Secrets of the Marketing Masters
What the Best Marketers Do -- And Why It Works
Author: Dick Martin
Pub Date: May 2009
Print Edition: $24.00
Print ISBN: 9780814409435
Page Count: 288
e-Book ISBN: 9780814410226
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‘‘The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.
Only two functions do this: marketing and innovation.
All the rest are costs.’’
WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT
The late business guru Peter Drucker put marketing at the center
of a business’s purpose, but that center turns out to be peppered
with blind alleys and potholes.
What makes some marketers successful while others are the fruit
flies of the ‘‘C-suite,’’ nuisances who fill the air with buzzing but don’t
accomplish much in their blessedly short lives? Sadly, in recent years,
the fruit flies of marketing have been multiplying.1 According to executive
recruiter Spencer Stuart, chief marketing officers last only about
two years. Since it takes almost that long for most marketing campaigns
to get off the ground, it seems that the average chief marketing
officer has one—maybe two—times at bat. By contrast, the average
rookie baseball player can look forward to more than five and half
years in uniform.2
No one can bat a thousand, but a small number of marketers
would be on anyone’s All-Star team. I call them the masters of marketing.
They sometimes get their names in the paper. If, like some of the
people in this book, you work for an industry giant such as Procter &
Gamble, Unilever, General Electric, Diageo, Microsoft, Fidelity Investments
or American Express, it’s hard not to attract the media’s attention.
But the marketing masters are not necessarily ‘‘superstars’’
whose names bloom brightly in the media before fading away. Some
of them work quietly behind the scenes. They all tend to stay in one
place longer than average. And they seem to have cracked the code on
helping their companies achieve consistent profitable growth. What’s
their secret? That’s the question this book answers in terms that apply
to marketers of all stripes, whether ‘‘chief’’ or humble ‘‘brave.’’
WHO ARE THE MARKETING MASTERS?
As far as I know, no one has yet had the nerve to put ‘‘marketing
master’’ on his or her business card. And I’d look askance at anyone
who claimed the title out loud. If you have to say you’re a marketing
master, you’re probably not. But I know they’re out there, and I set
out to find some of them.
My first stop was at the door of the top executive recruiters—the
headhunters who created the title of chief marketing officer. Some cynics
say their purpose was merely to inflate the value of their searches;
others claim it was to give the head of marketing title parity with other
executives in the so-called ‘‘C-suite,’’ for example, chief executive officer,
chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and the like.3
Whatever their motives, the executive recruiters I spoke to made it
clear that more than extra feathers come with the designation of chief
marketing officer. Jane Stevenson, who leads the marketing practice
for the Heidrick & Struggles recruiting firm, says CEOs have different
expectations of their top marketers today. ‘‘Marketing used to be all
about advertising,’’ she says. ‘‘In the past, some companies would
house the ‘creative geniuses’ of marketing in padded cells, apart from
line leaders. Today, with business heads more stressed than ever,
they’re looking for business partners. Advertising is a much smaller
part of the equation.’’
Interestingly, the heads of the major advertising associations, who
were my next stop, agreed. For example, Bob Liodice, president of the
Association of National Advertisers, which bills itself as the voice of
the marketing community, says ‘‘I’d get rid of ‘advertising’ in our
name if I could, because it creates the connotation of a one-way monologue.
Marketing is a platform for creating customer connections. It’s
all about dialogue.’’ As head of the American Association of Advertising
Agencies from 1994 until his retirement in 2008, Burtch Drake
was Liodice’s counterpart in the ad agency world. ‘‘Every major ad
agency realizes its role is changing,’’ he told me, ‘‘but few have figured
out what to do about it.’’
In fact, the ad agency heads I spoke to thought marketing has
changed more in the last nine years than in the previous ninety. For
example, Shelly Lazarus, chairperson of Ogilvy&MatherWorldwide,
thinks that marketing is in its infancy again. ‘‘All the old formulas
need to be rethought,’’ she says. ‘‘New technologies have unleashed
changes in people’s behavior. They have different habits, whether
they’re shopping, working, or just hanging out at home.’’
The academics and consultants I interviewed also describe a function
trying to redefine itself. Donovan Neale-May is president of the GlobalFluency
communications firm that also operates the nonprofit CMO
Council, which he founded. Over the years, he has worked with hundreds
of the world’s leading marketers and has seen the shift in their
responsibilities firsthand. ‘‘Successful marketing executives today play
a role broader than just leading the marketing organization,’’ he says.
‘‘They help drive innovation and provide strategic vision.’’
At some companies, marketing is the engine of innovation; at others,
it provides critical fuel and direction. But everywhere there seems
to be a broad consensus that, whereas marketing used to be largely
about advertising, now it’s expected to influence, if not encompass,
the entire product realization cycle, from development to service.4
Modern marketing is just as central to a business’s purpose as Drucker
‘‘Marketing is all about growing the company by harnessing the
elements of the business in a profound way,’’ says Heidrick & Struggles’s
Stevenson. ‘‘In fact, some of the best marketers I know don’t
even have a marketing background. The CMO of Wachovia came
from treasury services, the CMOs of Target, Starbucks, Citigroup, and
Best Buy all have broad management experience that was originally
outside of marketing.’’
So, two dozen or so interviews in, it was pretty clear I wasn’t looking
for the secrets of this generation’s ‘‘Mad Men and MadWomen.’’ The
big ad agencies had not only moved off Madison Avenue, they no
longer show up as often in corporate boardrooms and executive suites.
The intellectual capital of the marketing world seems to have moved
to the client side.
With that in mind, I compiled a long list of candidates—people
who had attracted the attention of these industry leaders for their marketing
savvy. Some were the usual suspects who appeared on nearly
everyone’s list because of their high profile and record of accomplishment.
Others were relatively unknown, doing exceptional work in
quiet obscurity, often for companies struggling to recover from reverses
on someone else’s watch.
I spoke to as many of these individuals as I could, and to people
who had worked with them. I read about them and their companies.
And in the end, I developed a list of about a dozen people who are
clearly masters of marketing. They ranged from the well known—for
example, John Hayes at American Express and Beth Comstock at
General Electric—to the lower profile—for example, Lauren Flaherty
at Nortel and Alessandro Manfredi at Unilever. Some are entrepreneurs—
Steve Knox at Tremor and Dan Pelson at uPlayMe and the
Warner Music Group—while others have worked at one large company
for most of their professional life—Mich Mathews at Microsoft
and Michael Francis at Target. Some are technically not chief marketing
officers, but CEOs who still cast a large shadow over the function
that made their companies so successful—Tony Hsieh at Zappos and
Robert Stephens at The Geek Squad. Some are relatively new to the
function—Jon Iwata at IBM—while others have spent decades in
nearly every marketing discipline—Rob Malcolm at Diageo.
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