To mark the launch of Xeim, Centaur Media’s newly-formed marketing business, which houses brands including Marketing Week, we asked some of the UK’s leading marketing thinkers to share what excellence in marketing means to them.
Direct Line Group’s marketing director Mark Evans, for example, suggests excellence in marketing is about “orientating the whole organisation to be customer-first and meeting our customers’ needs”. He adds: “It’s about connecting the company to the world; to bring the future forward and the outside in.”
Like Evans, Jason King, RBS’s marketing director for England and Wales, says excellence in marketing comes from having an unwavering focus on customers.
He says: “Excellence in marketing is thinking about the complete end-to-end piece but starting with customer insight and data; a real insight into what problem or opportunity you’re trying to solve. You need to be consistent with following that through. You need to make sure you execute brilliantly at every step and don’t get bored of the detail. It’s the detail that makes the difference in how you go to market.”
Abi Comber, former head of marketing at British Airways, concurs with the idea of the importance of customer insight: “It’s not about drowning in data; it’s about swimming in insight – putting the customer right at the heart of the organisation. Excellence is driven by following the customer and bringing them inside your business.”
Kerris Bright, the BBC’s chief customer officer, believes the definition of marketing excellence is twofold. For people working inside an organisation, she says it is achieved when “marketing as a function is absolutely recognised as delivering and driving the results of a business”. But from a consumer perspective, she says marketing excellence comes when customers “recognise you as doing interesting, bold things”.
Greg Levine, meanwhile, who is sales and distribution director at insurance firm Vitality UK, believe marketing excellence comes from connecting all the dots.
“It’s very easy to look at it one-dimensionally and think marketing excellence is just a great idea. But it’s not. It’s about how you integrate all the variables together; whether it’s your digital strategy, your communication strategy, your PR strategy and, very importantly, your commercial and financial strategy. It’s how you bring all that together for the board, shareholders and investors to say ‘that really works’.”
Defining marketing excellence
Defining excellence in marketing can come close to defining the practice of marketing itself, in that most definitions of marketing tend to strongly imply an idea of marketing excellence or effectiveness.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing, for example, defines marketing as a “management process for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”, which implies excellence as an outcome of the marketing process.
Authors Hugh Burkitt and John Zealley offer a more specific idea of excellence in marketing in their book ‘Marketing Excellence’. While they argue “excellence has to be unusual and rare”, they add that this must to be accompanied by “endurance and sustainability”.
“In our [marketing] world it is the execution of ideas over a long period of time which is a non-negotiable criterion for excellence. A great quarter does not a reputation make. This requirement for grinding out results is especially true in competitive markets, where for every action, there is counter-reaction and the merit of what marketers do can only be judged by the tough laws of competition,” the authors write.
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