January 01, 2007

Brand Marketers: Under-Appreciated?

Suzanne Lowe at The Expertise Marketplace asks "Is Marketing Talent Overrated"? She essentially asks why one seldom hears the words "Marketer" and "Expert" in the same sentence.

Regardless where I have worked, folks working in the marketing department are among the most under-appreciated individuals I have met. When businesses fail, they are among the first to lose their jobs. When business is going well, anybody associated with buying merchandise or creating products are rewarded.

Let's explore four reasons why Brand Marketers are, in my eyes, under-appreciated.

Number Four --- Portability: Marketing is a profession where the skills required to be successful in one culture are different than the skills required to be successful in another. The tactics used to drive Nike's marketing activities are very different than the tactics used to drive sales at Sierra Trading Post, Wine.com, or Franklin Covey. The Chief Financial Officer, or Chief Technology Officer, can work at different companies, because the same techniques are universal across companies. Your marketing staff have to be so much more adaptable than other individuals. Marketers must know more techniques, and must understand which techniques are likely to yield success within the culture they work in. Worse, portability applies to individuals who feel they can do the job of a marketer. The information technology individual feels like they could create an ad campaign on their own. The marketer knows they cannot write C++ code. Consequently, employees feel their skills are portable enough to do the jobs of marketing leaders. This works against the marketer.

Number Three --- Sales Allocation: Most businesses structure their reporting systems around products. We try to measure how many units were sold by store or channel or catalog or floorset. We measure gross margin, which is a great proxy for profitability. We measure change in performance, this year verses last year. This allows us to evaluate merchandise, and those who are responsible for buying merchandise. The marketer is stuck in a bad situation. Assume that a brand marketer develops a television advertising campaign that increases sales by six percent. Where does this six percent increase in sales show up, in any of the reports that executives peruse each morning? The six percent increase, if distributed equally among products, is illustrated in the reports that the Chief Merchandising Officer sees. Consequently, she gets indirect credit for the work of the brand marketer who developed an exceptional television advertising campaign. This isn't fair to the marketer, and is probably an inequity that cannot be changed.

Number Two --- Line-Item Accountability: It costs money to market to customers. As a result, there is a gigantic line-item in every profit and loss statement that works against the marketer. Marketers are penalized twice --- once for not being able to properly allocate sales to their efforts in company reporting, and a second time for having a gigantic line-item expense in the profit and loss statement.

Number One --- Probability Of Success: Marketers are a lot like the power hitter on a baseball team. The power hitter could strike out eight times in a row, then get a base hit, and then hit a home run. Because the power hitter is evaluated across six hundred plate appearances, he is considered a success. The marketer operates under similar constraints. But the marketer only gets ten plate appearances. If the marketer fails to hit a home run in those ten place appearances, s/he is fired. Businesses are looking for marketers to be free-throw shooters who make eight in ten attempts. Marketing is about hitting home runs two out of ten times. This disconnect works against the marketer.

Why don't you start the new year by giving some props to your marketing team? Working in a largely under-appreciated role, they do contribute to the success of your business.

What do you think about marketers, and this thesis about their level of appreciation within an organization?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:27 PM

    Thanks Kevin, for your comments about Marketing experts. I especially liked your analogy to baseball power hitters. In my opnion, it all boils down to only a few things: marketers must better manage their colleagues' expectations (even as they work to exceed them); marketers must do a better job of linking strategy to tactics (too many are so disconnected!); and marketers must insist on having purview over more stepwise goals (too many are relegated to delivering on goals they didn't set!). I'll address these issues in an upcoming blog post on The Expertise Marketplace.


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