Marketers too siloed to become CEOs, says Merlin boss

Merlin Entertainments CEO Nick Varney warns that marketers are being siloed too quickly to become well-rounded, senior executive material.


Varney has led fast-growing visitor attraction company Merlin Entertainments since its creation in 1999 and is a former senior marketer with experience at a number of FMCG companies.

The international business, which owns Legoland, Sea Life, Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers and the London Eye (pictured), posted a rise of 8.5% in underlying pre-tax profit last year.

Varney says that only the finance and marketing departments can produce chief executives because individuals in those functions develop the broadest view of the whole operation.

However, he believes young marketers are no longer being exposed to other departments, such as the sales force, or disciplines such as market research or pricing, and that they are catapulted too early into advertising or online roles, for instance.

“There are very few marketers below the senior level who get to see the whole picture. And even at a senior level, few marketers carry the responsibility for profit and loss.”

Varney continues: “People in marketing roles get siloed very quickly these days.”

He says marketers that come for an interview talk about the campaigns they have worked on, but are unable to talk about sales figures because they say that sales is not their part of the business. “That was never the case when I was in my marketing prime.”

Varney points out that the marketing function has “that absolutely pivotal consumer insight” and stresses: “If you are in a consumer business, it really should be the marketers that gravitate to the role of chief exec.”

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