Microsoft UK CMO: ‘Marketers are misunderstood and undervalued – it’s time to set that right’

My route to CMO is less conventional than most. Before stepping up to a marketing role, I worked in the transactional world of sales and before that business development.

Philippa Snare

The marketing world has changed during my time in the sector, particularly in the fast-paced world of technology. The different roles I have done have given me the ability to see and appreciate marketing from the outside as well as the inside.

Undeniably, these are times of great change for marketing. The terms B2B and B2C feel archaic and it’s now widely recognised that it’s all about B2P – people are what counts. Customers expect us to understand who they are, not just what they do, whether they are buying business services or those they’ll use at home.

And they want to experience the product before buying, which has been a major change for my industry in particular. Long gone are the days of a linear customer journey of buying a software CD, personalising it through settings, testing it and potentially returning it to a store if they’re not satisfied. Consumers expect to test our products before they buy, and if they do buy, they want it instantly.

Across all sectors, the pace of change we are experiencing means marketers have to work hard to adapt to new channels and challenges, and perhaps the fact we’re so busy adapting is why we are still undervalued in the boardroom.

The truth is that a peculiarity of working in Britain is that marketing is too often seen as the ‘colouring-in department’ and our brilliant creative industry is not valued nearly highly enough. Watch BBC comedy W1A and you get a clear picture of how we can be seen.

Given the challenges we already face in attracting the best talent this is a cause for concern. We need to bring new talent and capabilities into our industry, particularly digital expertise and social customer service experts, and to do that we need them to feel proud to call themselves marketers.

Just as importantly, we need to retain talent over the longer term, especially those people who have experienced different areas of marketing and can act as generalists who understand traditional marketing tactics just as well as the shiny new toys.

So we need to tackle the misconceptions that surround us and for me, this is a reason to get up every day. My lifelong pursuit is to help move marketing from underdog to being recognised at the highest levels of business, and the good news is that I’m not alone in that.

During the Marketing Academy Fellowship, I was able to meet other participating senior marketers, and the phenomenal leaders of our industry who were incredible and inspiring mentors. There is a shared passion for making marketing better understood and appreciated all the way through the businesses we operate in.

One of the challenges we face is explaining just how complex the underpinnings of modern marketing are. Many people reading this will recognise a typical day in the hectic world of marketing where you’re understanding combining psychology and sociology with data analysis, and the next day you are focused on using emotional intelligence to bring everyone on board with the latest campaign.

Explaining all the elements we’re drawing on at any one moment isn’t easy, especially when so many of us are using skills we hold intuitively, rather than drawing on specific qualifications or training.

I have no problem with being underestimated though. I love walking into a boardroom and being challenged on why Facebook ‘likes’ and interactions or the work we do with vloggers make a difference. And more than that, I love using my background in sales to prove exactly why it does count.

The Marketing Academy Fellowship is a unique programme that gives exceptional marketing leaders the experience and exposure to become CEOs.