Bullish confidence versus reserved introspection sums up many
aspects of Anglo-American relations, but it is particularly apt when
talking about the different status of marketing on either side of the
Over here the profession is putting itself through the mangle as it
debates its questionable status in the corporate hierarchy. This topic
has been chewed over for the past few years, accompanied by reports from
consultants such as McKinsey and Coopers & Lybrand urging the marketing
function to reinvent itself.
But in the US, marketers are puzzled by the navel-gazing of their
British cousins. Their can-do culture, which feels uncomfortable
discussing failure, and where pessimism is frowned upon, does not
encourage the same self-deprecation. Some similar questions are asked,
but the impression is that these are challenges to be met, not problems
to be solved.
The key problem over here - that marketing does not command sufficient
respect inside and outside the company - does not apply over there.
Allyson Stewart-Allen, a UK-based American consultant with International
Marketing Partners, says: ’Marketing in the US is a profession in its
Witness the academic publications and marketing strategy that have grown
up. This reinforces that fact the marketing is a body of knowledge that
deserves respect and formal qualifications.’
This means that in many major US corporations, marketing is seen very
much as a distinct set of skills, and not an adjunct to sales. That is
not always the case over here, she says. ’In the UK and the rest of
Europe, marketing and sales are often combined in the same unit. This is
a profound mistake because they are separate functions, and if you put
them together they get blurred. What happens is that the tools in each
of those respective professionals’ kit bags don’t get the attention or
merit each deserves.
It can also mean that the chief executive and the board don’t fully
realise the value to the bottom line that those two disciplines can
The view that US companies do value marketing is backed by Sybil
Stershic, chairman of the board of the American Marketing Association
(AMA) and president of Pennsylvania-based consultancy Quality Service
’The reason marketing continues to enjoy prominence is that as business
moves from being product-driven to customer-focused it has been
recognised that marketing has always been the customer’s advocate.’
The academic underpinning, enhanced by gurus such as Michael Porter,
Philip Kotler and Theodore Levitt, also means marketing can take hold
early on. For example, the AMA claims almost 400 collegiate chapters in
North America. According to Stershic, as well as looking good on the
resume, joining a student marketing club is considered ’very
It is not all that surprising that marketing is so much more established
in the US. After all, America is its birthplace. It was during the 50s
that the US began to establish itself as the powerhouse of consumer
brand marketing, with companies such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble
leading the way.
Roberta Khoudari, executive director of marketing at The Conference
Board, the New York-based global business organisation, points out:
’These companies produced a cadre of brand managers who came up through
the ranks and moved into all kinds of industries.
’For example, in the 80s, you saw financial services firms being
populated by graduates from Procter & Gamble and General Foods, which
helped permeate a marketing mentality through that industry and
Geography has also been a critical factor in marketing’s ascendancy.
As Steve Cuthbert, director general of the Chartered Institute of
Marketing, who has worked in the US, says: ’You are judged there on the
ability to meet customer needs: when, how and where they want things,
whether it is South Bend, Indiana or Manhattan. It is much more
demanding doing that over such a large geography, which has probably
helped make marketing more effective in terms of getting market
feedback, distribution and so on.’
Although their status is not under attack, some of the preoccupations of
US marketers are echoed in the UK, going by the Marketing Forum’s draft
agenda for the US event, to be held on the QE2 next May. There will be
keynote speeches on topics such as branding, technology, dealing with
media complexity and inflation, data mining and warehousing, strategic
alliances and improving marketing effectiveness.
Globalisation is also on the menu - quite rightly, according to
Stewart-Allen. In her view, US marketers, who are used to dealing with
such a huge market, can make the mistake of thinking that what they do
there can simply be translated elsewhere.
’They generally do not have a global perspective, or a perspective
outside the US,’ she says. ’They tend to use a cookie-cutter approach in
foreign markets and then are stumped when it doesn’t work. There is a
rather arrogant feeling that because we are the most powerful economic
power, the loudest and the strongest, and because we wield the most
resources, then of course people will do what we tell them.’
Fear of the unknown
Alyson Henning, chief business development officer worldwide for
Ammirati Puris Lintas in New York, attributes this attitude to fear more
’When it comes to going global, a lot of marketers say they know they
have to do it, but they don’t really know what it means. After all, this
market is so big that they have never had to worry about anything
outside it until now. A number are scared, but the really good ones have
jumped in because they realise the only way to figure it out is by doing
While dealing with globalisation is a major issue, US marketers also
have to cope, like their UK counterparts, with the trend toward
cross-functional working. The AMA’s Stershic says: ’If you ask them what
keeps them up at night in terms of their own careers, it is the fact
that organisationally marketing is becoming a much more shared function.
The good news is that more people are responsible for marketing, but the
challenge is that, with that kind of restructuring, marketing as a
formal function is at risk. Working in multi-functional teams can be a
threat to marketers who are happier in a more traditional role.’
Nevertheless, that will not lessen the demand for marketing talent.
Henning believes: ’You can have the right product, the right pricing,
the right distribution, but if you don’t have the right message, forget
UK marketers may take heart from the fact that their US cousins have
some similar problems, but without the same status and respect they are
not as well equipped to solve them.
MARKETING IN CONTROL
George Arabian, vice-president of international marketing and sales at
San Francisco-based NetObjects.
NetObjects, founded in 1995 and backed by investors like IBM, devises
software tools that automate and simplify the design of Web sites.
With a background in high technology, including a stint at America
OnLine, Arabian believes that the demands of the market, particularly
the advent of the Internet, is pushing marketing to the forefront in
what has been the fast-moving, more sales-oriented high-technology
’Marketing is being given that push because the business models are not
solid, not proven, and so you have to create brands in a new media.
requires more marketing than pure sales expertise,’ he says.
For him, a big issue is globalisation. ’It comes down to being able to
get people internally to think globally but also understand the need to
implement on a local basis. That requires a core vision and guidelines
to maintain consistency across geographical boundaries, without ignoring
local differences. You have to make sure you have the resources to lay
the groundwork for sales growth. That can be a battle, as the process is
KEEP IT CONSISTENT
John Wallis, vice-president of marketing at Hyatt International
’I am in the business of trying to drive revenues and increase profits,
of which marketing is a function,’ says Wallis. This includes
responsibility for ensuring brand consistency through marketing, sales,
promotion, advertising and public relations.
British-born and a graduate of a Swiss hotel school, Wallis is sceptical
of taking an academic approach to marketing. ’What seems to happen in
the US is that a professor comes up with a new buzzword and everybody
follows it until someone comes up with another one. There is a lot of
theory and a lot of people making money from teaching it. You mustn’t
forget that the US is a country of MBAs, but to me marketing is common
sense.’ The issues facing Wallis would strike a chord with marketers
throughout the service sector: finding and keeping valuable customers
not just through external but internal marketing.
’Technology now means that we can cluster groups who behave the same way
and be more relevant in our communication to them. But we also have to
make sure that everyone down the line totally understands the message.’