What Should Marketing Contribute To Your Organization?

David StewartJuly 25, 202216304 min

How does marketing contribute to your organization? All business functions are highly varied and require multiple talents. Marketing, however, may be among the most diverse of business disciplines in terms of the range of skills, knowledge, and responsibilities that define it. Marketing includes the creatives who write advertising copy and jingles, the highly analytic professional who manages and crunches numbers, the gregarious personal salesperson, and the strategic thinker, among others. While few individuals possess all of the skills required for a successful marketing organization, it is generally possible to assemble a collection of individual contributors and managers who possess the requisite skills. It is less clear just what this collection of individuals should do for the organization. And, without an understanding of what the marketing organization should deliver to the organization it is not really possible to identify the optimal collection of marketing contributors for the organization or to evaluate whether the marketing function is performing effectively and efficiently. Such understanding is all the more difficult to obtain because marketing organizations can be very different from organization to organization.

Six Types Of Marketing Organizations

In an effort to better understand what marketing does for organizations and also to identify different types of marketing organizations the Association of National Advertisers in the United States, in collaboration with the consulting firm, Booz Allen used a survey to profile marketing organizations with respect to their role(s) and expectations of their performance within the organization. This survey identified six quite different types of marketing organizations based on how the role of marketing was defined within the corporation: (1) Growth Champion, (2) Senior Counselor, (3) Brand Foreman, (4) Growth Facilitator, (5) Best Practices Advisor and (6) Service Provider. Similar surveys of marketing organizations have produced similar results.

Such results demonstrate that marketing, as a business function, may take numerous forms within an organization.

The different types of marketing organizations, and marketers, are defined by the objectives and expectations associated with the marketing organization. The role of marketing varies from tactical, e.g., sales support, developing collateral materials, developing retail advertising to strategic, e.g., finding new growth opportunities and driving development of these opportunities. The scope of marketing can be narrow, e.g., managing a brand, to very broad, e.g., growing the entire organization. And, the role of marketing can be that of line management, e.g., driving growth, managing brands or that of staff, e.g., counselor or keeper of best practices.

There is likely no answer to the question of the optimal role of marketing within all businesses. Different firms in different types of markets and different competitive arenas may need quite different contributions from the marketing organization. It is important, however, for the firm to be explicit about what it wants from its marketing organization and to align the organization with its expectations. The marketing organization that provides sales support is unlikely to play a major role in driving growth. A brand manager will tend to focus on managing, protecting, and growing the brand they manage rather than seek new opportunities for the firm that might take resources away from the brand they manage. The growth champion may drive growth but may not be the best counselor or custodian of best practices and might drive growth into less profitable domains than those currently served.

Marketing organizations fail when expectations of performance do not align with the capabilities and authority of the marketing organization.

Defining the role and responsibilities of marketing is critical for organizational success. If marketing is not responsible for driving growth there must be some other business unit that is tasked with this responsibility. If the development of collateral sales materials is not the responsibility of marketing, someone must be assigned this responsibility. More importantly, whatever the responsibilities assigned to the marketing organization, it is important that resources and decision rights be aligned with those responsibilities. “Set Up to Fail,” a recent article published in The MIT Sloan Management Review makes a strong case that the absence of such an alignment is a major factor in the failure of Chief Marketing Officers.

The role of marketing also has implications for who is hired into marketing, the skill set that is present in the marketing organization, and the amount of interaction between marketing other parts of the organization. However, even the most talented manager will not succeed in the absence of an organization designed to facilitate success. Senior management in organizations large and small would be well advised to carefully consider the role of the marketing organization, how marketing is expected to contribute to the success of the organization, and the resources and decision rights required for success. It should then assure that all of these factors are aligned.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: David Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Marketing and Business Law, Loyola Marymount University, Author, Financial Dimensions Of Marketing Decisions.

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