Let's agree to kill marketing once and for all

The idea was posed to me at a recent marketing roundtable and it was a reaction to Coke axing the role of their global CMO.

The room was big, one of those hotel venues with velvet walls and too many mirrors, but it suddenly felt small and hot. There was a moment of stillness while I internally debated my response.

Was the end of marketing upon us?

Of course the question was tongue in cheek, and immediately rejected by the group. After all, we were a bunch of long term CMOs, so it was a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. We all felt that CMO turnover was rising fast, but could not agree why.

The evening went on. Fortified by many glasses of wine, the group further pondered the future of the CMO. The ensuing debate did not reach any level of satisfactory conclusion. Such a heady topic was never going to. But it did help crystallize what was being played out.

Here's what I think is happening – and it’s all good, I'd love to hear what you think.

First; the obvious. The commercial landscape has fundamentally changed.

Bottom lines are registering the massive power shift, from corporation to consumer. Companies asleep at the wheel, or too slow to put customers at the center of everything they do, are at best experiencing rapid decline. Or at worst being usurped into obsolescence.

As a result, CEOs have much higher expectations for their CMOs to lead growth.

For many, this is a white-knuckle ride, relentless and irreversible.

More than that, it’s moving faster than many can cope with, or re-skill in time to address.

But truth be told, CEOs never really expected, nor gave marketing the mandate, for growth.

On the flip side many one “p” (promotion) CMOs, were complicit in abdicating the other “p’s (product, price and place) to other functions - some strategy, some sales, some finance, some channel. Yes I know about the evolution to 7 'P's but let’s stick to four for now.

So, returning to the question, was it Coke’s intention to kill marketing by canning their CMO function?

In a word, and in my opinion, the answer is a big fat no. But they did kill something important.

They killed any notion that the sole function of marketing, for their company, is promotion.

The genius in this move was forging marketing and commercial leadership under a newly anointed chief growth officer.

In doing so they disrupted marketing back to its core mandate - growth.

Cynics say that this is a fad, I don't think so. For many companies self-serving silo departmental behaviour is killing them - literally.

The empowered consumer is savvy, demanding and defects to abundant choice in seconds. We all know this. We all do this.

So here's my conclusion; if a company's marketing function has drifted into a promotion silo, without control over what is sold, to who, where and at what price, then bull dozing silos, under an empowered chief growth officer, is a giant leap forward.

Nishan Weerasinghe is CMO at IBM Systems for Cloud Platforms, Asia Pacific. This article was originally published on LinkedIn and was re-published with permission. You can find his other posts on his Linkedin.

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