I learned lots from those conversations, but the most shocking thing I heard, time after time, was how little influence many marketers have on key issues of corporate development and strategy.
"I don't get it," I'd say, shaking my head. "You're the one with the customer insight, you're the one closest to the brand, you understand consumer trends. How can you not get involved in business development/customer service/new product development?"
How embarrassingly innocent of me. Even in single-brand companies, the senior marketer cannot always expect to play a role in vital company decisions about future direction and growth strategy.
So, six months on, the Chartered Institute of Marketing's latest Marketing Confidence Monitor held no surprises for the older, wiser me. Less than half of all marketers can expect to be involved in NPD, less than a third to be involved in corporate strategy, and less than a quarter to be involved in the evolution of customer services.
Among the brilliant and inspiring marketers, there are many who don't deserve to play a role in driving the strategy and development of their companies.
But, then, another thing I learned over all that food and drink back at the beginning of the year was that, among the brilliant and inspiring marketers, there are many who don't deserve to play a role in driving the strategy and development of their companies.
Sometimes they don't deserve it because they're too hungry for the next thing and not passionate enough about the company they actually work for. Sometimes they don't deserve it because they are more interested in being famous for loud marketing and less interested in their brand's long-term performance. Sometimes they don't deserve a strategic role because they are simply not good enough.
Even so, I wish we could collectively rekindle a sense of shock at findings like the CIM report, and fight for a broader remit for brilliant marketers and better representation of brands and customers in boardrooms. Yes, greater influence has to be earned, but until more companies see a value from being truly customerand brand-centric, even the best marketers will find it hard to demand a seat at the top table.