‘Marketers must get out of comfort zone to progress’

Marketers must step out of their “comfort zone” and embrace all areas of the company to become an MD or CEO of an organisation, according to senior marketers that have made the leap.

Boardroom Meeting
Boardroom Meeting

Having a skillset that focuses on the consumer makes marketers a natural fit to lead a business if it can be applied beyond the marketing function, say marketers turned CEOs such as Richard Doe of ING Direct and Kevin Brennan, former Kellogg’s marketing director who is now CEO of Quorn.

Matthew Dearden, former BT marketing director and now CEO of outdoor media firm Clear Channel, says: “As a marketer is that you always start with who is the customer and what is in it for them – that end to end view is helpful.”

Marketers are, however, encouraged to take an interest and understand how the rest of a business works if they want to progress into senior leadership and management roles.

Richard Doe, chief executive of ING Direct, says: “You have to encompass everything beyond your specific role. As a marketing director if you only focus purely on marketing and don’t engage or get under the skin of the rest of the business, particularly in how it makes money, then that’s going to be a barrier.”

One of the pitfalls highlighted is that becoming too specialised in one area can make it difficult to move upwards.

Ian Filby, CEO of furniture retailer DFS, says: “The danger can be that you get pigeonholed as being really good at X and people convince themselves that your talent wouldn’t translate into more lateral roles. My advice is to get out of the comfort zone.”

The warning echoes the comments made to Marketing Week last month by Merlin Entertainment CEO Nick Varney that marketers are getting too siloed to take on leadership roles.

See next week’s Marketing Week to read our cover feature on marketing directors who have become CEOs leading global brands.