Earlier this week, gyro ran an intimate roundtable event at a private art gallery in London for CMOs (we call them marketing directors in the UK) whom we work with, including companies such as G4S, HSS, Marshalls, Anchor Trust, Powwownow and Nokia.
The aim of the evening wasn’t to look at art whilst consuming champagne and canapés. That was just a nice side benefit. We wanted to take a temperature check amongst senior marketers on what are the key issues “keeping them awake at night.” The debate was very sparky and surfaced four to five key themes, which we will now use to power some more substantive quantitative research amongst the marketing community and publish over the coming months
As a chippy Northerner, I have to concede that I went to the event with some preconceptions about what we would be talking about, and these were loosely based around some enduring themes, like how marketing is subservient to sales, how recessionary pressures have accentuated this preoccupation with short-term, measurable demand generation. However, it was refreshing and genuinely uplifting to hear that quite the opposite is the case. In fact, the vast majority of our participants had a dual role covering both marketing and sales rather than a reporting line into a sales function.
The view was that of course we do demand generation, of course we do sales collateral, of course we do marketing communications. They are all part of the day-to-day operational mechanics of any marketing function; however, our principal remit is to drive business strategy—to ensure that businesses are producing the products and services that match their customers’ needs, not just today but next year, and in the next 10 years. One of the attendees, who is a good friend of mine, said, “Our business has been trading for 137 years, and it’s our responsibility to ensure it’s doing so for another 137 years.”
The rate of change, the rapidly changing influence of technology, the upward spiral of competition and continued recessionary pressure have not eroded the role of marketing but elevated it—and restored it to its rightful place in business. We are seeing now after three years of the new world order, equilibrium being established. Businesses are recognizing that they can’t continue to disinvest their brands (as one attendee said, “You have to, at some stage, sharpen your ax.”), and that with hypercompetition, it’s brands that make businesses relevant, differentiated and sustainable. They are what prevent that famed “race to the bottom.”
As brand custodians, our attendees agreed that their biggest challenge is making sure their businesses deliver their brand promises, which means their remits are driving into areas often owned by human resources.
As a lifelong marketer and someone who was brought up with the concept of marketing’s remit being at the heart of business strategy, it’s encouraging to see that marketing’s role is still at the top of the marketing continuum in forward thinking, successful businesses. And thankfully, it’s not about what one of our guests described as “coloring in and chardonnay.”
Danny Turnbull is Managing Director of gyro Manchester
Follow Danny on Twitter @turnbulldanny