Robert Stephens, founder and chief inspector of The Geek Squad, contends that "Marketing is a tax you pay for being unremarkable." Does marketing smell bad? Or is it perhaps even dead? There have been a number of articles recently that question the marketer's ability to make sense of his/her somewhat wishy-washy role. BusinessWeek reveled in the "short life of the CMO," and McKinsey Quarterly provided some stats that reveal how much today's marketing executives are grappling with the new social media environment, arguing that "many chief marketers still have narrowly defined roles that emphasize advertising, brand management, and market research." No wonder even marketing guru Seth Godin has turned negative and asks in his new book whether "your marketing is out of sync."
Clearly, marketing needs some serious marketing. Conferences that seek to redefine (and thus strengthen) marketing's role are therefore burgeoning: The American Marketing Association offers seminars such as "Beyond Marketing 2.0: Harnessing the Power of Social Media for Marketing Campaign Results," Forrester's Marketing Forum 2008 heralds "engagement" as the profession's "new imperative for success," and the humbly titled THE Conference on Marketing (well, I guess it makes sense if you consider marketing the function of superlatives) aspires to be the penultimate forum for marketing leaders who "seek certainty in experimental times." In the meantime, Seth Godin has it all figured out and presents "14 trends marketers need to embrace to avoid eating meatball sundaes" (via BNET).
On paper, Godin's recommendations may sound all too familiar for marketing experts, but in reality they are still a hard sell to many CEOs. Marketers, although typically the early adopters in their organizations, are after all slow movers within the constraints of their mandates. Marketers have always been under scrutiny for what they do -- now they have also gotten under scrutiny for what they are. It is therefore all the more surprising that it is good old McKinsey which endorses broadening the marketer's role, envisioning him/her as a "strategic activist:"
"As companies confront changing consumer behavior, increasingly important third-party scrutiny, and more diverse target markets and segments, they must broaden the roles of marketing and the CMO. Today, many chief marketers focus mainly on building brands, making advertising more effective, and perhaps market research. Although these responsibilities aren't going away, CMOs must address several other areas as well: leading company-wide change in response to evolving buying patterns, stepping up efforts to shape a company's public profile, managing complexity, and building new marketing capabilities throughout the company as a whole. The relative importance of these new priorities will of course vary by company and industry, but the broad importance of reinventing the CMO's role as a strategic activist is similar across them."