In the last of this three-part series Harriot Lane Fox looks into the
boardroom, where strategic brand thinking is often weakest
Wake up, Wake up! This week we add our voice to the clarion calls for a
top-down reassessment of the marketing discipline. If parts one and two
of our survey of its practitioners were depressing, part three is
arguably more so.
Chief executives are a breed apart. As the captains of long-term
corporate strategy, they’re the ones who put marketing on hold and
neglected it when it failed to deliver tight economic justification. And
the habit of deafness to brand and marketing managers’ cries for
attention now threatens long-term ability to compete.
All three Marketing studies - brand manager (September 28), marketing
manager (November 9) and CEO - were compiled by Advertising Research
Marketing. This week’s sample is from a typical random selection of 6000
of our client subscribers with the report based on a 21% return rate.
The boardroom remains a male bastion with women outnumbered five to one.
Typical of the UK, the sample is again concentrated in London and the
south-east, predominantly in small companies with budgets of less than
pounds 50,000. Over half CEOs’ time is spent on activities purely
related to job title, 17% on advertising and marketing and a mere 1% on
Most are in business/industrial/technical products (26%), 17% are in
business/industrial services, 16% in consumer durables, 14% fmcg, 14%
consumer services, 13% in retail/ wholesale. Like advertising and
marketing personnel (A&M), over a quarter of CEOs are active in more
than one market.
We listed 16 different work areas and asked which they were involved in
sometimes, often or never. The breadth of activity reveals a greater
similarity to brand personnel - a preponderance of thinking and planning
activities - than to their more practical A&M colleagues.
Strategy and planning is top priority (72%) among activities ‘often’
undertaken, followed by new business development (67%). Next comes a
series of things involved in new business stimulation. Soft credibility-
building publicity (53%) beats‘ results-driven press (46%), direct mail
and promotions (both 44%) and database (36%).
Oddly, performance measurement scores only 34% and quantitative and
qualitative research both 22%. CEOs are clearly more forward-thinking
yet this positive finding is undermined by their disinclination to
involve themselves in the very things they demand of beleaguered
Compared with three years ago, CEOs are far less shaky about job
security than their employees: a mere 13% are less confident, 29% more
so and 58% the same. Two-fifths of them think their job is more
important and just over half the same. Whereas 29% of people in the
brand or A&M fields see theirs as less important this drops to a
negligible 5% for CEOs.
These disparities show something is clearly wrong with communication
either up or down the management chain. Opinions on the influence of
marketing only reinforce this. A fifth of people in brand jobs and 23%
in A&M see the marketing department as the most weakened compared with
only 8% of CEOs. Equally contrarily, half the CEOs consider its
influence as the most strongly growing, above the financial department
(45%) as well as sales and IT (both 43%).
From their respective visions and goals CEOs and their employees might
as well work for different companies. The next set of findings - CEOs
rate the importance of various activities - suggests the functions of
the marketing department may be moving too fast for the highest echelons
The rankings are similar to those of our earlier reports but the scores
are almost uniformly lower. Database marketing stays top in growing
importance but with 62% compared with 72% from brand and 71% from A&M
Direct marketing gets 51% (brand personnel 64%, A&M 57%), integrated
marketing 42% (brand 64%, A&M 52%) and brand/image advertising 40%
(brand 51%, A&M 53%). Internal and external telemarketing again come low
down the list but both with the slightly higher rating of 30% (brand
20%, A&M 26%).
This suggests trouble ahead over the effective allocating of resources.
If upper management can’t understand the fast-shifting trends then
people at the sharp end must fight hard for their share of the corporate
cake. But responsibility cuts both ways. Sharp-enders failing to provide
hard evidence for return on capital expenditure will only have
themselves to blame if the discrepancies persist.
It won’t be easy - CEOs are even more critical of supplier skills. In
general their negative responses are much the same as previous reports
but the corresponding positives are lower. And greater familiarity with
an area does not guarantee greater satisfaction.
CEOs use creative suppliers most (94%). Though they also prize them most
highly (positive 58% v negative 24%) they’re much less enthusiastic than
A&M personnel (pos 70% v neg 21%). Brand specialists get a good
familiarity/satisfaction ratio: 48% frequent use earns 31% positive
rating and 17% negative.
In terms of ‘often-used’ resources, the results-driven IT/Database
improves its showing in the marketing managers’ survey by 10% to 66%.
Unfortunately, the same supplier group plummets to fifth place on
It’s a vicious circle. Response-led mechanisms are growing in importance
yet they fall furthest below the expectations - hardly a recipe for
bigger budget shares. Even less so when you look at supplier
accountability and measurability. Here CEOs are even less happy than
The biggest vote of confidence still goes to media buyers. Direct
marketing suppliers go some way to redressing their poor skills rating
(pos 31%, neg 24%). The wretched IT/Database vendors get a net score of
+1%. But the most disappointing are creative suppliers (pos 37%, neg
41%) and brand specialists (pos 18%, neg 26%) which may be why the
latter come only fifth in use though second on skills.
It’s time marketing put in standards of measurability and control equal
to those now commonplace in production. It’s where this applies to
remuneration that CEOs agree most with brand and A&M personnel.
The need to find solutions to variable cost means CEOs are using fixed
fee (72%), much like brand and A&M colleagues. It also rates highest on
satisfaction (pos 51%, neg 21%). More than half of the CEOs employ
suppliers on retainer (56%) but wish they did not (pos 26%, neg 30%).
The commission system is used by 53% and comes a poor second for
satisfaction (pos 27%, neg 24%).
Given the service sector’s continuing resistance to change it’s likely
clients will devise their own programmes for cost stability and
measurability, probably fixed fee. If suppliers don’t comply they’ll
lose business as clients take control back in-house.
The 90s will go down in history as a period of grass-roots reappraisal
by marketers and captains of British industry. But there’s still a long
way to go.
If companies don’t sort out their internal communications and present a
united front to suppliers any hope of improving competitiveness will
remain an unrealisable dream.
Some comments from our survey
‘I feel individual skills are always on demand but undervalued’
‘The current buzzphrase is ‘flexible labour market’ which is used again
and again by politicians. That is a polite euphemism for putting the
fear of God into them. As a nation, we build a sustainable economy based
‘Financial manipulation into IT systems cannot disguise the poor actual
performance of marketing’
‘Marketing costs are escalating with less returns’
‘Professional, prestigious marketing qualifications are required’
‘More companies will be going DIY on their marketing’
‘Database marketing requires far more planning, specialist knowledge and
integrated approach than people allow’
‘Most of us are ill-informed about supplier products and services’
All three surveys - brand manager, advertising and marketing manager,
and chief executive - are on sale in a choice of formats:
* Each report, with narrative and charts, costs pounds 352.50 including
* Special reports analysed by type of company cost pounds 552.25,
Contact ARM on 0171 224 3040 or at 1 Bentick Mews, London W1M 5FL