Forget about Above, Below & Through-The-Line... Think about the Bottom Line
Posted by
Nicole Zetler at 10:00

All too often we hear marketers vent "They are only interested in the sales figures" or "They don't understand the importance that brand plays in the company…"The frustration that marketing managers express about the disconnect they face when it comes to interactions with executives at board level or those in financially-related positions, is by no means new, or unique to South Africa. This detachment from marketing is confirmed by Deloitte's'Marketing in 3-D'global report which uncovers that one third of CFOs do not believe that marketing is a key growth driver or crucial to devising strategy and that 77% of executives believe their employees do not appreciate the value of marketing.

I'm not trying to be controversial in marketing circles and understand that the relationship between 'the business' and marketing has historically been quite rocky, but when one takes time to consider the current economic climate, who can blame business executives for wanting to concentrate on the bottom line? After all, it's the Rands and cents that indicate growth, attract and retain investors; and ultimately determine health of the business.

In order for marketers to gain respect and bring brand and marketing activities into the boardroom it's critical to put ourselves in the non-marketing executives' shoes. We, as marketers, have to think and talk about marketing in a whole new way.

Firstly, when given the opportunity, marketers wax lyrical about brand being an intangible asset. Yes, brand has the potential to be the greatest intangible asset, but to demonstrate this to our more financially-focussed peers, it's imperative that marketers show the return-on-investment  that brand activities produce. It's about showcasing value in the business and marketing's impact on solid financial metrics. This should not be confused with a horde of measures that are purely based on tactical marketing activity, but rather, how have the marketing activities for which we are responsible driven consumer choice of our brand and therefore sales.

Another reason for the disconnect is because we are speaking a different language to 'the business' and this communication barrier is mutual. "Above-the-line, brand DNA, tissue sessions, monolithic brands, iconoclasms, touch points, visual language, 5 W's, 4P's" - it's no wonder marketing is not getting a seat in the boardroom: they cannot understand what we are saying! To connect with the business it's not only imperative that we learn to talk about marketing in a coherent way, but we also need to learn the language spoken in the boardroom. Whether it's "P/E and HEPS" or "M&A, and liquidity" it's key that we can converse with the leaders of our organisations. 

Thirdly, unless marketers are smart with the way we spend our money, we will continue to be seen as the spoilt and wasteful cost centre that we potentially can and have been. Marketers too often have launched campaign after campaign and tactic after tactic without clearly thinking about its strategic intent.

It is very easy for marketers to become insular and get wrapped up in promotional activities. We have to engage with the other boardroom agenda points that often get more airtime.

Think about the changes you can make to connect with business executives:

  • Learn to understand the figures on the balance sheet, income statement and annual report;
  • Always link your marketing objectives to a marketing strategy that spurs from corporate strategy;
  • Consider your audience before you showcase your marketing and branding lingo;
  • Remember that you will most probably be bored of your campaigns before your target market may even see them - don't spend money on 4 campaigns per year if you can execute one really well; and
  • Ensure that you have the right measures and dashboards in place to ascertain the effectiveness of your marketing activities and relate these back to solid financial metrics and value that the executives actively engage with.

It is critical that marketers broaden their commercial skills to gain the respect of executives. Marketing can only perform a strategic role and be viewed this way if we can bring cross-functional expertise to the boardroom. It's not only about above, below and through line activities, but about seeing the bigger picture. That's the bottom line.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Enter your details below to receive our monthly updated newsletter on everything brand & marketing related.
Subscribe to our newsletter


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share