Marketers must embrace the commercial realities

The quote of the night at last week's Marketing Society homage to chief executives came from O2's Ronan Dunne.

Asked about his tips for corporate success, he told the gathering of senior marketers: 'We're a brand that runs a business, not a business that runs a brand.'

The words rolled off Dunne's tongue with an easy Irish charm that suggested this mantra had been carefully honed, rather than smelted in the heat of the moment. But it was delivered with conviction, and should be seized upon immediately as a totem for long-term business growth.

The theme of the evening was what makes a great CEO, and I hope the subtext for ambitious marketers in the room was what makes a great marketer into great CEO material. Choosing to work only for companies that put their brand (and their customer) at the centre of all they do, as Dunne claims, is a good start. These are the companies that invest in marketing and marketing talent, that give marketing a voice in the boardroom and enshrine a respect for marketing's contribution throughout the organisation.

But Dunne was also clear that being a good marketer is no recipe for being a good business leader. 'Applying what makes you great in your functional role won't make you into a good CEO - in fact, possibly the opposite is true,' he said, casting a gauntlet at the feet of the audience.

It's a gauntlet that L'Oreal is forcing its marketers to take up. L'Oreal's UK and Ireland managing director Jeremy Schwartz told delegates at last week's ISBA conference that marketers can be fully equipped for general management only if they also have experience of the commercial department (page 5). At Diesel (page 14), they've gone all the way and brought sales and marketing under the remit of Scott Morrison, whose brief now is to build 'both the brand and the business'.

This isn't about merging sales and marketing, although Diesel is closer to that; it's about driving marketing through the DNA of a business. The point all three leaders are making, I think, is that, if marketing and marketers are isolated from some of the commercial and corporate issues of their businesses, neither the discipline nor those who practice it will contribute their full potential to business growth. And for as long as marketing fails to do that, marketers will continue to see their status eroded.

Claire Beale

Follow @MarketingUK

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