The Profession of Marketing clearly needs a makeover when you find out who is insulting our profession

Maybe we marketers are in denial. And I don’t mean the river in Africa. If the IT team feels it has a better reputation, we have some serious work to do to convince people about our value.

Let’s face it, working in marketing is a great career choice. It’s fast-paced, fun and creative. You need to really know people and understand what makes them tick. There are lots of new channels to get our head around and loads of interesting media and technologies.

Over my career, I have heard the one insult over and over again from the same source: the IT Team. And the insult: marketing are the ‘colouring-in’ department’.  Our reputation as marketers must be pretty bad when you have the IT department insult you. Their reputation is so bad that they even have a phrase that highlights their notoriety: ‘have you tried turning it off and on again’?

But, who really care what the IT guys really think? What about those at the top? I have been at plenty of board meetings and it is the board’s view of marketing is what really matters.

Depending on the challenges at hand, the board view on marketing can vary from ‘we need the strategic input of marketing to meet our objectives’ to ‘you guys just execute’. And it can vary when the leadership changes. Typically when a new CEO who comes from an operations background, and have not experience of what marketing can do, they typically see marketing as a communications activity that occurs at the end of a metaphorical production line.  They have no frame of reference.

The other type of new CEO is the numbers guy – the accountant who got promoted. The safe pair of hands. More often than not, this is a disaster for the marketing guys – and for the brand.  By definition, the CFO turned CEO is rarely adequately equipped for the top job. Having your head buried  in spreadsheets, P+Ls and cashflows is not the same as knowing how to lead people, how to understand market dynamics and how to understand consumers.

Peter Drucker, the famed management guru had it right all those years ago: ‘the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.’

Not a quote you typically see on the wall of the CEOs office.

Indeed, many surveys show that top management’s priorities in order are: finance, sales, production, management, legal and people. Missing from the list: marketing and innovation. When one considers the commodisation of so many businesses and the importance of customer experience in getting out of the commoditisation trap, you would have to scratch your head and  surmise that Drucker’s advice would have perhaps helped management to avoid the problems they face today.


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