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Marketers in the Boardroom

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Explore the role of the marketer on the board

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Marketers in the Boardroom

  1. 1. MARKETERS IN THE BOARDROOM In association with Modern Marketing Actionable Insights Series
  2. 2. 2 The aim of this Econsultancy research, produced in partnership with Oracle Marketing Cloud, is to explore the role of the marketer on the board. At a time where business is more data-driven than ever, how can the marketer help their fellow business leaders put the customer at the centre of the business to deliver sustainable, long-term growth that satisfies every stakeholder? The methodology involved two main phases: Phase 1: Desk research to identify relevant issues and opportunities for marketing at board level; examining the current leadership landscape and how it is evolving. Phase 2: A series of in-depth interviews with a number of senior marketers, the majority of whom are currently members of leadership or executive boards. We would like to thank the following for their contributions to this report: • Pete Markey, CMO, The Post Office (UK) • Philip Almond, CMO, BBC Audiences (UK) • Alex Aiken, CMO, UK Government • Sholto Douglas-Home, CMO, Hays (UK) • Barnaby Dawe, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Just Eat (Global) • Randall Rozin, Global Director, Brand Management and Marketing Communications, Dow Corning (US) • Evan Greene, CMO, The Grammys (US) • Bjorn Sprengers, CMO, PropertyGuru (APAC) • Julie C Lyle, Chairman of the Board; CMO in transition The Global Retail Marketing Association (US) ABOUT THIS RESEARCH Published by Econsultancy in association withMarketers in the Boardroom CONTENTS Foreword by Oracle Marketing Cloud 3 1. Introduction: The marketing leadership landscape 4 2. Why do we need marketers on the board? 6 3. How to gain a seat on the board 9 4. Board and marketer in harmony 15 5. The future for marketing on the board 18 6. Actionable insights: steps to be taken today 20 About Econsultancy 22 About Oracle Marketing Cloud 22
  3. 3. 3Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with Credibility in the boardroom is measured in hard numbers. For marketers, earning a spot alongside the CEO and CFO comes down to being able to demonstrate how they add value to the business in terms that decision-makers can easily understand. We’ve seen a growing number of CMOs join the executive ranks of leading companies in recent years as businesses understand that marketers are harnessing the power of customer data and digital technologies and driving the customer experience with the brand. The value of marketing in driving revenue is undeniable, and as such it’s time marketers solidify their role next to other executive decision-makers to drive business strategies. It is with that in mind that Econsultancy has dedicated this latest report to determining where progress stands so far, what continues to hold marketers back, and how marketing leaders can better highlight their contribution to the business to accelerate their rise to the boardroom. The first step for CMOs is to gain credibility for the positive impact that marketing activities have on sales, financial performance and the customer experience. To do this CMOs need to ensure they can speak the right language. As mentioned, concrete figures are the currency of boardroom decision-making and CMOs must be able to clearly discuss what they do in terms of its financial and strategic impact to play an active role in key decision-making. The rise of digital technologies has also impacted the ability for marketers rise to prominence in the wider business. As the custodians of data, analytics and customer touchpoints, marketers are in an ideal position to establish themselves as growth levers and strengthen their position on the board – so long as they can make clear the link between the engagement with customers, the insights they uncover and their implications for the wider business. This will require them to think beyond marketing and build stronger relationships with their other Line of Business leaders. They must also stay abreast of their industry’s competitive landscape, not just in terms of other companies’ marketing campaigns and strategies but also with regards to what their business is doing strategically. The role of today’s CMO is all-encompassing. It requires them to be part artist – leading their teams to develop inspiring campaigns; part scientist – analysing and uncovering value from the huge volumes of valuable data they collect; and part politician – building relationships and becoming great communicators. As Econsultancy’s research also shows, this last role remains one of the hardest for marketers to inhabit as they adjust to making decisions based on their market value rather than exclusively on their impact on a particular campaign. Andrea Ward Vice President of Marketing Oracle Marketing Cloud FOREWORD BY ORACLE MARKETING CLOUD: IT’S TIME WE STOP GETTING LOST IN TRANSLATION
  4. 4. 4Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with 1. INTRODUCTION: THE MARKETING LEADERSHIP LANDSCAPE The tide is most definitely on the turn. Gone are the days when the primary qualification for a board-level appointment was a lifelong dedication to accountancy and chasing the shareholder. Today’s boards want to be described as visionary, cutting edge, agile and forward-thinking. To manage long-term growth in a rapidly changing environment, they are seeking professionals from all walks of life. At the vanguard of the most progressive boards is the marketer. It is no exaggeration to say that the companies garnering the most attention, most column inches and inevitably, the most customers are led wholly or in part by executives with some kind of marketing background. And this in itself is a broad definition. Marketing is no longer what was once rather uncharitably referred to as ‘the colouring in department’. It is a data-driven, digitally expert, strategy-led discipline with more than one eye on the bottom line, shifting it away from cost-centre perceptions and into growth-centre reality. “Chief marketing officers are being challenged to fortify their positions, expand authority and assert ownership of critical leadership roles in their organisations,” stated Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council. “A true CMO must be the CEO-in-waiting, groomed in all aspects of the business and the value-setter for the organisation. Many aspire, but few make it to the corner office. But as the CMO rises to the realities and requirements of the new mandate of the CMO, this will change.”1 That said, for many the pace of change is simply not fast enough. For every claim of customer centricity by a company, there is not necessarily a marketer at the heart driving the strategy. Andy Duncan, speaking at ThinkBox 2015 in September 2015 addressed the issue that the number of marketers on the board is growing – slowly: “Of the Fortune 1,000 US companies, only 34 marketing directors sit on the executive board. On the FTSE 100, this number is only slightly better.”2 Indeed, according to a survey by Spencer Stuart, in 2011 only 14% of FTSE 100 CEOs had a marketing background but this had grown to 21% in 2015. Conversely, in 2011, 53% of CEOs had a finance background but this dropped to 32% by January 20153 . 1 http://www.cmocouncil.org/apac/press-detail.php?id=4993 2 http://www.marketingweek.com/2015/09/30/why-marketers-are-failing-to-get-a-place-in-the-boardroom/ 3 http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1330862/marketers-boardroom-door-open-step-inside
  5. 5. 5Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with Of Marketing Week’s Vision 100, 34 were members of their company’s executive or leadership boards although not all of these were in marketing positions with those such as Andy Duncan of Camelot, Jill McDonald of Halfords and Martin Glenn of The Football Association all occupying CEO roles. Marketers are also beginning to occupy non-executive positions outside their ‘day job’. Drinks manufacturer Diageo brought Facebook’s EMEA vice president Nicola Mendelsohn, former executive director of independent agency group, Karmarama, onto the board as a non-executive director and will also join the company’s audit, nomination and remuneration committees. She already occupies Facebook’s most senior role outside the US and this appointment is a signal that companies are particularly keen to harness the power of data and digital at a high level. Bringing marketers to the board is largely a global phenomenon with both European and North American companies seeing marketers making inroads at the top level. However the rest of world picture is a little more fragmented. In Australia, a brief survey of the top 10 companies as ranked by Business Insider4 , marketing experience is making it to both board of directors and executive leadership levels, however, very rarely is this in the form of a single marketing director or CMO. Typically it involves someone with a management consulting background who has overseen marketing strategy. In China in 20115 David Roman was heralded as bringing the wind of change to technology company, Lenovo, as a marketer taking over the reins from finance and sales executives. But in the vast majority of cases, the latter is still the norm on both boards of directors and the executive leadership board. Australian marketers have been identified as pulling away from other nations in the region in terms of marketing skill and development. With digital and data at the centre of establishing the marketer’s path to board status, Australia is noted as placing far greater emphasis on this than regions such as Singapore and India (The Australian, Sept 20146 ) with 52% of organisations placing their chief marketing executives in charge of digital marketing strategy compared to the regional average of 39%. China and Korea are highlighted as using data only as a reporting rather than strategic tool. However, digital-first companies are leading the way in the West for accommodating the marketer at board level. It follows that the APAC region, with a high digital adoption overall and a strongly mobile- and social-first approach to the customer, it may not be long before we see the region catch up and perhaps even overtake the US and Europe with a marketing-centric board make-up. 4 http://www.businessinsider.com.au/here-are-australias-top-100-companies-and-how-they-performed-in-2014-2015-3 5 http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1106569/chinese-coming 6 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/australia-a-skills-hub-in-digital-marketing/story-e6frg996-1227069065781 “In South East Asia you are dealing with some dynamics that many marketers would struggle with if you weren’t able to do some of the dirty work. One important difference is the talent gap in leadership and below leadership and the second is the labour crunch. We are experiencing far higher turnover of staff in South East Asia than in Western markets. Many times, your team is going to be understaffed, making it extra challenging to strengthen Marketing fundamentals” Bjorn Sprengers, PropertyGuru “Context is important. There is a reason why there are more marketers on boards in digital companies than others. Here, marketing has been positioned more upstream in the conversion funnel,” Bjorn Sprengers, PropertyGuru This paper looks at the compelling reasons to have marketers at the most senior levels of the organisation; what marketers need to do to attain this level and what the implications are for the company as a whole.
  6. 6. 6Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with 2. WHY DO WE NEED MARKETERS ON THE BOARD? Marketing has come a long way from the Mad Men of the 50s (or TV, depending on where you take your cultural references from). Even the most junior brand marketer today understands that customer experience is driven from the centre of the organisation and that sales, operations, marketing and technology all need to work together to be able to drive consideration, acquisition and retention. But what does marketing bring to the table at the very highest, strategic level of the organisation? Simply put, it is because marketing is the customer’s representative in the company and the company can do nothing if it does not put the customer first. This is nothing to do with a charming ‘the customer is always right’ scenario. It means that without understanding the customer, without unlocking customer behaviour, attitudes and desires, no element of the organisation can function properly. And the marketer holds the key. That inside-out focus comes of being managed at high levels by finance and technology leads or sector experts. Their default starting point is to assess what they have and then how the customer might be persuaded to buy it. This has long since been debunked as a useful way to build a sustainable business model over the long term. “I think of marketing as GPS for the organisation. Taking readings from the market, triangulating customer needs and translating that into the insights that focus the sales forces and help a company focus externally, squarely on the customer and the market. This is needed at board level to counter a traditionally inside-out focus.” Randall Rozin, Global Director, Brand Management and Digital Marketing, Dow Corning “What gives marketers huge authority is their ownership of the customer. From the insight and analytics perspective – what trends are they buying, the context of marketing’s opportunity and responsibility to bring thing to the table that other parts of the business can’t access.” Pete Markey, Post Office “The core function of marketing has not changed. It’s to represent the customer in the organisation. There is no-one else in the organisation uniquely positioned to do that.” Bjorn Sprengers, PropertyGuru
  7. 7. 7Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with WHAT’S IN A NAME? Companies are beginning to recognise that the customer is at the heart of the organisation and the marketer their champion. This has resulted lately in a rash of interesting C-suite titles including Chief Customer Officer and Chief Value Officer among others. Does this mean that the marketer’s brief moment in the sun is about to be subverted and they will be returned to the advertising department as the new customer champion takes over? These new titles may simply be the manifestation of the company signaling that it is restructuring to cement a customer-centric culture. It does, however, point to an interesting challenge facing businesses, namely the recognition that if marketing is now so much more than Mad Men then – what exactly IS it? So the creation of Customer and Value roles could well be down to the fact that the landscape is moving so fast that there is no comfortable term for what is essentially Marketing Plus. What is the plus? It’s marketing plus technology; marketing plus sales; marketing plus operations; marketing plus retail; marketing plus finance – plus any discipline you care to think of. What is certain is that, if the customer is at the centre of the organisation, marketing is the interface between it and every other function and so its place on the board isn’t arguably required, it is essential. 7 http://www.marketingweek.com/2014/05/07/co-op-board-needs-more-marketing-expertise/ “When I was looking for a new role what I heard over and over again from the chairman of the board or senior partners was: ‘We need a chief customer officer. Someone who understands the digital side as well as the traditional marketing side – a chief omnichannel officer.’ It’s someone who understands big data and know how to leverage it for the growth of the organisation. It’s not a CTO, but it’s about understanding the ecommerce world and the intersection of those forces.” Julie C Lyle, Chairman of the Board; CMO in transition Global Retail Marketing Association “I’m still digesting the chief customer officer, or chief brand officer roles. Is this the rebrand of marketing? It’s more of a step in the journey. It’s great if marketing is aligned with being the customer champion – I feel that any board should be thinking ‘customer first’.” Sholto Douglas Home, CMO, Hays “Having the customer advocate is imperative at that level. When titles such as chief customer officer were emerging the conversations with CEOs would be: “What is the difference between a CCO and a CMO? I need someone who can bridge the divide between tech and marketing so that rather than going from a single interaction with the customer we go to having a relationship at every touchpoint.” Julie C Lyle, Global Retail Marketing Association “Given what’s happening in the data and technology sphere, the way it has become central to the operation of the business and the customer’s interface with it, these things need to be pulled together and they need a clear voice on the board,” Philip Almond, Director, Marketing and Audiences, BBC “There is no one function that owns the customer and you need a style of leadership that is less about ownership and more about collaboration.” Philip Almond, Director, Marketing and Audiences, BBC “Why is this the marketers’ purview? It’s because the role is inherently the point of access between the organisation and external forces. Marketers should be more externally focused than everyone else with the exception of the CIO/CTO dealing with cyber threat.” Julie C Lyle
  8. 8. 8Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT Companies have begun to realise that by putting customers at the centre of a multichannel environment, it has had a rapid de-siloing effect on the organisation. Some businesses are less responsive to this change than others – it’s frequently clear to the customer which ones they are as personalised direct mail pours through the letterbox but emails to customer services go unanswered. But the pressure is on all organisations and it is forcing cultural change. This means that the marketer’s skill with the customer and their role as interface between them and the company is only one reason to get them on the board pronto. The marketer’s ability to communicate and liaise internally is also going to prove vital in a new, integrated corporate environment. It is instructive that, following an organisational crisis, the need for marketing to be incorporated at the board level is quickly identified. A review of banking, funerals and grocery brand, The Cooperative Group, was conducted following scandals including the arrest of its chairman on drugs charges and the practical collapse of the banking arm. The review’s head, Lord Myner, former UK financial services secretary, stated that the current board’s expertise particularly in marketing came “nowhere near the required level”7 . The disconnect within the company between its stated values and the behaviour of its senior management was stark and a cultural refit was clearly one of the things Lord Myner identified. Any organisation that recognises the power of marketing to steward a company’s integrity towards its customers is unlikely to have found itself in The Cooperative Group’s position. The group had in fact removed its head marketer from the board a few months prior to the review in March 2014. In September 2015, in an echo of Diageo’s move to digitally- focused executives, the company appointed former UK Government digital chief, Mike Bracken8 , to its group executive board while the company’s group board saw Stevie Spring, former brand marketer and CEO of Clear Channel, appointed as an Independent non-executive director . Moving from the fringes to the very centre of the organisation is a personal as well as cultural challenge. If marketing has moved beyond the Mad Men, that is still where the vast majority of its practitioners start out. Marketing is increasingly accepted as a strategic pivot around which the brand can revolve. How can marketers “upskill” to meet the challenge? 8 http://www.cio.co.uk/news/cio-career/mike-bracken-appointed-co-operative-chief-digital-officer-3622018/ 9 http://www.co-operative.coop/corporate/aboutus/board/stevie-spring/ “Boards are looking for maximum departmental integration and collaboration among executive leadership so that there are process improvements. The larger the organisation, the greater the need for collaboration.” Randall Rozin, Dow Corning
  9. 9. 9Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with 3. HOW TO GAIN A SEAT ON THE BOARD If the marketer’s ambition is to find a place on the board, first of all it’s instructive to determine what kind of board is being discussed. The uppermost tier is of course the Board of Directors. Populated by a number of non-executive directors, this elite group oversees strategy, direction and governance. Executives are typically made up of experienced management consultants, financiers, lawyers, not-for-profit professionals and business leaders. Increasingly we are seeing executives with marketing experience but this is not often from marketers at the CMO level. Instead, this tends to be people in management positions who have had oversight of marketing, sales or brand in some wider capacity as Managing Director or CEO. It is more common to find C-Suite marketers on the Leadership Executive or Management Team but here again, the group is dominated by financiers, lawyers, consultants, technologists and CEOs past and present. This is where marketing is making the greatest inroads however as it is the Executive team’s remit to oversee operations and ensure the smooth running of the business, design and execute strategy and command buy-in from the CEO and directors. To gain access to either of these echelons requires a sea change in the marketer’s skill set, however. For some, this is easier to achieve than others. From research conducted for this report, it is becoming clear that marketers who have grown through the ranks in digital organisations or been part of the launch teams of successful and rapidly growing startups are finding the path to leadership easier than those in more traditional organisations. It is unsurprising, for example, to find that the director and leadership boards of financial institutions in Australia are predominantly populated by financiers and lawyers, while Silicon Valley stalwarts Twitter, Uber and Facebook feature a large number of technology and data-led individuals with a strong focus on brand-building. However, one of the highest profile board level marketing executives is Unilever’s Keith Weed. He, along with his counterpart Roisin Donnelly at PG UK, has been largely responsible for creating a strong brand focus in the FMCG sector and allowed many products to transcend commoditisation. The presence of these two executives both on their own companies’ boards as well as a wide range of industry associations and even government committees demonstrates how important the marketing voice has become. For these two executives and the others who have risen to marketing halls of fame, they have been able to perform the alchemy that has seen them drive the creative focus of their organisations while still being able to respond to the demands of their executive boards. The skill set to be able to do this is not one that is acquired lightly. In this chapter, we examine the main skills a board level marketer must deploy and how to acquire them.
  10. 10. 10Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with COMMUNICATION The single most important skill identified by all the executives interviewed for this report was the ability to communicate in a vernacular that the board can understand. In the vast majority of cases this means leaving a great deal of what could be termed marketing speak at the door. To resonate with the board, it’s not just about adapting language to be less familiar, less colloquial. Using the language of finance and IT literally isn’t lip-service. Marketers have to be able to distinguish between metrics that are perhaps not financially rigorous but still allow them to make decisions at team level and those that can be applied directly to the bottom line. Translate that boardroom discussion to the debating chamber and the scrutiny increases still further: “For marketing to succeed with skeptical politicians, it requires measurement and data which proves impact, not talk about assertion, reach and volumes,” warns UK Government CMO Alex Aiken. It can be easy to trip up. Marketers may now be metrics and measurement focused but not all measurements are created equal. The UK Coalition Government released a campaign around the apprenticeship scheme that focused on measuring reach and the number of ads seen: “That got a real degree of challenge because the measurement was not sufficiently about outcomes,” admitted Government CMO, Alex Aiken. “This is partly why we brought in an evaluation council to peer review and that’s the point they consistently make, that with social and digital media there are a vast number of ways you can cut the numbers. Marketing has to be objectives-focused if it’s going to succeed at board level.” That said, there is no need to become a slave to PowerPoint: “When I took the CMO job at RSA I fell into thinking that I had to conform and deliver presentations in the same way as everyone else. You don’t realise that they’re getting all the same presentations and yours is no different. When I did a piece of work on brand positioning I changed the materials and brought them in on boards, then took the executive off site. A board member turned to me and said it was the best meeting they’d ever been in,” Pete Markey, Post Office. Using the marketer’s skills to subvert the norm is a way of getting the point across boldly and with impact but it has to be exquisitely judged. Even if a marketer has a reputation for flamboyance, being something of a renegade and was hired specifically for those qualities, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have permission to burst into the boardroom, all bells and whistles on the first day. To deviate from the norm, there still needs to be a base level of trust and that trust needs to be established by playing by the rules, at least at the beginning. Much is also made of the marketer’s need to translate marketing for the board but traffic in the opposite direction is just as vital: “Marketing must lead the organisations’ efforts in brand alignment at every customer touchpoint to ensure marketing promises match customer experiences. To achieve this, marketing helps lead the translation of brand strategy to employee behaviours –well beyond the marketing department – to deliver superior customer experiences,” Randall Rozin, Dow Corning. The marketer at board level is a split personality. To show credibility and strategic leadership, they need to fit into the mould of their peers at the table. But as advocates of the customer and custodians of creativity in the organisation, they also need to distill the dry facts and figures, the long- term goals into excitement and enthusiasm through the teams they lead - teams that aren’t just made up of marketers any more - that drives brand performance and delights customers. “The CMO should be the champion for the customer and having excellent communications skills that are adapted for a board- level audience is a must. If you’re speaking to the CFO, speak in financial terms. For the CIO it must be about IT and technology. You can’t leverage marketing speak in the boardroom and be successful.” Randall Rozin, Dow Corning “You can’t just turn up and be wacky. You’ve got to do it in the right way. Marketing demands you market what you’re doing in the business. The right answer has got to be not giving them more of the same. As marketers, we would never do that in the real world.” Pete Markey, Post Office “I’ve absolutely had to learn the language of the board but also recraft the language of marketing for my board papers. How I would communicate a marketing initiative in the board is very different to how I would frame it in a team meeting. It’s beyond critical that marketers recalibrate they use in an operational or board context. But it takes time to get it right, so best immerse yourself in the business to make sure you strike the right note.” Sholto Douglas Home, Hays
  11. 11. 11Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with THE SCIENCE BIT As we have already alluded to, it’s not enough to simply speak like a board member. Those figures and measurements being trotted out really do need to add up. There is no point in coming up with woolly indicators that somehow made sense at the time of the team meeting. Telling the CFO that the social media strategy broke the company’s previous ‘Tweets favourited’ record won’t cut it. For many marketers, the need to get to grips with a degree of statistical analysis, modelling and a deep dive into the technological processes that deliver customer information is vital. Borders no longer really exist in terms of ecommerce so while the marketer may nominally be purely US, Europe, APAC or LatAm based, the fact is an understanding of global markets is also required. Just Eat’s Dawe occupies just such a global role and reveals: “Operating in 15 markets there are two key challenges. The first is that they are at different stages of the business lifecycle, from startup to very mature and the second is that the local, cultural nuances affect consumer behaviour.” The relative technological advancements of each territory are also an issue. As was noted in the introduction, the US and Europe are well advanced in using data and digital to drive the growth of the organisation. As a result board level marketers need to be more than au fait with the implications these twin masters have for the business. Australia, it was noted, is following a similar path but other regions including China, India, Singapore and even the relatively technologically advanced South Korea, are not using data to support marketing and customer experience strategies at anything like the same level. Assertions around being a data or digital savvy marketer to operate at board level therefore have very different implications dependent on the relative maturity of the market. To succeed at this level, regardless of the levels of market maturity, in terms of technological and information capabilities, it is always advisable for the marketer to adopt a gold standard of understanding. If their market is not yet mature, trends are moving so fast it will be a matter of moments before the market catches up and overtakes capabilities. To be fair, no marketer, however highly placed, has reached the gold standard simply because the market keeps moving. “There’s no place for marketing on a board if they are only bringing communications and marketing tactics capabilities. Whether it’s in terms of brand ownership, customer centricity or digital ecommerce management, those are the key areas that are fundamental to a business. Where the marketer can be the custodian or source of deep data analytics, intelligence and actionable insight will add strength to their case for the board.” Sholto Douglas Home, Hays “If you get past the marketing jargon there were so many situations where the marketer just didn’t have the technological skills to understand the digital touchpoints, explore the purchase cycle, leverage the big data and use algorithms to define behaviours.” Julie C Lyle
  12. 12. 12Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with THE VITAL DATA ELEMENT To give an indication of just how many hats the modern board-level marketer must wear, here is Just Eat’s Global CMO, Barnaby Dawe describing the scope of his role: “I’m responsible for growth and revenue. From the growth side there are all sorts of different elements: Our business is driven by brand, the more traditional side of what people consider marketing. Then I focus on acquisition, which is performance-driven marketing. From there, we go to attribution and understanding what channels are driving customers into our world, followed by understanding retention strategies. There are also trade side relationships and making sure the B2B side of the business is steadfast.” While Dawe’s role may vary from that of other marketers, he is faced with the common challenge of keeping up with, understanding and managing the data transformation. The digital environment has been a clear boon to marketers wishing to make the leap towards the board. Its inherent measurability and the fact that marketing leads the majority of the sales strategy in this space puts the marketer at the centre of the conversion conversation. The marketer has the key to PL both bottom and top line. In essence, in digital and particularly etailing, there’s less emphasis on the traditional role of Sales. As an online retailer you know what the margins and acquisitions are and these are what the marketer is responsible for. That’s why the marketer is so important in the digital space. Overall business – not just ecommerce – is moving more and more towards a data heavy environment which is going to become more scientific and will need experts who can help this transition. Marketers who have cut their teeth in digital may already possess these skills but those who don’t need to seek to build teams of data scientists and marketing automation experts who can deliver on this need. The marketer has become quite a difficult profile to fill. Being both conceptually strong, data inclined, commercial and focused on ROI. TEAM BUILDING Marketers reading through the growing shopping list of skills in this report might be starting to worry that the demands on their intellect is rapidly becoming an unsupportable burden. While it is true that the marketer at board level is very much more the generalist and is expected to a degree to be a Jack or Jill of all trades, there is no expectation that they are expected to be the font of all knowledge in every area. Marketers no longer have the luxury of claiming “I’m simply not a numbers person” but they are still hired for their creative and strategic side. Providing there is enough understanding to comprehend how the detailed components will drive the strategy forward, delegation isn’t just desired, it’s vital.” If marketers are having to develop their data muscles to a degree then perhaps an even more important one to exercise is their people-building skills. If their place on the board is going to be built on a ‘people pyramid’, it’s up to the marketer to make sure the foundations of that pyramid are solid. “Data and technology are steep learning curves and that’s why I have a technology person alongside me. We are probably the first generation of marketers where there are people who are a lot younger who know a lot more. That requires a different style of leadership where it’s all about enabling. Sometimes, you do have to ask dumb questions and be unembarrassed about doing so. But you still bring the strategic leadership.” Philip Almond, BBC “In any senior position you need to have experts beneath you. By the nature of your role you’re going to be a generalist. You need to have oversight over all those levers and it moves so quickly that every day there is a new tool and a need for new understanding of customer behaviour. You need to know the right questions to ask and understand the answers as they come.” Barnaby Dawe, Just Eat “Underneath all of that and underpinned by data is the business intelligence that drives all the understanding of consumer behaviour, purchasing patterns and brand affinity. This is why the brand marketing role is fundamental to the leadership team.” Barnaby Dawe, Just Eat “What changes with digital is that the conversion funnel becomes a lot more transparent and the marketer moves much more towards the sales role. They are responsible for acquiring the customer and their conversion. In the ecommerce environment that is a closed loop, ROI is linked to a lead and the monetisation of that lead.” Bjorn Sprengers, PropertyGuru
  13. 13. 13Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with Lyle recommends taking a three-pronged approach to being the custodian of knowledge across the organisation: • Be aware enough of the tools and capabilities that are out there to collect and harness real-time insights. • Know enough to hire and retain a competent team. • Understand how to build bridges across the organisation with the CIO and CTO. THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF EXPERIENCE Gaining experience at board level isn’t about plunging headlong into an advanced accountancy course. The argument is that senior marketers should have more than a working knowledge of business finance regardless. However it is about gaining as much experience and as broad a range of experience as possible. Halfords’ CEO Jill McDonald took a technical demotion working for another brand earlier in her career by accepting an international role because she understood this would have a positive impact in her later career10 . There isn’t one path or defined set of experiences and characteristics that make up the archetypal board marketer. PropertyGuru’s Sprengers started out in strategy consulting which he would suggest is a good starting point. “You’re trained in the fundamentals of business in analytics and communications, understanding how the dots in the organisation are connected.” Sprengers agrees about the curiosity angle. Today, marketers need to frequently step outside the creative division and understand how the business functions operationally. It has a direct impact on the brand promise. He appreciates that the culture of the organisation has to be in place to allow the marketer to do this as reaching beyond their remit can be seen as much of a risk as an opportunity: “The marketer’s tools have changed, data and the possibilities it creates have become more complicated. You can’t be educated for it and only trained to a certain extent.” Moving about between functions including a traditional marketing role and leading startups has been vital, particularly in the South East Asian market where, he states: “If you operate in large companies for all of your career you may be very inclined to lose touch with the operational complexities of the job.” This is important in the APAC region in particular where skills gaps, high staff turnover and a wide disparity between advanced, multinationals in the region and those who are still approaching data at a very basic level (see Introduction). Lyle explains where her influences come from and how she can grow the sum of her knowledge by looking outside traditional marketing channels. She allocates four days every year to go and explore something. She has gone to live in a remote village in Bangladesh to understand micro financing. She visits Silicon Valley twice a year to do a beauty parade of venture capitalists’ investments and she visits universities to audit classes and participate in lectures. “I try to weave learning into my day. We have a lot of interface with companies such as Facebook and Google. There’s a codependency there. They are providing us with a massive channel through which to engage customers but equally I like to talk to start ups on the technology side who help me deliver a better understanding of customers. These people seek me out.” Barnaby Dawe, Just Eat “You can’t just go to the same conference that everyone else is going to and think you’re going to have a competitive advantage. It’s about creating an agenda for your own constant learning.” Julie C Lyle, Global Retail Marketing Association “The key is to be curious about the business that you’re in. There is a danger for anyone in a junior level not to be curious about the organisation around you and to focus on marketing as the centre of the universe. If you reach out across the organisation, naturally you build a network you can tap into.” Pete Markey, Post Office “You can’t micromanage everything. It’s about the internal team dynamic and under that umbrella comes delegation, right-sizing people and identifying their strengths and weaknesses.” Evan Greene, CMO, The Recording Academy (GRAMMYs) 10 http://www.marketingweek.com/2015/10/22/halfords-jill-mcdonald-on-moving-from-cmo-to-ceo/
  14. 14. 14Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with A SAFE FINANCIAL PAIR OF HANDS To an extent it is alright to delegate the management of data and insight in the company to the technical experts who can build the algorithms and distill results but when those insights begin to impact the bottom line, it is down to the marketer to be able to translate those impacts into financial information for the business. An understanding of how all the elements under their guardianship, from campaigns to call centre resourcing, translates into the financial health of the business is ultimately the only way to keep credibility on the board. Marketing has always struggled to a degree with justifying its value. Before an era of measurability it is true to say that it was hard to see it as anything other than the cost-centre, where tens of millions of dollars would be spent on a TV campaign and the link to a sudden spike in sales could be assumed, but not proven. With a wealth of metrics, experts and financial ability at today’s marketer’s fingertips this need no longer be the case and yet an echo of the marketer going cap in hand to finance remains. If marketers are to be taken seriously and that cost centre switched to a perceived investment, as Markey suggests above, they have to embolden themselves and talk financial turkey. Their place at the table is earned in pounds, dollars and reminibi and they can prove it. “You have to bring finance with you. Get endorsement from within the business if you are developing a tool. It’s very powerful to have finance say: We support this.” Pete Markey, Post Office “The role of marketing in its Mad Men definition has been very much focused on brand awareness and in all fairness, that positions marketing as a cost centre. That’s not the best position to be in if you aspire to be higher up in the organisation.” Bjorn Sprengers, PropertyGuru “Where marketing is best is where it’s clearly positioning itself as a growth lever. If it can show how it’s playing a role in moving from being a cost to an investment, then it automatically earns a place at the table.” Pete Markey, Post Office
  15. 15. 15Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with 4. BOARD AND MARKETER IN HARMONY Interestingly, a board can have an intense understanding of creativity, yet still be unsure about the most effective ways to move forward, as in Greene’s experience with the GRAMMY brand: “Boards can sometimes be traditional and cautious. However, when you are the brand steward, that often puts you in the position of driving change, and pushing to do things that haven’t been done before, to stand behind taking strategic and calculated risks to evolve and scale the brand in new ways.” For marketers, being the agent of change can be a difficult mantle to adopt. Making bold moves in front of a contemplative board is almost the antithesis of what they are trying to achieve when much of the advice has been to prove that it is not a cost centre but rather a safe pair of hands when it comes to profits. On coming to the board with a typical marketer’s CV: “It can be hard because in our sector in particular, longevity is deeply valued – newcomers without sector experience have an extra challenge to establish credibility.” Sholto Douglas Home, Hays THERE IS ROOM FOR CREATIVITY - EXPRESSED CORRECTLY UK Government has seen this disconnect come through via external agencies. When they went to view a presentation from an agency about a communications project, the team was shocked at being presented with what amounted to a consumer brand awareness campaign: “Marketers can come in thinking that marketing is an end in itself but they have to focus heavily on business objectives. The marketing agency showed us really nice consumer campaigns but our job is to help recruit soldiers or make tough interventions on obesity. I was quite surprised that senior marketers wanted to sell us consumer campaigns,” Aiken reveals. “You get to a point where you realise that what got you to being good at marketing isn’t going to make you successful from here on in. It’s more about what can my function do for the organisation as a whole. How am I going to lead this group of people?” Philip Almond, BBC “If there’s ever any disconnect between marketing and the board, it’s around priorities. It’s never about what colour the logo should be. It’s about what the commercial value of it is.” Pete Markey, Post Office
  16. 16. 16Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with WHY THE BOARD MUST ADAPT It was instructive in the construction of this report that much of the desk research was conducted by going through the biographies of major boards of directors and executive leadership teams in top tier companies in major markets worldwide. With very few exceptions, the majority of board members were late-middle aged or even retirement age men with classical routes to board level through management consulting, finance and law. The glass ceiling was showing some cracks and women were increasingly being represented. But on the whole, if you were to think of a stereotypical board member, you would not be far wrong. This is of course changing in the digitally native sector where the Jack Dorseys (Twitter), Mark Zuckerbergs (Facebook), Martha Lane Fox/Brent Hobermans (Lastminute.com) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) are building teams in their image. Although here too, there is a degree of additional statesmen and women being added to the league of non-executives. After all, there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But it’s time so-called traditional enterprises again took its lead from the digital space at board level: The consensus between the experienced, board-level interviewees for this report was that more could be done at board level to prepare incoming marketers for this culture change. Perhaps this is because the role they come from requires such a great deal of recalibration to fit at board level, perhaps because the discipline at this level is still relatively in its infancy and there is still a sense of cultural exception to it. By taking some of the steps outlined in this paper, the marketer should feel confident they are more prepared than ever to tackle board level responsibilities but it is vital to recognise that if marketing has been given a seat at the board, it is because the board values its contribution there. It is up to marketers to prove them right – or wrong. More than anything, marketers need to adopt this state of mind. Greene advises having the courage of your convictions and believes that with the right preparation, marketers at board level have permission to take bigger and bolder steps: “I’ve always believed there is a quiet confidence that comes from doing the right things for the right reason. Change can be slow and sometimes methodical and sometimes not in a straight line. But it will happen if you have the right vision and patience.” It’s just important to be able to foster that patience across the rest of the board using the techniques outlined in this paper if that long term vision is to be realised. And it won’t be without its bumps in the road: “We tend to think that everyone is talking about the Millennials and the way they are changing the customer base. That change is also happening in the talent base. They expect different access to information, flexibility in the work environment and a voice at the table. You won’t keep them if you’re not up for that.” Julie C Lyle “I took a lot of lumps in our boardroom for quite a while from people who weren’t terribly well versed in brand dynamics. Now I’ve gotten to a point where I do have the credibility to make decisions and say things. Stick to your guns. Be the expert you were hired to be.” Evan Greene, The Recording Academy “Generally, boards could do more to prepare new entrants. There is too much of an assumption that people can always swim. This is a contract between the marketer and the board and their expectations. The best thing to do is to ask: What are your expectations of me?” Pete Markey, Post Office “Being on the board is a fundamental change for a marketer. You have to be part artist, part scientist and part politician. The bit that’s currently less tuned is the politician part. Going from the functional board to the main board, the expectations are different. You need to raise your game and thoughtfulness because you are with people who are shaping the business and they want your information. It takes you from being a functional expert to a leader. You bring the customer to the boardroom but you fail if you just talk about marketing.” Pete Markey, Post Office
  17. 17. THE RESISTANT BOARD – A CAUTIONARY TALE All of the executives named in this report have stated unequivocally that they have found the boards they have joined to be nothing but supportive and welcoming of the expertise and perspectives they bring. This is not always the case. One senior executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed their current, day-to-day experience of being asked to join a leadership board where their contributions were far from welcome. “I can only describe the atmosphere in the boardroom as toxic and frankly, I can’t wait to do my time and move on,” this executive states. “It was clear from the start when I was brought in by the owners of the business (after a management change resulting from MA activity) that I was upsetting things a lot. My way of doing things was very much not the way it had always been done.” An expert in data and digital, this executive is ideally placed to help the organisation to understand new trends and respond to them. Using metrics that clearly demonstrate the validity of certain strategies, they are following an accepted and highly valued path to what should result in boardroom acceptance. However: “When I ask them to look at the results, the metrics, the board isn’t interested and in fact seem very disappointed with the work. The attitude would seem to be ‘we’re really disappointed that you bang on about data when we have employed you for your expertise.’ Directors are threatened with data and I feel I regularly show them up for making bad decisions based purely on politics.” Unsurprisingly, this executive feels that this company is unlikely to keep up with the market if this attitude prevails and happily admits that, rather than stewarding the business into a period of growth, it is simply a “stepping stone to future roles”. On speaking to the executive the frustration is clear – at the missed opportunity for the business and for the personal roadblocks at every turn. Published by Econsultancy in association withMarketers in the Boardroom 17
  18. 18. 18Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with 5. THE FUTURE FOR MARKETING ON THE BOARD As more and more marketers transition to the board, is it the end for creativity at a high level? Executives interviewed for this report would argue most certainly not. It is in the how and when it is applied that consideration needs to be taken. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the modern marketers is the number of moving parts now under their control. And it is a challenge for the leaders of the organisation too. Are they to entrust areas that, by their own admission, marketers are not yet experts in and possibly could never be? This signals the move towards a more collegiate approach to brand and customer management. Boards must trust that, while a marketer may only have a working knowledge of data technologies or corporate finance to a certain degree, the one thing they do intuitively understand is the customer and it is around this that all other things revolve. Without care, there is potential for a marketer trying to establish themselves at board level to find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. Boards can be brought round if marketers can demonstrate the value of their actions in terms that can be understood and appreciated by those whose functions are nominally unrelated, such as the CFO and CTO. Of course, we have already established in this paper that there can be no modern organisation where these roles are now completely separate from marketing but it is easier to transcend these barriers in some corporate cultures than others. “With marketing on the board, marketers still have a creative element to their role. We will see more creative strategies, more partnerships and use of third parties to deliver new business models. Parity at the product level is happening faster than ever so marketing leadership at board level will connect corporate strategy to improving customer experience. Marketers can excel at board level if they can help create relevant, differentiated and consistently well executed customer experiences. Marketing needs to take advantage of its role as a creative force.” Randall Rozin, Dow Corning The most difficult thing to change is corporate culture. You have to really understand what buttons to push and levers to pull to execute your strategy. That requires an evolving infrastructure; having the right people and mobilizing them.” Evan Greene, The Recording Academy
  19. 19. 19Marketers in the Boardroom Published by Econsultancy in association with THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF CMO TO CEO The progression of marketers to the board – and on to CEO level – is always going to be easier in organisations that already have marketing at the heart of the business. Jill McDonald is a marketer who has made the leap between national and international marketing roles that have ultimately led to not one but two CEO positions. In conversation with another former marketer now CEO, The FA’s Martin Glenn at The Marketing Society, she stated that: “McDonald’s values marketing very highly and therefore I was a key player on the board with a number of other colleagues. In other places, like British Airways, commercial was at the top table but marketing wasn’t, so that would make it even harder to get there.” This is not to say that marketers should abandon any attempts to take marketing to board level in companies where it has not traditionally led the strategy. However it does indicate that the marketer needs to adapt to accommodate the habits of that particular board. The role of change agent may yet be further down the line. Marketers need to gain the trust to perform activities that demonstrate the value of their new roles, but in many cases need to prove they are able to perform those activities in the first place. This paper has touched on a variety of tactics that marketers can use to overcome this hurdle but, as in the case of the anonymous marketer, it will be just as important to recognise when the cultural barriers are still too great. The GRAMMYs’ Greene believes that a lot of board-level success comes simply from having the courage of your convictions. “It’s important to stick to your guns. You can easily fall victim to group think. If you prepare and have the brand’s best interests at heart you can be bold, be aggressive, make sure you’re doing the right thing for the right reason. If you can look yourself in the mirror and say yes then let the chips fall where they may.” “The bottom line is the thought processes. The CMO and CTO need to be really good friends. It’s very easy to get territorial. They want to know why the Mad Men are suddenly talking about technology. You need to organise yourself in the company horizontally between the functions, within customer groups and create a plan for the whole organisation to deliver on. But this needs a strong leadership team that is neither political, nor territorial.” Bjorn Sprengers, PropertyGuru
  20. 20. 6. ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS: STEPS TO BE TAKEN TODAY 1. GAIN CREDIBILITY We are in an era of test and learn and corporate cultures are adapting to be slightly risk averse and dip a toe in uncharted waters. Engaging with this culture is one way of being able to prove a hunch but the executives interviewed for this report had mixed responses to using small test cases to prove credibility at board level. It was generally felt to be more important to be able to marry the two areas of experience and data to demonstrate credibility. Before approaching the board with ideas for change, they need to be thoroughly worked through. Bringing the weight of experience to bear on your decisions and being able to take what, in many cases, may still have an element of calculated risk gives marketers the courage of their convictions when putting their case to the board. Credibility is not about being mealy mouthed. Nor is it built on false promises. Marketers need to have the confidence to be bold if they are to instill confidence in their leadership peers but doing this requires the marriage of experience and science. Not always, but for the most part, this is a foundation rather than a skill that is several years in the making. 2. SPEAK THE LANGUAGE Certainly there are exceptions where a convention-busting moment of clarity is called for but to engage with the board on a day to day basis, it is important to absorb the language, the vernacular if the marketer is to get their point across with credibility and clarity. There is a sense that because the digital era has increased the measurability of customer interactions immensely, that these metrics are therefore instantly acceptable at board level. This is not the case. In many respects, reporting marketing metrics directly to the board has the potential to destroy rather than enhance credibility. Understanding how to translate marketing outputs into operational metrics is vital, as is the ability to translate strategic imperatives delivered at board level back through the organisation. Marketers are the instinctive communicators of the organisation. Operating at board level is the ultimate opportunity to exercise this muscle. Published by Econsultancy in association withMarketers in the Boardroom 20
  21. 21. 3. WORK TOWARDS INTEGRATION With customers now at the centre of the business and the marketer their advocate, this now establishes marketing as the fulcrum around which all other functions revolve. It’s a scenario that could give more impressionable marketers delusions of grandeur but essentially what it means is that marketers are the link ensuring that technology, data, operations, sales and finance all understand what is required to create the optimal customer experience that will deliver competitive advantage. Many of the executives interviewed for this report insisted on the ‘political’ element of the board level marketing role. The ability to liaise, break down barriers and silos internally is as important as generating award-winning creative. Without a seamlessly working multichannel delivering excellent customer experiences, no brand promise can ever be fulfilled. Marketers need to make sure that their organisation is capable of cashing the cheques their communications departments are writing. 4. PUSH YOUR BOUNDARIES No marketer who stays comfortably within the bounds of the marketing department will ever be able to cut it at board level. To appreciate how to integrate the different functions, marketers have to step outside the discipline to understand not only the challenges faced internally within the business, but the market forces acting on the business as a whole. No marketer focused on advertising or public relations could have foreseen the disruptive influence of apps on consumer behavior; focus groups will not deliver the insight that helps marketers understand why consumers are so aware of their need for data privacy and so willing to relinquish it when it comes to social media. By moving outside functional areas and gaining experience of the world beyond communications, marketers are able to advise and guide in their other roles as organisational translator (speak the language), collaborator (integration) and experienced professional (credibility). 5. MARRY ART AND SCIENCE There is no escaping the fact that marketers need to have more than a working knowledge of data, insight and technology. This doesn’t mean abandoning the creative drive that probably brought many marketers to the function in the first place. However being able to use these tools to drive competitive advantage is now no longer solely the purview of the chief information or technology officers. Certainly, their input and expertise is invaluable and bringing them on board to help deliver an efficient and effective technological solution in an environment that is increasingly dominated by marketing automation is essential. However the marketer cannot afford to delegate the acquisition and management of these capabilities entirely. The marketing environment is changing so rapidly, almost entirely because of data and technology advances that it is imperative to have a handle on how the sector is evolving. Marketing at board level is a generalist’s role and in-depth expertise is not expected. The skill lies in being able to engage the experts that will deliver the service to the marketer’s design. This is not a tipping point where we see the marketer embrace the bottom line at the expense of creativity. Instead, it is the departure point from which marketers can use detailed insight and information to inform creative with increasing accuracy and efficacy. Published by Econsultancy in association withMarketers in the Boardroom 21
  22. 22. ABOUT ECONSULTANCY Econsultancy’s mission is to help our customers achieve excellence in digital business, marketing and ecommerce through research, training and events. Founded in 1999, Econsultancy is used by more than 600,000 professionals every month, and has offices in New York, London and Singapore. Our subscribers have access to research, market data, best practice guides, case studies and elearning – all focused on helping individuals and enterprises get better at digital. The subscription offering is supported by digital transformation services which include capability programmes, training courses, skills assessments and audits. We train and develop thousands of professionals each year as well as hosting events and networking that bring the Econsultancy community together around the world. Find out how we can help at Econsultancy.com ABOUT ORACLE MARKETING CLOUD Modern Marketers choose Oracle Marketing Cloud to build customer-obsessed cultures, create and manage ideal customers, and power revenue performance. They transform marketing by truly knowing the customer, engaging with cross- channel marketing, and achieving data-driven accountability. Integrated information from cross-channel, content and social marketing with data management and activation along with hundreds of app and data partners enables them to target, engage, convert, analyse and use award-winning marketing technology and expertise to deliver personalised customer experiences at every interaction. Marketing Simplicity. Gain the most comprehensive view of customer data. Simplify marketing complexity with the most powerful cross-channel platform. Deliver personalised content at each step of the customer journey. Customer Centricity. Capture data and use a single customer profile for every marketing process. Recognise every customer as an individual. Engage customers intelligently with content in context to deepen the relationship. Enterprise Ready. Consider the advantage of a single unified solution that marketers love and IT trusts. Connect all marketing technology on one platform. Unify your data and execute programmes across all digital channels. Visit oracle.com/marketingcloud

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