rise to a need for localized strategies.
Another important factor is the technology and it has started playing a critical role in marketing however as Nirmalya warns adopting it can have both kinds of results — good and bad. In this regard he is right because technology needs to be used mindfully. Marketers must not rely mindlessly on any kind of technology and rush to adopt it because both rewards and risks can result from it. Instead, they must ask themselves questions regarding the use and credibility of that technology and the kind of results that they seek to generate from it. Marketing has to be driven by results because the pressure on the CEOs to create financial value is immense and they cannot shake it off. Still, if marketers too start following the definite track, the result would be short term impact and loss of value.
If marketing has to prove its strategic value then the marketers must be the first to understand it. While the strategic value of marketing is significant, to persuade the CEO is never easy. A clear and well-defined marketing strategy can help organizations clear several kinds of hurdles but for it to be impactful it must also create excitement. If marketers miss on this part, their job would become even difficult. Another critical thing that marketers must mind is that if they try to be successful alone then they must be cautious. Cross-functional thinking and cross-functional collaboration can save marketing executives both time and efforts. The market has grown globalized and creating winner marketing strategies is not so easily possible, but if marketers can adopt cross-functional thinking, they can generate the kind of value they expect more easily. With globalization, competition has become the norm and to win against the competition is not easy. Every marketing strategy has to be well crafted to win and there is a lot of confusion being created due to competition. The success of an organization does not depend exclusively on marketing but still depends on it to a large extent on it. Apart from showcasing a brand’s products and services, marketing also aims to create a positive perception of the brand in the consumers’ minds. However great be the pressure for financial value on the CEOs, the target cannot be achieved by using short-sighted marketing strategies. The strategic importance of marketing has grown but with it challenges before marketers have also grown which is happening due to changing market dynamics, increased globalization, and a higher level of competition. Every brand is faced with challenges and a great marketing strategy plays a larger role than just pushing sales. Marketers can make their mark, but instead of thinking in a limited zone, they have to push the limit and keep pushing it further because the level of competition in the market place will not let them sit easy. Marketing can play a defensive role against competition but only if it can create real and long term impact.