Industry bids to raise profile of marketing in boardroom

ISBA is planning to form a cross-industry initiative to improve the standing of marketing within companies after identifying that CMOs are becoming under-represented in the boardroom.

Boardroom CMO

The first phase is a meeting between the ISBA Executive Committee and a number of external industry figures, which the body hopes will set in motion an “action plan” to improve the perception of marketing as a business driver. It is hoped that other industry bodies will get involved.

Jon White, ISBA chairman and EMEA marketing director at Kimberly Clark says: “We [ISBA] have a vested interest in the impact of marketing and our belief is that marketing has lost some of its influence in the boardroom while that of finance has increased. We want to stir the pot and see where there is appetite to explore and tackle the issue.”

News of the initiative comes as a report has found the majority (70 per cent) of CEOs have lost trust in marketers’ ability to deliver growth after becoming frustrated by what they see as an inability to prove ROI on campaigns.

The global report by Fournaise Marketing Group also found that 70 per cent of CEOs admit their lack of trust in CMOs is to blame for marketers’ poor reputation in business.

Liz Miller vice president of programs and operations at the CMO Council, a global organisation that represents senior marketers, says the poor business perception is as much marketers’ fault as it is CEOs.

She says: “Many CEOs and CMOs still live with an out of date perception of what marketing and the CMO should be doing. Our definition of a CMO is to be the lead marketer driving business strategy, owning customer experience and translating the brand into business. Some CMOs stop at the brand but they must instil that culture of customer centricity in the organisation.”

The Fournaise report also found CEOs would like marketers to be more ROI focused, something ISBA’s White believes is already happening but that marketers aren’t communicating well enough.
Pete Markey, CMO of RSA, says a chief marketer must balance a “trinity” of skills to be taken seriously in business: “CMOs have to be part artist, part scientist and part politician - sometimes we fail by being too artistic.”

CMO Council’s Miller says marketers must tackle this oversimplification of the CMO role and become the CEO’s “trusted advisor” to earn a seat in the boardroom.

She says: “If an organisation does not centre itself around customers, if we continue to run organisations around finance and only look at shareholders, bottom line P&L, no forward looking strategy other than stock price and cost saving we will never reach an era of customer centricity and marketers will always be spinning in their wheel.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • Classical marketers need to be alchemists; they blend innovative creative and insightful analytics. They have an equal focus on the customer and the bottom-line.

    Sadly the emphasis over recent years has been too much promoting the idea that "we can't prove it but trust us" mentality. We've collectively dumbed-down Marketing's scope, role and ability to create business success.

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  • I agree with Alison. The message above is that marketers need to improve how they are perceived.


    Marketers need to prove to the boardroom that they are building the business and adding value. Most activity can be measured, so there really is no excuse for whining.

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  • Completely endorse Darren's view in's up to us as marketers to demonstrate the value our activities contribute the business. No excuses for not being able to do that.

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  • I’ve been addressing just this point – the influence of CMOs in the boardroom – for 15 years. Since I co-founded Ninah Consulting and the esteemed John Hooper, then ISBA Chairman, was our non-exec director. I’ve helped lots of senior marketers to increase influence with their board. So progress is being made by the forward thinkers. Translating brand into business strategy, distilling ROI of strategic business options and instilling customer centricity within before promising it externally.
    Ironically, the advent of digital should make it easier – more data, cheaper data. But for many, it's actually reduced influence because the majority of CMOs aren't sure what digital really means for their brand or the opportunities it brings. Making it difficult to adapt at the speed they really need to. So if you’re setting up a working group, count me in.

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