How to get marketing back in the boardroom
Some thoughts on how to put right the well known malaise of marketing
Cranﬁeld School of Management, UK
Purpose – To show how the marketing discipline has lost its boardroom credibility byits own short sightedness over the past half century, and suggest how the situation might be redeemed. Design/methodology/approach – Personal reﬂection, based on long, broad and deep experience. Findings – Whereas success is measured in capital markets in terms of shareholder value-added, balanced against risks associated with future strategies, the time value of money and the cost of capital,marketing management avoids such issues – this despite the fact that most of the capital value of companies resides in intangibles, the very things on which their actions have an impact. Practical implications – Senior practitioners, business-school academics and marketing consultants will have to change their attitudes and behaviour if the marketing function is to be restored to the boardroom.Originality/value – A call to arms. Keywords Marketing management, Risk management, Boards of directors Paper type Viewpoint
Received January 2006 Accepted February 2006
There is little point in wasting the opportunity afforded by an invitation to write a Viewpoint by even more ﬂagellation of the discipline we all love and to which we have devoted our professional lives. The reasons for ourmalaise were spelled out very clearly in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek paper of mine in the Journal of Marketing Management shortly after I retired as a full-time Professor of Marketing (McDonald, 2004). The very title of the paper surely gave more than a hint of what was to follow: “Marketing, existential malpractice and an etherised discipline: a soteriological comment”. In it, fully referencedand evidenced of course for such a distinguished journal, I reviewed the failure of three main contributors to the business of marketing: consultants, practitioners and academics. As the great J.R.R. Tolkien said, in The Hobbit:
Marketing Intelligence & Planning Vol. 24 No. 5, 2006 pp. 426-431 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0263-4503 DOI 10.1108/02634500610682836
Now it is a strange thing,but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating and very gruesome, may make a good tale and take a deal of telling anyway (Tolkien, 1995).
So, those eschatological academics who smash up marketing and its people, and then retreat into their privileged, protected power bases, taking withthem their vast
carelessness and offering very little to help us ﬁnd a way forward, can continue, if they wish, to become increasingly irrelevant to the world of practice. In the UK, they are all too easily encouraged by the wretched and destructive RAE. This is not, of course, to belittle in any way grave debates such as art versus science, phenomenology versus positivism,, etc., etc. and longmay they continue. Surely, however, the time has come for us as a community to address the central issue that marketing faces, which is that after ﬁfty years, it has become a laughing stock and is seen as little more than promotional puffery. We should be garnering our formidable scholarly knowledge and wisdom to help marketing become a serious discipline in the real world. As I said in theaforementioned paper:
The options then, are clear. Let us stop all this pretence at strategy and concentrate on where the marketing community actually is, which is sales support. Or, let us take marketing centre stage, with a major impact on corporate strategy development.
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I ended thus:
We have a wellspring of young genius up and coming in our...