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Can marketers 'just be marketers' and still get to the top? The Marketing Society Forum

Brands are encouraging marketers to expand their skill sets if they want to lead in the boardroom.


Business-leaders set the direction and are ultimately accountable for results. Management guru Peter Drucker said: 'Only marketing and innovation generate results. Everything else is cost.'

Many marketers lead innovation, too. That's why we talk about bringing the voice of the customer into the organisation - to help develop propositions that customers value. So a good marketer collaborates with other functions all the time, as they are part of the system of creating and delivering value for all types of customer.

Marketers need to aim for a win-win for the business, its distributors and the consumer, otherwise they're not doing the whole job of marketing.


Marketing is a blend of art and science, but it is vital that marketers can demonstrate strong commercial and planning skills.

To be successful, marketers need to engage senior management as regards the role and scope of marketing and the contribution it makes to strategy, product development, pricing and corporate reputation. E-marketers need to work across all functions and, if the goal is to sit on the board, they will need to contribute to discussions on remuneration, finance and audit, and regulation, for example.

Working in other departments, countries and industries enables you to broaden your skills.


What makes marketers great marketers (consumer-obsessed, numerate, creative, ideas-centric, driven) are all characteristics any business would want in a leader. But ideas and energy get you only so far.

A business needs a clear direction; one that is challenging but achievable. That's the hard part for marketers - left to their own devices, they would take more risks or encourage more ideas than the business can really cope with, and lose the clear business direction.

A good leader knows how to motivate the business to go for growth, but with a healthy dose of reality built in.


Marketers can still get to the top, but marketing is still not seen as a classic route to the boardroom, compared with finance.

Last week, O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne said that O2 was a 'brand running a company' and not the other way round. While this was a crowd-pleaser, he also confessed he was an accountant by trade and that he had learned to consider 'customer experience' alongside margin.

Of course, that's what good marketers do instinctively, isn't it?


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