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
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
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.
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.