Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Making Marketing Strategic


Marketing, as a functional discipline, has had to reinvent itself more than once during the last decade. Remember the distinction in the 1980s between “sales oriented” and “marketing oriented” companies? The first big change was during the early 1990s when marketing was routed from it pedestal in “marketing oriented” companies to become the handmaiden of branding. Now, as branding has become the province of executive leadership, brand management and marketing strategy are being forced to step beyond the confines of the marketing profession per se, to demonstrate new strategic and cross-disciplinary ability to deliver on non-marketing business goals.

As the marketplace has become more difficult to command, competition more intense, and profit margin thinner, questions have emerged about the ability of marketing to deliver the growth and margins it was once vaunted for.

Many believe the problem lies with marketers themselves. These critics say that because marketers are accustomed to thinking only within their discipline about vehicles and share and promotions, they lack the ability to step outside and above their profession, to strategize about emerging trends, broad market opportunities, competitive advantage, and deliver on overarching business goals. Critics of the profession claim that traditional marketers and brand managers may be great tacticians, but that they rarely think strategically about the marketplace, adapt strategies and ideas from other industries, or derive lessons from other sectors

In order to become strategic thinkers who can renew their professional contribution, while still managing the tactics of the discipline of marketing, marketers must learn to think at a higher level about the marketplace. It is no longer enough to speak of integrated branding and marketing programs. Now marketing must achieve business goals too.

What, then, is required to make marketing strategic? How can marketers achieve a macrocosmic view of the landscape within which their discipline works? How can they generate strategic insights to guide their tactical activities? As a start, marketing managers and leaders must:

  • Look beyond their own profession to what is happening at the top of the organization, and with understanding shape and integrate their goals and activities to simultaneously deliver upon those business and financial goals. This requires that marketers learn about the concerns of finance, sales, manufacturing, and R&D in order to guide marketing effectively and ensure organizational synergy.
  • Look beyond their own organization to understand the trends within their industry and beyond to other indus-tries and sectors, and then, to adapt these lessons for the benefit of their company. Too often marketing managers think only about their own segment or industry.
  • Ask what data and information mean and thus develop insights about consumer, customer, industry, and societal trends. Marketers who obtain a macrocosmic view of their work and its contribution to the success of their company are in a prime position to ask what data and information mean and thus to derive the important insights that enable a strategic contribution to their company.
  • Direct with insight outside agencies and staff personnel to provide targeted and heightened contributions. Strategic marketers must impart their expanded view of the situation to those who serve them and judge their contributions in its light.
  • Do what is right for the business, such that decisions are not just driven by profession or discipline-specific considerations. Haven’t we all dealt with “creatives” who made their decision according to what was “creative,” irrespective of what was best for the company?

The call for strategic marketing is urgent. For example, how can marketers think well about the positioning of their company brand, its brand strategy, or an advertising campaign without an analytic understanding of the market landscape, the greater economic world, and the macro-trends that are changing both the marketplace and the consumer every day?

Strategic marketers must merge the best practices of their professional discipline with the far-ranging vision of strategic thinking to effectively impact both their organization and the marketplace.

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