Mark Ritson: Marketers blame CFOs for not getting marketing when it’s our fault

All too often the marketing industry wants to make the CFO the bête noire, but if they don’t understand the value of marketing that’s marketing’s fault, says Ritson.

The struggle to get the rest of the C-suite to understand the value of marketing appears to be a perennial one. All too often, procurement or CFOs are marched out as the reasons why a CMO might be forced to think short-term or not get the budget they want.

However, Marketing Week Mini MBA founder and columnist, Mark Ritson, believes it is too easy to blame the CFO when really it is the fault of marketing if others in the business do not understand its role and value.

“We are always guilty of making the CFO the bête noire. We say, ‘The CFO is making us short-term, doesn’t understand the value of marketing, boo, hiss, what a fucker’,” he said, speaking as part of a Q&A session with Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn at the Festival of Marketing today (9 October).

“When we blame the CFO and the other suite members, what we are missing is it’s our job to represent what we do because we are marketers, we are meant to understand how to communicate to our different target audiences. When the CFO doesn’t get the value of branding, doesn’t allow us to propose the budget, it is not the CFO’s fault, it is our fault.”

To do that, Ritson said marketers need to speak to the C-suite in a way they understand. That means not talking about customers, or pantones, or having a consistent brand experience, but instead focusing on the revenue and profit generated.

When the CFO doesn’t get the value of branding, doesn’t allow us to propose the budget, it is not the CFO’s fault, it is our fault.

Mark Ritson

He recalled times when he has met senior executives at companies where he has been consulting. Whenever they ask why he got into marketing, he tells them it is because it “makes enormous amounts of money”.

“Talk to them about what marketing really does for the C-suite, which is we make them more money. The minute you start putting dollar figures into these conversations, watch how things change. Dramatically quickly. That has been our failing in the past,” said Ritson.

In order to make more money, however, he recommends marketers get out of the tactics side of the discipline and “swim upstream” to strategy. Ritson believes most marketers obsess about the communication aspect of marketing when that is just 8% of the discipline. This aspect only makes up one of the ‘4Ps’, which are themselves just a third of marketing – with strategy making up another third, and understanding the market a further third.

“I say to marketers, don’t go looking for the next magical communications platform, get yourself more broadly, tactically exposed and then get upstream to strategy and diagnosis, because that is what the proper job looks like,” he said.

Mark Ritson was speaking at the Festival of Marketing, where he also covered the impact of Covid, how marketers should be thinking about Christmas and the brands he thinks have excelled during the pandemic. His session, as well as the rest of the agenda, is available to watch on-demand for those with a digital pass. To buy a pass visit