Marketers Must Shift Thinking to Stay in Corporate Suite

Published on February 25, 2009

To ensure their proper seat at the corporate table, marketers must make a shift to accountability, growth, and strategy, said Scott Davis, senior partner at Prophet. “Economic forces are forcing a change in how we think about marketing,” Davis told the alumni Marketing Roundtable in a talk co-sponsored by the Kilts Center for Marketing at Gleacher Center on February 25.

The two other primary factors impacting marketing are business forces and internal company forces, he said. “Business forces include over-commoditization and a lack of differentiation in the marketplace,” Davis said. “Within companies, there is a need and desire for more organic growth and more accountability from everybody in the corporate suite. There is a still a misunderstanding of what marketing does and is all about.”

The new breed of visionary marketers drives business strategy, maintains balanced short- and long-term perspectives, recognizes that customers own brands, owns customer acquisition and retention, drives insight and continues to convert it to action, and develops ways to collaborate across different functional areas, he said.

“One thing that is critical, that a visionary like Russ Klein at Burger King does, is that if he’s 60 percent right, he rolls into market,” Davis said. “A lot of marketers get handcuffed trying to get to 95 to 100 percent in the correct manner.”

This essential change in thinking is reflected in five fundamental shifts, he said. Visionary marketers have converted from:

  1. Marketers creating strategy in a vacuum to driving business strategy.
  2. Controlling the message to galvanizing the network. “You can influence it and help control parts of it, but for the most part, other people are controlling your message,” Davis said. “You have to figure out how to influence that network.”
  3. Incremental improvements to pervasive innovation.
  4. Managing marketing investments to inspiring marketing excellence.
  5. Internal operational focus to relentless customer focus.

Three critical elements to driving business strategy and impact are utilizing customer insight as a secret weapon, maintaining and acting under the mindset of profit and loss, and earning credibility and trust across the organization, he said. “These visionary marketers are customer insight machines,” Davis said. “You get a P & L mindset only if you work the registers, if you’re out there working with customers on a daily basis, and if you have accountability and metrics on the back end that actually start to shape your year.”

The shift from incremental to pervasive innovation represents a movement away from focusing on simply new products and services, he said. “Pervasive innovation is around new business models, new ways to make money, and new experiences you want to provide customers to get to a deeper share of wallets,” Davis said. “It requires a different culture internally and a mindset pushing thinking within the organization.”

Successful innovation requires leadership catalysts who believe innovation is hardwired into the organization, an expansive network that incorporates both internal and external influences on innovation, and competencies and cultural dynamics, he said. “Under its connective development, P & G believes that within the next three to five years, two-thirds of products and innovations will come from outside,” Davis said. “They have built this expansive external network to help them drive what’s next.”

                                                                                                                            — Phil Rockrohr