If digital were a game, the result at half time would be marketing 1:marketers 0

Last week, one of the articles shared on my Twitter timeline claimed that digital technology heralds the dawn of a new golden age for marketing. The article, which was published in McKinsey Quarterly and can be accessed here, states that:

“CEOs are looking to their CMOs more than ever, because they need top-line growth and view marketing as a critical lever to help them achieve it. (…)

Leading marketers are using research and analytics to shed light on who buys what, and why; who influences buyers; and when, in the consumer decision journey, marketing efforts are likely to yield the greatest return. That understanding, in turn, is making it possible for marketers to identify more effectively the functional benefits that customers need, the experiences they want, and the innovations they will value. (…)

The emerging new rules for marketing extend well beyond data and analysis, crucial though those are, and even transcend the marketing organization itself.”

At around the same time, another article, this time by Econsultancy and available here, questioned whether the CMO’s influence in the c-suite has increased, as a result of digital technology. The article reported that:

“Marketers certainly feel they are important, with 77% of senior marketers agreeing that ‘marketing is a critical function within our business’.

Those that hold the purse strings tend not to agree however, as just 62% of finance directors shared that opinion.

Similarly, only 43% of finance directors believe that ‘the head of marketing has significant strategic influence on the business’, compared to 62% of marketers.”

Is this difference of perspectives a fluke? A mistake?

Not necessarily.

My own research (with Professors Sally Dibb, Lyndon Simkin and Lee Quinn, as well as Dr. Mathew Analogbei) shows that while aspects of marketing such as market insight, customer service or targeting are critically important in the digital environment and are very much valued by the CEO, these activities are increasingly performed by professionals outside of the marketing department. Several companies have specially appointed digital managers, or analytics directors, who are usually younger than their marketing counterparts, but at a par with them, as far as access to the c-suite is concerned. In other words, if digital were a game, the result at half time would be marketing 1: marketers 0.

This research finding (which I will disseminate fully, once the corresponding paper has been accepted for publication), reminds me of the argument that people need banking but not banks, or legal services but not law firms (see here). Likewise, could we be entering a stage where firms need marketing, but not marketers?

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