Pallavi Singh

Great marketers of today are great business officers

Here's why it's more important to understand marketing levers now more than ever, and what's really changed.

Marketing of the past, which had heavy doses of romance, beautiful ads and snappy one-liners, also had huge dependencies on agencies with extensive fixed costs. From a time when the RoI of advertising was as foreign a concept as a non-smoking flight, we have come a very long way.

Today, while the tradition of creative agencies continues, brands also rely on the right technology partners, marketing infrastructure and players in the automation landscape. It has changed the way marketing functions and marketers operate.

Our world has changed, and so have the people within.

Over the last few decades, marketing has fundamentally moved from educating, to informing, to enlightening, often to coercing, and now to engaging with customers. Marketing has become intertwined with technology and, hence, is today moving in lockstep with its innovation and speed of change. Just a decade ago, print advertising was considered the only king amongst marketing channels – considered most critical when releasing new products, or fundamentally shifting narratives.

Today, however, almost no major brand would rely on a print-only, or even a print-first, approach to making a splash. However, do not blame the marketing folks for this shift. Just as with everything else, money moves where the eyeballs move. Tools and strategies that were cutting edge just a few years ago are fast becoming obsolete, and new approaches are appearing daily.

Great marketers of today are great business officers

While those sitting even in the periphery of marketing circles would know much of what has been stated above, what is astonishing is something else - which is not often spoken about. While the real changes may have taken in the outside world, the structures, hierarchies, practices and core beliefs of marketing departments have stayed, more or less, the same.

For example, in most companies, the organisational structure of the marketing function hasn't changed since the practice of brand management emerged, more than 40 years ago. Hidebound hierarchies from another era are still commonplace, or are they?

Marketing leaders, instead, must ask, 'What values and goals guide our brand strategy, what capabilities drive marketing excellence, and what structures and ways of working will support them?' Structure must follow strategy, not the other way around.

I have been thinking about what marketing business leaders need to do to shift the mindset. I think it starts with us marketers, especially senior business leaders and thought leaders, who need to reinvent ourselves. To further underline the required change, I want to talk about moving from the 4Ps to 4Cs and 4Is (I do hope you pardon the extensive use of these acronyms).

4Ps – The Framework of the 1970s to 1990s - Product, Price, Place and Promotion

4Cs – Built for 2000s to 2010s - Context, Content, Communication and Consideration

4Is – Enhancements for business leading to performance marketing - Insight, Intel, Inspiring and Impact

To achieve the above, it would be critical to modernise the data strategy of our departments. This is today turning out to be more important than having just a great campaign planning roadmap. We're so obsessed with campaign planning that we often forget customers are consumers of all kinds of products, not just our own category.

The marketers of today need to think more like business leaders with the clear goal of defining, developing and establishing clear RoI metrics towards achieving short-term objectives, and long-term business and product goals. While this may seem fairly ‘boring’ when seen in the context of the ‘Mad Men’ image of advertising and marketing, it would ensure greater visibility and probability of achieving success in a very different, but exciting world.

Marketers today have as much love for the debonair as they have for databases.

(This post was first published by the author on LinkedIn, and has been reproduced with permission.)

(The author is the marketing director at BMW India.)