Seven Experts on Marketing Problem Two: The Role of Marketing in the Firm and the C-suite

American Marketing Association
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
​What? The AMA has articulated "The Seven Big Problems" to provide marketers with a contextual framework against which they can assess their own knowledge.

So What? Problem #2, The role of marketing in the C-Suite, calls for mastery of leadership skills, inter-disciplinary collaboration, results-orientation, command of technology, and a contagious customer-centricity.

Now What? If any of these elements represent gaps in your knowledge or skills; now is the time to develop a learning plan for your professional growth and development.​
The AMA’s first intellectual agenda is meant to serve as a source of guidance and inspiration for marketing professionals as well as academics. In it, we lay out the “seven big problems” marketers face in the boardroom and in the marketplace. These problems are a large part of that intellectual agenda, and will help us hone in on how we inform and inspire you, the marketing community. 

Here, we dive into the questions that stem from each of the seven problems. AMA thought leaders discuss the “what” and “why” of each pillar problem, while we leave the door open indefinitely on the “how.” After all, marketing is about rolling with the punches.

For every big problem, there are a million small solutions. What are yours?  Take quiz below to understand how your firm is doing.

Mary Garrett

Former Vice President of Global Marketing at IBM 

Bold marketing functions earn a position of respect in the organization when they demonstrate contribution to profitable growth. Embracing the shift from art to science, particularly with respect to data and analytics, is key. This doesn’t mean that marketing needs to “own” all the data. Be a smart collaborator. Finance is your friend. Sales has customer insight. Successful marketers team effectively and integrate across functions to mine the treasure trove of data that exists, but it’s often not looked at holistically. As you strive to deliver personalized experiences, the more you know about your client or prospect, the better your marketing will be. By being sharper with data, you are better able to articulate the impact of marketing. That’s what the C-suite cares about. It’s about outcomes. A marketing team that can show results is a welcome member at the executive table.

Jeffrey Hayzlett

“World class” means the organization is completely focused on delivering the business promises and that it owns, and leads, from the inception of the idea through to customer satisfaction. Marketing of the past was more focused on ads, communications and often not in the C-suite, relegated to being told the business objectives rather than leading them. Future organizations will be more focused on the total customer experience resulting in greater revenue, margins and value of the brand.

Eric T. Bradlow

Three years ago, as the Wharton School was going through a curriculum redesign for our MBA students, each department had to answer the question, “What fundamentally is our function in business?” For marketing, this was easy. Marketing’s responsibility in every firm is the customer. Our job is to know the customer and bring a customer-centric mind set to [the job]. This means collecting data on the customer which is now easier to do via tracking technologies. Our computers, our phones, our shopping patterns online and offline and what content we watch: are all data that is out there that allow firms to understand customer preferences. This, when collected in conjunction with surveys, allows the firm to answer the “whys” as well. Since every firm makes profits from one customer (B-to-C or B-to-B) at a time, this customer-analytics and customer-centric mindset will earn us our rightful seat in the C-suite as we are coproducers of firm revenue and we can optimize marketing touch points to drive it.

Ric Sweeney

Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati 

Marketing can no longer be considered an “afterthought” for any business wanting to create and maintain relevance. Any organization that wants to be considered “world class” needs to focus on the consumer, and marketing is the only business function that puts the consumer at the center for every business decision. Those businesses that are succeeding—and those that will succeed in the future—will have marketing and their CMO at the head of the table, guiding every decision, from strategy to segmentation to product development to manufacturing to promotion, and everything in between.

Sunil Gupta

Professor of Business at Harvard University

Marketing has traditionally been defined as a function with 4Ps as its tactical tools. But marketing is more than a function—it’s a philosophy about customer focus that should permeate every activity of a firm including innovation, operations and strategy. Perhaps nobody understood it better than Steve Jobs. His laser focus on solving customer problems and providing a superb experience made Apple a cult among consumers. Jeff Bezos built Amazon with the same guiding principle. In the consumer-driven economy, where companies have to deal with large amounts of data, marketing will play an even more important role in the C-suite.

Scott Monty

When you consider internal and external responsibilities of marketing, two in particular stand out: technology and reputation. CMOs now have the ability to control more technology and technology-based decisions than CIOs, as they have access to data that can fuel insights for the business. And yet, technology decisions are not solely the marketing department’s to make, as IT must be an integrated function throughout the firm. And reputation management—one of the objectives of brand management—is a function that is shared with corporate communications, which itself has expanded to operate as a strategic counsel to the CEO. The forces of communications—with its ability to shape opinion and work with a variety of stakeholders to craft messages—and marketing—with its access to data and larger budget to target and amplify with certainty—when effectively coordinated, can have a massive impact on reputation.

Michael Krauss

Successful marketing leaders know that their unique point of difference is their knowledge and insight regarding customers. When it comes to identifying what role marketing should play in the firm and in the C-suite, the CMO must hone his or her own insight and train them on the CEO. The CEO captains the enterprise with the oversight of the board and the investors. Some CEOs seek marketers who are sales enablers, since their marketing focuses on lead generation. Some seek marketers who create brand differentiation, since they want a suite of branding and communications tactics. Other CEOs seek a strategic partner and colleague in the C-suite who can assess the company’s capabilities, competitive threats and customer needs. Organizing marketing begins with CMO/CEO alignment. Once that’s established, the tasks can follow.


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American Marketing Association
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