To the Modern Marketing Manifesto I add 'organise'

It’s a bad career move for a columnist to disagree with his editor, at least in print. So I’m going to hide behind politically correct brainstorm language and position what follows as ‘a build’.

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Back in April, Marketing Week launched its Modern Marketing Manifesto.

It eloquently summarises the issues any modern CMO should be concerning him or herself with, from managing the customer experience to embedding social media best practice into the organisation.

It’s all thoroughly good advice. However, over the last few months I’ve come to wonder if these commandants are sufficient as a credo for the thoroughly modern marketer.

At the risk of turning a crisp and inspiring manifesto into the kind of document Fidel Castro used to read out at the United Nations, I’d like to propose adding another.

It was Peter Drucker who wrote that: ‘The business enterprise has two and only two basic functions: marketing and innovation’.

For decades, marketers have been quoting that dictum with pride. But it’s only now that the pivotal role of marketing is finally being realised, largely because of the digital revolution in business.

We are fortunate to be gifted with some brilliant marketers in this country, many of them more than capable of sitting alongside the CEO and sharing the burden of shaping corporate strategy. I have the privilege of working with a few of them now.

However, it’s a recurrent theme in recent management literature that marketing is now too important to be left to the marketers. This is leading some CEOs to suspect that the marketing function has lost its alignment with the commercial direction of the firm.

The manifesto calls on marketers to act as integrators for all functions of the business. However, I think it’s a bit cheeky for marketers to attempt this when their own departments are often structured in a way which is antithetical to the strategic focus of the firm.

FMCG marketers have had long enough to get their departments organised. Assuming a well-designed portfolio strategy, the brand management system still works pretty well. However, it’s in service businesses where there’s most confusion.

This is perhaps understandable. Delivering services at profit is a complex business. Notwithstanding this excuse, I’ve seen some horrors in my time.

A modern CEO might talk about ‘customer obsession’. Yet all too often, the structure of their marketing department still reflects the sales imperatives of product owners, not the shareholders’ imperative of understanding and meeting customer needs at profit.

Sometimes, especially in financial services organisations, this dysfunction is enshrined in nomenclature. One group of marketers is referred to as ‘Product Marketing’. Another is known as ‘Customer Marketing’. As if the function of marketing is to prevent the calamity of a product and a customer being found in the same room at the same time.

A CEO might describe the company’s brand in experiential terms. Yet the marketing department’s ‘brand team’ remains focused largely on advertising and visual identity. Meanwhile, customers’ actual experience of the brand is in the hands of an operations chief whose name no-one can find on the company phone list.

How should a modern service business marketing department organise itself? It’s a big question, and the answer probably differs from one company culture to another.

A good start would be to organise talent not by function, but by business purpose. In my simple world, that might be something as basic as ‘Acquire, Grow, Retain’. Though I’m sure there are many other equally business-focused models which use much more 21st Century language.

George Bernard Shaw once described the function of the leftist Fabian movement as being to ‘Educate, Agitate, Organise’. This isn’t a bad mantra for the modern CMO, especially in a service business. And what business in the digital age isn’t one of those?

Hence my suggested build. Digitise, Personalise, Socialise: They should all be core activities of the modern CMO. But only at our peril should we forget to Organise. Starting with ourselves.

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