Skip to content

Marketing Needs Better Marketing

Arriving in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from Australia in 2016, I braced myself as I walked towards the immigration officer. I had visited the US before as a tourist, but this trip was the first time I travelled for work. I mentioned that I was a researcher – and when the officer asked me, “What field?”, I said, “Marketing”. While stamping my passport to let me in, he grumpily retorted, “Pffft – back in my days, they called it sales.” From then on, I picked a more generic answer that wouldn’t invite any snarky responses whenever I fly to the US.

Somehow, Marketing can be poorly understood. Its exact role is sometimes questioned by businesses, and it is not well-promoted for future marketers. Marketing is probably down on the list – after engineering, medicine, science, accounting, and general business courses when highschool students contemplate on what degree to take when they go to university. It doesn’t have to be that way if students know how fulfilling careers in Marketing can be.

This lack of understanding extends to companies and other professionals who are not “in-the-know”. Some companies have ditched their Chief Marketing Officers altogether from the C-suite. Instead, businesses come up with alternative titles and acronyms such as Chief Growth Officer and Chief Experience Officer — whose functions are probably identical to what CMOs do. It may be true that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – well, why don’t we simply call it for what it is – a rose. Some organisations are also dabbling with the idea of having a fractional CMO: someone who works with the organisation once or twice a week across multiple businesses. Something that may seem unthinkable for CFO or COO positions.

So, I thought I’d write something to contribute to the discussion, to promote Marketing and its role in the business.

Marketing’s key tenet is to grow the business

Marketing is an exciting mix of inner sanctum strategy and on-the-field warfare. Finance knows the cold facts and numbers; Risk Management is well-versed in the ways to protect the business; Service, Productions, and Operations know how to keep the business machinery running smoothly and well-oiled — but only those in Marketing who are given the mandate to cast their eyes on the horizon to protect and expand the business’ territory: like a trusty co-pilot to the CEO.

Marketing is evolving … with evidence-based foundations

Marketing is one of the key benefactors of the rapid development in the areas of data science, media, and technology. The role of a CMO has evolved beyond managing the advertising creative, promotional activities, and media budgets. They are also now expected to have a good basis of how the business operates and how to grow the business through better use of data, channel and media options, and the application of evidence-based marketing in day-to-day tactics and long term strategies.

This is why a good foundation of Marketing Science is crucial. A marketer’s spot in the C-suite is hard fought for, so there should ideally be no discussions on concepts such as brand personality that mean nothing meaningful to other Executives. Marketing professionals should not build their knowledge merely from blogs, LinkedIn posts, YouTube clips, provocative opinions, or top-three-tips by Marketing gurus or growth whisperers. As much as I appreciate you reading my blog posts, solid knowledge of Marketing principles and practices should be built from good books, education, and training. Marketing Science principles provide a lens through which any new developments in the market should be scrutinised. This is why I appreciate disseminating the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute‘s research discoveries to our sponsors. These discoveries are robustly tested and peer-reviewed through research principles that were once only reserved for natural science. Now I know the real evidence-based answers to questions the Execs asked me all those years ago when I was still in banking and finance, such as: why would our customers still open another bank account at our biggest competitors, when our satisfaction rating was the best in the market?

Marketing is a great union of science and creativity

Prior to joining the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute in 2010, I mistakenly considered that Marketing was the domain of mere creativity. I thought that there were no scientific principles governing the field — other than knowing the 4P’s. With a degree in Computer and Information Science and having built my career up to then predominantly in banking and finance, I had worked within the Marketing department or an area affiliated to it – but I had no Marketing background whatsoever. It was a pleasant discovery when I found out that there was an Institute for Marketing Science in Adelaide, my adopted hometown. The phrase “Marketing Science” intrigued and excited me at the same time, as it offered an exciting field of science and creativity.

After more than a decade with the Institute, I understand that the scientific principles and discoveries provide the boundaries for marketers to be creative. Like architects who should know the scientific principles behind the strength, tensile, and nature of various materials, they combine the knowledge with good design principles so they can run freely within these boundaries. Clever application of creativity within scientific boundaries produce wonderful and longlasting architectural creations by the likes of Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Antoni Gaudí, and Jørn Utzon. Of course, one can be wonderfully creative when designing a building with a total disregard of the scientific laws — but will that design last a year, a decade, or a century?

I see the parallel with Marketing – some brands and products last for decades as the companies wisely and unknowingly operate within the confines of the laws and principles that have now been discovered and documented. There are many brands, products, promotions, and tactics that may seem groundbreaking and novel – but ultimately harmful for the longevity of the business.

… and finally

A poster at work – at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science.

In 2008, a survey done by the Economist Intelligence Unit of 264 executives of companies from all around the world shows that only two out of ten CMOs (17%) with a background in Marketing. 25% of CMOs came from Sales background, 16% from Finance, 15% from General management, 10% from Technology, and 8% from other areas that include Operations and Legal.

Now, imagine if you hire an architect for your house and found out that they had no training in the field, and that they built their illustrious career in Civil Engineering or Logistics. Would you have the confidence that you would get a well-crafted design that you paid for? This same logic should ideally extend to Marketing.

As I started my post with an anecdote, I’ll end it with an anecdote as well. In 2020, we extended the back of the house so we could have a proper third bedroom and another bathroom. I thought I was pretty good with my design skills, so I explained my idea to a draftsman (to save money rather than going to an architect — as it was essentially a small project). I’m happy with the end product, but can’t help noticing now of the things that could have been done better, had I hired a true professional — a window that was too big, the floor-board colour scheme that could have matched better with the old part of the house. Things that would have been recognised from the onset by a good, well-trained professional. My house extension was good — but it could have been better.

It’s the same with Marketing activities in a company – which include branding, advertising, media planning, portfolio management, innovation, and growth strategy. Without a strong foundation and training in Marketing, these activities can probably still be done well within the business. However, oblivious mistakes could have been avoided and waste could have been prevented, if the underlying laws and principles are well-understood.

In a business, every pilot needs a good Marketing co-pilot.

3 thoughts on “Marketing Needs Better Marketing”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *