Just what does marketing capabilities mean?

The term ‘marketing capabilities’ is one with no consistent definition but it has been used within businesses for a while now, often to make sure that everyone in the business is focused on the consumer. Will Orr, marketing director at British Gas, says it has been used at his company for a couple of years now, while it has been on the agenda for around five years at Heineken, says Michelle Keaney, who has been head of marketing capabilities at the alcohol company for 18 months.

The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (IDM) has recently set up a Marketing Capabilities Council, of which Heineken’s Keaney is a member. The aim of it is “to gain board-level recognition for marketing capabilities development”. Council chair and IDM director of marketing capabilities Paul McCarthy says one of the first tasks he and his members will tackle is attempting to come up with a definition of marketing capabilities that is clear and consistent because, he admits: “At the moment it probably means different things to different people”. He adds that the term marketing capabilities has only been part of the “marketing lexicon” for three or four years.

Many think that marketing capabilities is solely about training and developing the marketing team, but Keaney says that is a common misconception.

Kerris Bright, chief marketing officer at Ideal Standard, agrees, saying business capability is “the ability of an organisation to run effective processes that result in sustainable and profitable growth in the business. So, marketing capability is the ability to design and run processes effectively to a programme that drives profitable growth.”

Brand Learning, meanwhile, defines marketing capabilities as enabling “the whole organisation to excel at customer-centric marketing to deliver superior customer value and drive profitable, demand-led growth.” The agency believes the key to this is leadership, so that marketing has an influence across the entire business in getting everyone rooting for the customer.

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