OPINION: As marketing director you may have little real marketing to do

A few years back a man I had hired, and whose career I had done my best to nurture, took me out to lunch. He had been appointed marketing director of another company. Congratulations accepted, he got to the point.

A few years back a man I had hired, and whose career I had done my

best to nurture, took me out to lunch. He had been appointed marketing

director of another company. Congratulations accepted, he got to the


’What do marketing directors do?’’ he asked. He knew what marketing

managers did - was it so different?

You get to be a marketing director because you are good at


But what is peculiar about our profession is that when you get to the

top, you do less marketing, not more. Why should this be?

I suggest that there are three main roles a marketing director has to

fulfil, unique to that role: the provision of resource, which splits

into two elements, financial and personnel; the management of your board

from a marketing point of view, such that the department is able to

operate effectively, managing upwards; and a catalytic board role to

enable fresh thinking to emerge and to contribute to that thinking.

No marketing department can operate without money to spend. This must be

secured from the board or beyond. Since there is never enough money,

priorities are continually traded. Marketing directors are judged in

their own departments by the degree to which this is successfully


Once the money is voted, the quality and quantity of departmental

personnel is exposed. It is your job to recruit and retain them. You

have to have the right people to spend the money allocated.

Then the board will want to know what you are doing. They will not want

to interfere, but could they help? Managing that process is a necessity;

you cannot operate in secrecy or silence, it is neither appropriate nor


However, you need time and space to do it. Gaining the sympathy and

co-operation of the board is the only way to achieve this. Easy when

things are going well, difficult when they are not and when you need it


The third role is the most difficult of all. The board needs a continual

appraisal of ongoing strategy. The marketplace is changing


Is what you said in March or November still valid? Should you change

your mind? And how and when do you do that? Welcome to the job of

marketing director, my friend.

Then in all this you have to find time to select what original

contribution you are going to make to the actual marketing. After all,

you are good at this, remember, that’s why you are there.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever received was given to

me by my old chairman in the early 80s: ’As a marketing director you

will always be busy. Never lose sight of the need to grow the business,

make time to think about this. How to do that is it up to you.

’Come in late one day, go home early, sit in a chair on Saturday

morning, take a long lunch, invite a couple of friends to lunch and

float your ideas. Whatever suits you.’ I never forgot it.

A certain level of detachment from the day job is therefore also

necessary .

’So let me try to understand,’ said my wife, ’you don’t do much

marketing, you take time out to think about the business and you are

continually talking about the job rather than doing it - it’s a funny

old job.’ Yes, it is.


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