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Published by Rakesh Patel

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Published by: Rakesh Patel on Feb 10, 2011
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 June 2006
© World Advertising Research Center 2006
T TAKES A MARKETERto recognise theblessing and the curse that lies behindthe saying: ‘May you live in interestingtimes.’Today’s interesting times are marked bydramatic societal changes, and the breath-taking technological breakthroughs thatare instrumental in pushing them haveopened a vast spectrum of opportunities,challenges and demands on the marketingprofession.In this rapidly evolving environment,the number of levers that must be pulled toreach the customer is growing rapidly.Technology has not only helped fuel thisexpansion, but opened up the vistas inexpanding marketing’s ability to tap intothe possibilities more creatively and effec-tively than ever before. It enables a richerunderstanding of customers’ expectationsof, and interactions with, a brand, givingthe business deeper insights into ways tobetter harness the relationship to createbusiness growth. It creates the means formore personalised, one-on-one interactionsand experiences with the brand.But the pressure is also on marketing tothink more strategically in light of all thesechanges: about how to marry the ‘art and sci-ence’ that come with the job moreeffectively; about ways to demonstrate itsrelevance and expand its role outside its tra-ditional sphere of influence; about howmarketing can quantifiably contribute tothe business’s long-term success.A study recently conducted by Prophetshows that senior-level marketers at lead-ing US businesses understand all this. Yet italso revealed troubling gaps between thisunderstanding and their ability to influ-ence the changes and direction required tomeet their ultimate mandate of drivingbusiness growth.
Disconnects may holdmarketing back
More than 300 senior-level marketers par-ticipated in Prophet’s 2005 State of Marketing survey on how marketers con-tribute to business growth. Overall,findings indicated a savvy group on top of current trends reshaping marketing andcreating new imperatives. The majority:
put the overall customer experience farahead of specific marketing communica-tion tactics like advertising and promotionin terms of their importance to the busi-ness
ranked new and existing products andservices as being more critical thanimproved marketing and branding indrawing in customers
agreed nearly unanimously on the needfor better-integrated business, brand, andmarketing strategies in order for businessgrowth goals to be achieved.Despite such forward thinking, howev-er, the study found indications of worryingmisalignments and disconnects that mayblock marketing from gaining deeperinfluence in the organisation and moreeffectively support, if not drive, the growthagenda.In defining business growth, for exam-ple, respondents cited top-line revenues astheir highest priority, with bottom-lineprofits fairly close behind. Yet nearly 50%of the respondents believed their CEOsconsider profits a higher priority; only 25%of them believed top-line revenues were akey CEO focus. (In fact, the ConferenceBoard recently found that CEOs rank top-line growth as their top challenge in 2006,followed very closely by profit growth.)From the marketer’s perspective, thatexplains the common use of brand portfo-lio strategies such as brand extensions as ameans of boosting revenues. But on the flipside, senior management, focused on thebottom line, could argue profits are mostrapidly created through cost-cutting andreduced marketing investment. To achievecloser alignment, marketing must do a bet-ter job of understanding, creating anddelivering on the kinds of customer-focused growth strategies that growrevenues while also improving returns onmarketing investment.The study also uncovered a disconnectbetween marketers’ views of the most criti-cal business growth drivers and theiradmitted lack of influence over many of them. Nearly one-third of respondentsranked customer-centric activities – cus-tomer service and delivery, sales forceoutreach, and the overall customer experi-ence – as the most critical contributors tobusiness growth. Business and marketingstrategy trailed distantly, and the traditionalmarketing communication stand-bys of advertising and promotions were each citedby a mere 1% of participants (Figure 1).Yet nearly 20% claimed no influenceover the customer experience; a full 33%, norole in customer service. Even more alarm-ing, 43% lacked influence over pricing, and45% over sales. And 20% of respondentsalso admitted to falling short in forging rela-tionships with their counterparts in humanresources and information technology, twoareas critical to enabling brand-drivengrowth. An improvement over the past, thisis still troubling given HR’s importance inequipping employees to deliver on thebrand promise, and IT’s role in creating andenabling new customer-centric capabilities.The most worrying disconnect, however,revealed itself in terms of marketing’s influ-ence in the highest reaches of the business.While 88% of respondents had ‘visited’ thecorporate strategy table, fewer than one-third
Scott Davis
, Prophet, argues that marketers need to take a broader view of theirrole if they are to contribute successfully to business growth
New challenges tomarketing’s mandates
Critical drivers for achievinggrowth goals
Business strategyCustomer serviceCustomer experienceSales forceMarketing strategyProduct developmentPricingDistributionBrand strategyBrand portfolio strategyDirect marketingAdvertisingPromotionsOnline marketing
Over 40% said customer-centric issues most criticalto achieve growthTraditionalcommunicationsdeemed less critical
 June 2006 •
© World Advertising Research Center 2006
long run to customers – and to the stabilityof the business – is a superior product orservice delivery. Here, marketing mustshow its prowess in understanding andleveraging its knowledge of the customerand what motivates the customer’s rela-tionship with the brand. It’s marketing thatbrings the insights that must be leveragedacross the customer touchpoints – whetherthey are owned by the sales team, customerservice or business operations – to ensurethe business attains and maintains its supe-riority.Virgin, one of Britain’s most respectedbrands, more than gets this, having builtitself into more than 200 entities – from thewell-known airline to women’s lingerie –on an outstanding reputation for customerservice and satisfaction.More than anything, it considers itself inthe ‘experience’ business. It delivers, almostflawlessly, by keeping a close pulse on itscustomers and responding to their tastesand needs with offers that, at once, offervalue, are of good quality, are usually incred-ibly creative, and just plain fun.For example, in a bid to distinguish itsUK/US flights on more than the typicalbasis of price and schedule, Virgin Atlantic,last year, started naming certain flights toplay up exclusive customer experiences. ItsMiami to London flight, ‘The TranceAtlantic’, boasts seats that become flat beds,massage, and a shower and a shave uponlanding in the ‘revival lounge’ – capped by afree limousine service. This is supported bymore traditional marketing initiatives, likeprint ads, cab toppers and billboardsBut, as Virgin recognises, the cleverestcampaigns, conducted at any touchpoint,are not sufficient, in and of themselves, toset the standards for a brand’s superiority. If the organisation isn’t prepared to equipemployees at every level to get not onlywhat the brand stands for but what’srequired of them to uphold it, it’s all forclaimed a permanent seat there (for example,had an ongoing role as decision-maker). Smallwonder, then, that while fully 99% rankedthe effective integration of business, brandand marketing strategies as critical to drivingbusiness growth, only 11% said their organi-sations had achieved this successfully (seeTables 1 and 2).
Addressing key challenges willhelp bridge gaps
What’s telling in the survey results is mar-keters’ recognition of today’s newcustomer-centric order, where a strongbrand – one that is critical to businessgrowth – is built as much or more on thecustomer’s actual experiences with a brandas it is with messaging around it. None of this negates the need for the traditionalcommunication tactics or strategies. It justmakes it even more imperative that mar-keting adjusts its approaches for the times,working closely with non-marketingtouchpoints to ensure that the customer’srelationship with the brand remains solid.Increasingly, this means that for market-ing to seize upon and make the most of theopportunities this environment presents, itmust maintain an underlying focus onaddressing three challenges to its ultimatesuccess: maintaining market superiority;doing more with less; and managingincreasingly complex customer touch-points.
The superiority factor
Face it: it’s a jungle out there. Whether it’sestablished businesses flexing their mus-cles or newcomers intent on grabbing theirshare of the pie, there’s always someone try-ing to chip away at your base with flashiermessaging and more aggressive spending.And on the other side of the coin are con-sumers, savvier than ever about theirpurchasing options in the face of theexploding range of information channels,and more inclined than ever before to seekout the best deal.Standing out is the issue, and it must beon a more substantial basis than messagingor price. What’s more meaningful in the
Scott Davis
is a seniorpartner of Prophet(www.prophet.com), aleading consulting firmspecialising in theintegration of brand,business and marketingstrategies.
Very/Below average/moderatelynot successfulsuccessful
Board/executive team91%9%Sales force88%12%Finance83%17%Human resources79%21%Information technology76% 24%
Key to influence is collaboration
Most criticalMarketer playsaspectno role
Business strategy19%12%Customer service16%33%Customer experience15%18%Sales force11%45%Marketing strategy10% 2%Product development7%23%Pricing5%43%Distribution4%41%Brand strategy3%12%Brand portfolio strategy3%17%
Marketers don’t influence right levers

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