MARKETING FOCUS: Chief executives survey

In the last of this three-part series Harriot Lane Fox looks into the boardroom, where strategic brand thinking is often weakest

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

to grasp.

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

their underlings.

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

on fear’

‘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,

including VAT

Contact ARM on 0171 224 3040 or at 1 Bentick Mews, London W1M 5FL


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