The unbearable lightness of marketing leadership

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

  • Author, marketer
Jean-Luc Ambrosi is an award winning marketer and recognised expert in branding and customer relationship management. He is the author of the new book, Branding to Differ, a strategic and practical guide on how to build and manage a successful brand.

As the role of CMO and marketing leader evolves at a frantic pace, growing exponentially in complexity, a question remains: Should managers without recognised marketing credentials be appointed marketing leaders or CMOs?

We’re living in a world where marketing increasingly relies on the use of precise techniques within a complex ecosystem, yet we still see non-experts placed at the helm. These are people with no marketing qualifications or experience but who have been attracted by marketing’s sexiness, amused by advertising, can use the words ‘social media’ and ‘mobile’ in conversations, and possibly possess strong business acumen, but are not true experts. If you are not qualified, well, you are not qualified.

Why is it important, you may ask? Wouldn’t it suffice to have a good manager leading a marketing team? The reality is that this lack of expertise often leads to a short tenure, or worse, managers who can damage organisations because they don’t provide adequate, strategic business support and appropriate customer strategies; making the lightness of marketing leadership an organisation-wide issue.

The multitude of marketing channels and need to integrate all customer interactions today requires marketing leaders to move from an ‘I think’ mode to a rigorous process of decision making. Understanding and mastering both the technical and strategic skills now associated with managing the marketing function is vital. Modern marketing leaders must possess a mix of sound technical knowledge across many areas including branding, direct response, customer data, segmentation, channel engagement, content strategy, digital and traditional mediums, coupled with a genuine ability to lead and build multifaceted strategies.

Marketing’s significant evolution has created a gap in knowledge around its progression and the added complexities of the function. It wasn’t so long ago that marketing teams discovered the use of databases and it was only yesterday that the online world brought forward a plethora of new channels and data.

Marketers have, however, often been their own worst enemies. Too many have outsourced strategy to agencies and suppliers of all kinds, relying on others to do their jobs and build their intellectual property. This has made it look like almost anyone could lead marketing, as long as they can manage people and suppliers.

At the same time, many marketers have lacked integration with other functions across their organisation, working in isolation to the business realities and lacking accountability. Driving and owning strategy and being integrated with the business is the only way to demonstrate marketing leadership, the breadth and impact of marketing activities, while educating the business about the true value-add and contribution to the bottom line.

As a result, many organisational leaders don’t fully understand the role marketing plays, leaving the door open to aspirational managers who think they can lead marketing because anyone can do marketing. In a way they are right: Anyone can do marketing, but the reality is few can do it well and fewer are accomplished at it.

In the same vein, anyone can be a mechanic as judged by the number of backyard operators. But would you really want to be one of their customers?

The status of marketing needs to be better promoted to the business world. I have no doubt that this will come in time as the profession has become far more sophisticated and complex. Universities and industry players have a big role to play and so do marketing leaders.

Look elsewhere and there is no question about the professional recognition of accountants such as Chartered Accountants (CA). So why can accountants build better brands? It’s probably because they employ good marketers.

Tags: marketing careers

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

State of the CMO 2021

CMO’s State of the CMO is an annual industry research initiative aimed at gauging how ...

More whitepapers

Latest Videos

Launch marketing council Episode 5: Retailer and supplier

In our fifth and final episode, we delve into the relationship between retailer and supplier and how it drives and influences launch marketing strategies and success. To do that, we’re joined by Campbell Davies, group general manager of Associated Retailers Limited, and Kristin Viccars, marketing director A/NZ, Apex Tool Group. Also featured are Five by Five Global managing director, Matt Lawton, and CMO’s Nadia Cameron.

More Videos

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

AI Leasing Assistants have finally arrived for the multifamily industry. With so many to choose from it can be hard to figure out which i...

Alice Labs Pte. Ltd.

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 6 May 2021

Read more

Nowadays, when everything is being done online, it is good to know that someone is trying to make an improvement. As a company, you are o...

Marcus

10 lessons Telstra has learnt through its T22 transformation

Read more

Blog Posts

Why if marketing is all you do, you’ll never be very good at it

OK, so you’re probably thinking: “Here comes another article to badger me about living in my bubble.” And also, “I bet this bubble-bashing piece will go on to explain how I can achieve better results through some heady dose of new life experiences, new routines and annoyingly different opinions on social media.”

Dane Smith

Behavioural science lead and regional consulting partner, Ogilvy

A leader’s role in rebuilding a culture of confidence

Every day, there are new predictions and studies on the future of work, the state of the economy and the unfolding global pandemic. All of which creates uncertainty and heightens the imperative of effective leadership.

Michelle Gibbings

Workplace expert, author

Confused About Your Customers?​

​I've worked in brand and marketing for more than 20 years. But there’s one area where I’ve found myself going around in circles and I must admit I'm becoming increasingly confused.

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

Sign in