If you’re building a senior leadership team and have acquired the necessary strategy, finance and operations skills, what comes next? In this article, Ali Palmer, Partner at Savannah Group and CMO Johnny Corbett explore the resurgence of the traditional role of “Marketing” as a broad business discipline.

Both can recall a time, around 20 years ago, when “Assistant Brand Manager” positions were highly coveted roles in graduate trainee programmes.  The Chief Marketing Officer role at well-known companies was something to aspire to.

Over the last two decades, the world has undergone significant changes, and the marketing landscape has evolved in response to societal and economic shifts, most notably the digital transformation that has affected the lives and buying habits of consumers.

Brand Management roles used to be described as “mini-general-manager” positions, with wide ranging responsibilities tied to profit and loss (P&L) management. Marketers were tasked with bridging the gap between the real-world context and the business’s objectives. 

The scope of these seemingly junior roles was extensive, requiring participation in activities such as:

  • Collaborating with supply chain managers to reduce cost-of-goods and enhance profit margins
  • Providing feedback on a creative agency’s response to a brand positioning campaign
  • Working with the sales team on promotional calendars for key retailers and distributors
  • Collaborating with the sales team on promotional calendars for key retailers and distributors
  • Collaborating with the finance department on pricing models for current and future products and innovations

As the world became more complex and ambiguous, different marketing specialisms emerged. Marketing teams began to fragment into distinct areas, each responsible for different aspects such as Product, Digital, Experience, Customer, Growth, Communications and Community, to name a few. 

Fast forward through the financial crises, global pandemics and geopolitical shifts, and on the cusp of 2024, the need for well-rounded “total business” marketing leadership is greater than ever, both at local and global levels within organisations.

Just as Finance, Strategy, Operations and HR play a role across the entire business, the role of a marketing leader must encompass a broad perspective and sphere of influence. 

Marketing has always revolved around understanding customer insight and leveraging them to gain a competitive advantage. In a world with more customer channels and touchpoints than ever before, the potential for marketing to positively impact a business has expanded.

Beyond the traditional domains of Product, Price, Promotion and Place, there are significant business issues where incorporating the customer’s perspective offers substantial value.

People are companies’ most valuable assets, and in today’s networked world, employees are constantly communicating with large numbers of connections.  As a group of valuable spokespeople, is your team well versed in all your products and services? The CMO should be joining the dots between activity which drives both customer and employee engagement.

Responsible business practices, Diversity and Inclusion and Environment, Societal and Governance (ESG) activities are all about understanding the impact of decisions on people and the impression a company makes on the world; how much could and should that feature in a brands activation plans run by the CMO?

Of course we wouldn’t suggest that all of these responsibilities fall solely on the marketing function. Each requires expertise commensurate with its complexity and significance. However if they are developed in isolation of marketing and brand plans then businesses are missing an opportunity to positively impact customers.

In a world that shows no signs of slowing down or getting simpler, the ability to adapt and change is more valuable than ever.

Looking at your marketing capability alongside other business critical roles is vital to make sure that you have the right people with the right skillset to move your business forward; it will reap rewards in the long run.

At its core, marketing has always been about understanding customers. As the customer’s world has transformed, it’s fair to say that no other function’s role has evolved as much as that of marketing. Evaluating your marketing capability alongside other critical business roles is essential to ensure you have the right people with the necessary skill set to drive your business forward and outperform your competition.

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