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28 November 2020

The Future of Marketing

Tag(s): Business, Marketing, Future
Last week I attended a symposium on the future of marketing organised by Saïd Business School. Saïd Business School is part of Oxford University and as I am a graduate of that university and have had a business career Saïd regard me as one of their alumni and I don’t object. Although I have attended several courses at various business schools in the UK, USA and Switzerland I’m not a graduate of any of them and instead regard myself as a graduate of the Business School of life. I developed my career first as a salesman, then sales trainer, then sales manager, then brand manager and then general manager at the age of 30. Nevertheless I’ve never stopped learning and even though I no longer seek out paid work I’m still fascinated by the subject of marketing and have indeed been involved in various discussion groups in the recent past on its future.

For some time there has been a tendency among companies to change the title of their Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to Chief Customer Officer, or Chief Growth Officer, or Chief Revenue Officer, and there are many other variations on this theme. It may be that this comes from a concern that only a small number of modern CMOs have had full P&L responsibility whereas I had it as a young brand manager. But some of us are concerned that while the individual whose title has been changed is still by training an experienced marketing individual it may be that in the future other people with no knowledge of marketing come into these roles with a very different focus. There is much more to marketing than growth and indeed it is difficult for me to conceive that I would have been attracted to the growth profession. But then I have to admit that whereas lawyers and accountants have to pass examinations to practise their profession that has never been a requirement in marketing and means that by that definition marketing is not a profession. And that is why it is so important for those of us who care about marketing that we defend it to ensure that it continues to be practised properly and fully in the future.

Indeed in the symposium there were presentations on areas like new thinking on structuring the marketing organisation which I confess to not having found particularly helpful. Another presentation on the state of skills in marketing 2020 focused on an organisation called General Assembly, a strange name because if you Google general assembly you are more likely to get the United Nations than this particular organisation but I did find it and it does seem to work with a very large number of major companies in skills training but when I went to the webpage referring to marketing skills it listed a very large number of primarily technical skills but with no reference to some of the most important tools in marketing such as product development, pricing and positioning.

But I was very interested by a presentation that described the Da Vinci growth CMO profile. This was developed by the Institute for Real Growth in association with the executive search firm Spencer Stuart. Their argument is that the business world needs more Leonardo da Vinci’s. Growth minded leaders at all levels of a company should adopt a learning growth mindset, just like the famous polymath. Yet Leonardo da Vinci was both “whole brain” and “humanist”: left brain analytical scientist, right brain creative artist, and an individual profoundly empathetic towards humans and his natural environment. The recent health and inequality crises demonstrate that business can play an essential role in addressing the world’s challenges, and indeed, even before the spread of COVID-19, many corporations pledged to move away from focusing solely on maximising shareholder profits in favour of a multi-stakeholder growth orientation.  This humanising growth shift presents an opportunity for leaders to step up and champion what they call “real growth” – sustained, long-term, inclusive growth as the new normal. 

Their non-profit organisation recently conducted a study with 550 senior marketers and other leaders to identify the characteristics required to become a da Vinci-like leader. They identified three most critical characteristics: strong left brain analytical skills to decode the world; excellent right brain creative capabilities to tell inspiring stories; empathy to connect and collaborate.

They have found that companies that outperform in sustainable growth, defined as companies that have grown revenue faster than their direct competition for the last three years, have a better understanding of the world around them.  Successful growth leaders often serve as their company’s windows to the outside world, gathering information about consumer and market developments and interpreting the information for colleague. They display a da Vinci like curiosity, always interested in speaking to everyone, and forever asking “Why?”

The best growth companies also excelled at breaking down silos and collaborating internally and externally. The overwhelming majority of these outperformers have robust external connections, visiting conferences, partnering with new players, learning from organisations outside their traditional industry. The top performers lead by example; they are naturally collaborative, working across disciplines to foster understanding, respect, creativity, and innovation.

Real growth leaders know how to enrol colleagues in their plan and even create a movement. They know how to inspire colleagues and partners around a vision and win their support and participation on the journey. They understand their stakeholders, what motivates and concerns them, and demonstrate a willingness to listen and see their point of view.

Based on these interviews they have developed the da Vinci growth CMO profile. They’ve identified the 10 most important CMO areas of experience and the five essential attitudes of over-performing marketing growth leaders. Not every role will require all 10 of the CMO experiences but every role will require the five essential attitudes.

The 10 da Vinci growth CMO experiences:

1. Decoding the world
2. Growth strategy
3. Strategic brand development
4. Product and service innovation
5. Breakthrough content and engagement
6. Creative customer experience
7. Integrated stakeholder engagement
8. Revenue and channel leadership
9. Marketing capability
10. Media and performance

The five essential da Vinci growth CMO attitudes:
  1. Curious and agile learner
  2. Connected and collaborative
  3. Servant leader
  4. Speed and impact obsessed
  5. Inspiring storyteller
The COVID-19 crisis has revealed that the strongest companies and leaders are those that are purposeful and confident about their role in society. Businesses that are exceeding expectations are winning because they prioritise understanding the needs of, and creating value for, all their stakeholders, including colleagues, consumers, communities and capital markets.

Could it be that some good is therefore coming out of the COVID- 19 crisis and that the Companies Act that was hugely reformed in 2006 will finally be fulfilled?[i]


[i] 172 Duty to promote the success of the company
 
(1)A director of a company must act in the way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, and in doing so have regard (amongst other matters) to—
 
(a)the likely consequences of any decision in the long term,
 
(b)the interests of the company's employees,
 
(c)the need to foster the company's business relationships with suppliers, customers and others,
 
(d)the impact of the company's operations on the community and the environment,
 
(e)the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct, and
 
(f)the need to act fairly as between members of the company.
 
(2)Where or to the extent that the purposes of the company consist of or include purposes other than the benefit of its members, subsection (1) has effect as if the reference to promoting the success of the company for the benefit of its members were to achieving those purposes.




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