Spread the word on marketers’ ability

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Nick Varney’s comments in the story we ran to trail this week’s cover feature caused a bit of a stir. The Merlin Entertainments CEO, formerly an FMCG marketer himself, told Marketing Week that modern young marketers lack the breadth of experience or skill-set to become chief executives.

Varney’s view, which you can read in the wider context of his own success as a senior executive here, is that traditionally only marketing and finance departments can produce CEOs, as they produce people with the broadest view of the whole business operation. However he mourns the loss of well-rounded marketers with experience of carrying the responsibility for profit and loss and says that young brand managers are now siloed far too quickly these days.

Our story coincided with a survey published by marketing group Fournaise suggesting that 73%of CEOs think marketers lack business credibility because they fail to use the right metrics to quantify the success of their campaigns. As a result of these complementary stories, our Debate page for next week could already be filled twice over with your reaction letters. And as you can see from our analysis piece, you also had some strong things to say online.

Worth reading in that same piece is the view of Sherilyn Shackell, chairman of the Marketing Hall of Legends and the inspiration behind the Marketing Week-sponsored Marketing Academy. In creating the infrastructure of the Marketing Academy, with its enormous network of industry mentors, coaches and directors, Shackell has drawn together a string of CEOs, each one a former marketer, as well as board-level CMOs from every business sector.

Perhaps more significantly, each one of them has pledged time and support to help guide today’s top young marketing talent into positions of influence and leadership in the future.

Just the existence of the academy and the willing advocacy of such busy executives suggests that perhaps there is indeed a problem to solve. But Shackell is unflinching in defending her constituency. “If it’s true that three-quarters of CEOs doubt marketers’ credibility then it’s no wonder that so many companies are underperforming,” she told us. Speaking from the other side of the Atlantic, Rosanna Fiske, CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, also felt that Varney’s words merited strong reaction. “It’s an antiquated belief that the modern CEO simply oversees the bottom line,” she said in a statement that you can read in full alongside the online version of our cover story. “The CEO is now chief communicator of the brand’s esoteric and real value, and key to ensuring a company’s reputation and credibility remains intact.”

While the debate is worth pursuing with vigour (I hope there is no need to detail which side I stand on), it is actually on the ground within your organisations where every marketer with a strong view can make a difference. Influence is gained with increased understanding of every business department outside of marketing and an empathy for the needs and perspective of your counterparts that manage them. In turn we need to learn to communicate our value in a way that links inherently to the core strategic needs of the whole.

If you’re someone with obstacles to overcome and in need of inspiration, next week’s Marketing Week Live! sees a programme of marketing and business leaders talking about their success in this area and more. I’ll be starting my two-day experience introducing Diageo’s global innovation director Syl Saller, who will touch on this issue in her 10am session next Wednesday.

Visit www.marketingweeklive.co.uk to learn more and register for free.

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