Marketing's boardroom rise is about competitive edge, CMOs claim

A panel of leading Australian marketing chiefs share how they've earnt their seat at the boardroom table and why the marketing function has become a cornerstone of corporate sustainability

Marketing must sit at the heart of business decision-making and the boardroom table if organisations want to stay ahead of the competition and embrace ever-higher customer expectations.

That was the view shared by several Australian marketing leaders during a panel at this year’s Mumbrella360 event in Sydney. Westfield director of marketing, John Batistich, said there had been a dramatic change in the way his organisation now views marketing as a business asset and vital link into customers.

“This business has traditionally been very much about supply chain and building big pieces of infrastructure over long periods of time… This doesn’t work as well anymore. The conversations we are having with customers are now paramount,” he said.

“Marketing never previously had a seat at the board table; now it has. We talk a lot about digital innovation and investments we’re making at a global level to demonstrate the direct relationship that is now possible in our business. That is what will determine whether we thrive or survive.”

Suncorp executive general manager of marketing, Mark Reinke (pictured), also has a seat at the boardroom table alongside his organisation’s key decision makers.

“There are two reasons for this: One, disruption is likely in a lot of the categories we play in one way or another, and that is likely to comes from competitors not in the same category as us today,” he said. “Your forward radar has to be up high. If that voice of the future isn’t getting to the board table really fast, you are in trouble. Marketing has an important role to play there.

“Secondly, we must tie what we do back to the P&L and balance sheet. As brands, we’re building intangible assets that have real value on that balance sheet. Or in our case, we’ve bought several and now have expensive assets on the balance sheet that we must leverage and create revenue from. Marketing has an incredible amount to add to today’s growth and tomorrow’s sustainability.”

Related:Marketing and IT are becoming synonymous, says Suncorp CMO

Director of marketing at Beam Global, James Sykes, believes the rise of the CMO in executive ranks is because the world has become more marketing conscious.

“This has consequences for whichever organisation you’re in,” he claimed. “If you are competing effectively, you are responding to that through marketing and customer engagement. Marketing has been put at the table out of necessity.”

Read more: Brands must look for emotional connection and shareability, says Buzzfeed

Weight Watches general manager of marketing, Michael Burgess, said that while the company has always been customer focused at an operational level, it hasn’t historically been a marketing-led organisation. Things are changing, however, and marketing is being recognised as a key business contributor.

“The fact marketing wasn’t [at a strategic business level] contributed to our challenges over the last four and five years,” he said. “Something that is fundamental to all this is putting customers front and centre. We did this at an operational level, not an organisational level. But with the rapid changes going on with innovation and startups, you can’t afford to just do that anymore.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

Read more: CMOs must have courage to lead successfully

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