It is surprising that a fifth 'p' - people - is yet to be added to the marketing mix of product, price, place and promotion.
As brands come under pressure to drive growth in a complex, volatile and global business landscape, this could change. Ignore talent, and you may as well kiss your business goodbye.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' 14th annual global CEO survey, two-thirds of chief executives are struggling to find people whose skills fit their strategy.
'The intellectual capability of most organisations is in the heads of its key employees - its "knowledge workers",' says career management expert Michael Moran.
'That capability leaves the organisation most nights and, therefore, attraction and retention are key to the organisation's success. The power of the knowledge worker is leading to a rethink about how organisations add value. It is at the interface of the knowledge workers that the value is added. This is particularly appropriate in marketing.'
For marketers, the situation is especially bewildering. On one hand, innovation, insight, strategy, planning, digital and social media are high on the agenda, and companies are crying out for people with expertise in these areas.
'The chat in the bar has moved from what is the most exciting ad to what is the most exciting innovation,' says Luke Raskino, Unilever's global new business unit director, and part of the company's first 'disruptive innovation' team. Consumers around the world are looking for more mesmerising experiences.'
Yet on the other hand, with the drive for economies of scale, the insecure economic outlook and resultant cost-cutting, combined with firms increasing their attention to emerging markets, chief executives have been cutting marketing spend and head count.
'There is a lot of angst about the role of marketing versus the customer-centricity that a whole business needs,' says Mhairi McEwan, co-founder and managing director of Brand Learning.
'The role is about creating better value for customers to drive growth. In other words, building salient brands and innovative propositions that engage.'
If that is the value proposition for marketing, are the right marketers in place? Is there a talent crisis? According to a survey by Marketing, carried out in association with recruiter Major Players, 42% of marketers believed this to be the case, but 31% disagreed.
'It is not a crisis, but it is hard to get good talent,' says Rob Murray, marketing director at DIY retailer Wickes. 'When marketing is at its best, it is at the heart of the business, with a full commercial remit. Too often, this is not the case. I find you often have to choose between someone very commercial, and someone consumer-led. The two need to be inextricably linked.'
Sue Swanborough, HR director UK & Ireland for General Mills, one of the world's biggest FMCG brand-owners, agrees. 'Good companies work hard to hold on to the few that are considered to be great marketing people,' she says. 'The challenge is to build the capabilities of up-and-coming talent, to nurture true empathy with consumers.'
Nalin Miglani, chief HR and communications officer at Tata Global Beverages, says that, while there is not a crisis, there is a supply gap of people who can build brands and businesses.
'The ability to develop and implement a 360 degs approach to the art and science of marketing is not easily available,' he says. 'It is easier to find marketing people in one of the specialisms than it is to find successful brandand businessbuilders.'
With the range of activities marketers are expected to perform, companies want people with a broad set of skills. They seek innovative, strategic, business-focused candidates, with a combination of the traditional technical and creative skills, and digital expertise. They also value characteristics such as leadership, self-awareness, empathy and the ability to influence.
'We've done a lot of work to hone down the core capabilities that we want to develop in our marketers,' explains Jan Gooding, global marketing director at insurer Aviva. 'We have a list of six, which includes strategy, insight and brand leadership. Under each capability we've listed the specific skills required, such as building commercial cases.'
One technical skill much in demand today is, of course, digital, though Murray believes the notion that marketing is in some way changing because of the platform's rise is 'ridiculously overplayed'. However, attracting, developing and retaining digital talent is a headache.
'Digital experts have often built their marketing experience in an entrepreneurial company. The challenge is whether you can take these people and fit them into a classic blue-chip environment,' explains Helen Dingwall, partner at head-hunting firm JCA. 'Companies need to look at whether they can adapt enough to keep entrepreneurial talent interested.'
Moran adds that Gen Y employees with digital skills expect more than previous generations. 'What is the difference between the employee that has worked for one firm for 15 years, and someone who has worked for three different businesses over the same period? The latter is typically paid 25% to 50% more and, to my mind, is four times more employable. Gen Y understands this dynamic, and is more likely to "fire" the organisation once they have extracted the value from the brand.'
While digital is a key challenge, the need for continuous reinvention and innovation means that some argue that behavioural skills are more important than technical.
MARKETING ACADEMIES - HYPER ISLAND
You can go on a Twitter course today, but what will happen around the corner?'
- Asa Silfverberg, Hyper Island
Hyper Island, based in Stockholm, is a training school without teachers.
It runs intensive master classes, short courses, customised training and full two-year courses on all things digital.
Rather than focus on technical skills, however, it focuses on active participation and collaboration - and making mistakes.
'It is all about how to use perspectives,' explains Asa Silfverberg, partner and creative director at Hyper Island.
Those working at the school are facilitators, and Silfverberg stresses it is all about trusting that people are able to develop their own learning.
'When companies embark on the learning journey, they realise it is not so much about digital skills; that world is changing all the time. You can go on a Twitter course today, but what will happen around the corner? It is about how to support yourself by learning how to learn.'
'We look for competence in three key areas: brand-building, commercial acumen and leadership,' says Swanborough, echoing many HR directors from consumer-facing firms.
Behavioural characteristics are often lacking among marketers' skills, however.
'It can be a brutal switch from being a technical marketer running your own brand to arriving in a role where you need finely honed behavioural skills,' says Murray.
'You get enthusiastic marketers preaching their vision in the boardroom who have major gaps in their leadership armoury.'
While leadership becomes more important as marketers progress in their careers, Gooding believes it should be a capability throughout the discipline.
'A brand manager can show leadership, in making a campaign happen, for example. So we look to develop leadership skills at all levels,' she says.
However, Miglani argues that technical skills outweigh behavioural when it comes to marketing talent. 'It is possible to influence and be a leader through demonstrated mastery and a winning track record in marketing,' he says. 'It is not possible to be a leader without clear evidence of a sophisticated level of experience and skills in managing marketing challenges.'
Miglani adds that the skills hardest to find in marketers today are the abilities to identify compelling consumer and shopper insights, create a brand and channel architecture that maximises revenue, and devise an integrated marketing plan and achieve spend optimisation.
To get the best talent, marketers need to work closely with their HR colleagues. '[If they do so] they can create a function that is capable of both adapting to change and, where appropriate, fuelling that change,' says David Fairhurst, chief people officer, Europe, at McDonald's.
He contends that marketing teams should sit down at least twice a year to review a threeto five-year talent plan, where future skills requirements are mapped against current capability.
Aviva does this through a global talent-management system, which maps development plans for each employee. 'We worked closely with HR to develop our "Talking marketing" framework,' explains Gooding. 'This helps marketers discuss the capabilities in their teams and see where the strengths and gaps are.'
Miglani agrees that the most relevant, and urgent area, where HR and marketing can collaborate is in creating a framework for hiring marketing talent. 'The content and structure for the process of hiring marketing talent is underdeveloped, or non-existent, in most organisations. Sub-optimal talent is hired as a result, and standards are not raised,' he says.
Whether there is a talent crisis or not, it is clear that companies need to work harder today to attract, retain and motivate their best marketers. After all, as Murray puts it, you get the marketing talent that you deserve.