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Elevating Marketing To Board Level Should Be Every CEO’s New Year’s Resolution

What better time than the dawn of a new year to review the way we are doing things and assess our potential to improve on any challenging areas, both personally and professionally?

One of the greatest challenges facing any business today is change, and the pace of change is accelerating faster than ever. Change, of course, is nothing new. As John F Kennedy said: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

With these words in mind, Maxus teamed up with the Financial Times to survey C-suite executives from across the globe and spanning different industries to understand what change now means from a marketing communications perspective.

Unsurprisingly, all respondents were in agreement that change is inevitable: 81% of business leaders strongly agree that it’s part of everyday life. In this competitive climate, the success stories are commonly those companies that invest in adaptability and develop beyond their core product or service. Amazon, Facebook and Google are examples of speedy giants that continually adapt and diversify their offer.

A Complex Relationship
Perhaps more surprising, given its prevalence, is the complex relationship business has with change. While change is positively embraced as a cause for excitement and opportunity among 72% of execs, with continuous learning, forward thinking and innovation cited as specific passions points, only a quarter of our business leaders currently feel personally prepared for change. Merely 29% feel able to capitalise on the opportunities change offers, while a measly 18% describe themselves as successful in managing change.

Leaders’ ambivalent attitudes towards change are compounded by qualitative responses such as “I’m catching up, no question” and “I’m winging it every day.”

And it is little wonder. The current pace of change can be characterised by its sheer breadth and speed. Firstly, change is widespread, impacting every aspect of business from communications and product development to branding, legislation and international strategy. 

On The Defensive About CX
Some particular hot topics are around dealing with media fragmentation and increased specialisation due to the inexorable rise of digital and supporting ad technologies, as well as the shift in power over to the consumer. The growing importance of customer experience might be second nature to marketers, but business leaders in general are on the back foot in this respect.

Then the rate of change is increasing exponentially; nearly all of our respondents feel that they are currently experiencing “substantial change” and 88% note an increase in the rate of change compared to five or 10 years ago. Furthermore, the same figure expects further increases over the next three to five years.

Moving Marketing Up The Agenda
This lack of organisational preparation, combined with the velocity of change, presents a genuinely exciting opportunity for marketing to move higher up the C-suite agenda.

Why? Many of the change drivers we are seeing--namely technology, consumer behaviour, access to information and so on--are familiar, confident territory for marketers, whose distinct skill-sets now represent huge potential for businesses to gain a competitive edge.

Working more closely and collaboratively with their media agency partner is one crucial way for business to regain advantage via more accountable data and action-driven comms, like programmatic, that create better ROI and ensure companies deliver absolutely to their objectives.

Agility and being ahead of the pace of change sit within the natural remit of the marketer-agency pairing. Speed and effective targeting of changing consumer needs are essential to planning marketing communications quickly and with rigour.

The Route To The CEO’s Job
It is interesting to note that an increasing number of top CEOs are now coming from a marketing background. British companies in particular are increasingly turning to marketers to fill the top job, with 21% of all FTSE 100 CEOs now coming from a sales and marketing background. This suggests that organisations are increasingly recognising the value of having leaders who understand the importance of how brands engage with consumers at speed.

I had the pleasure of attending the Marketing Society’s recent annual conference, a first for me and one I’d certainly look to repeat. The theme outlined by chairman Stephen Maher was #gobeyond, which neatly fits with the Society’s mission to encourage more marketers to go into leadership/CEO roles in the future. As FA CEO Martin Glenn (of PepsiCo marketing fame) succinctly put it: “there are too many accountants and not enough marketers running business”. We’d probably all raise a pack of Walkers to that.

But while the Marketing Society is doing a wonderful job of pushing that agenda in the UK, in our ultra-competitive change-driven climate it is ultimately down to individual businesses to elevate marketing values and skills to the board. This--and an ambition to work more closely with agency partners to mine change’s opportunities--should be top of every CEO’s New Year’s resolution list.

For a copy of the full report please contact Richard Stokes on richard.stokes@maxusglobal.com

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