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18 November 2004


Allan Jenkins

I have not read the article, but already I'm wondering how they define "marketing"? Sounds to me like they mean "promotion" -- which, to the inexact, loosely means "advertising".

If I substitute "advertising agencies" and "advertising" for "marketers" and "marketing", then my nearly 20 years of experience says "Well, duh!"

But if the authors truly mean "marketing".... finding a product that a consumer wants, at a price that gives value to seller and buyer, at a place that enhances value, communicated through promotion that efficiently explains the product... then the indictment is interesting, indeed.

One thing comes to mind right away: I was always taught that the CEO is, ipso facto, the chief marketing officer of any company. Are the survey-takers saying, in effect, "We don't know our own business"?

Neville Hobson

Allan, I'm emailing you the FT article.

Re the CEO being the CMO as well, that's a similar argument to that of he/her also being the 'Chief Communication officer.' Has that argument ever succeeded?

Allan Jenkins

It sounds similar, but it's far different -- a CEO without a gut feel for marketing (and I mean in the classic Drucker, Porter, Kotler sense) is probably not growing the business. All the great entrepreneurs have been "marketing" people: product, price, place and promotion coming together in an elegant, efficient way.

That's not to say that you don't need more: a gut feel for finance and, in manufacturing, production are critical. But communication skills are, like HR skills, not critical -- important, but the CEO does not need to have those skills.

I've always been amused at IABC gatherings where the line "The CEO should be the CCO!" goes up... my response has always been "If he was, why would you need a 'place at the table'"?

Don't get me wrong: commmunication IS critical. But it's not a critical skill for a CEO. He or she just needs to be better-than-average at it, and hire excellent communicators to support.

Evelyn Rodriguez

Amazingly I was going to start a "Confessions of a Marketer's Existential Crisis" series. I'm feeling out of sorts about what I really think about marketing of late.

I'd love to see what 'wrong' kind of people marketing attracts ;-) Any chance you could email me the article as well?

Allan, I wholeheartedly agree that the best CEOs have marketing insight as well. It does sometimes make the CMO's job trickier though.

Neville Hobson

Evelyn, please do start it! Email of article on the way.

We three agree that the best CEOs have marketing insight. I couldn't agree, though, Allan, that communication skills aren't important for a CEO - I think they are critical skills.

Like marketing, that doesn't mean the CEO does the formal job. But effective communication skills are a prerequisite for an effective CEO, in my view.

How many CEOs do you know who are simply poor communicators? I know a few. You could argue that as they might run successful businesses, it doesn't matter. (Interestingly, I also know CEOs who have finance or manufacturing backgrounds, with little marketing knowledge - or even interest in marketing.)

Well, I think it does matter. It makes the communicator's job a whole lot easier (= effective) if he or she is in sync, conceptually and intellectually, with the leader.

Allan Jenkins

No, I said that communication skills *are* important for a CEO to have, and that he/she should be better-than-average at communication. I said communication skills are not "critical" for the CEO role.

Ideally, you want a CEO to be at least fair in everything, good in many areas, and excellent in several. But some skills are more important than others. One would like a general who understands logistics, but you must have one who understands tactics.

In business, I would rather work for a superb marketer with fair communication skills, than a superb communicator with fair marketing skills.

But, hey... I'm self-employed.

Neville Hobson

Thanks, Allan. But I do believe communications skills *are* critical attributes for a CEO, not just important ones.

But in the real world, that's why organizations have communicators... and marketers. The trouble is, according to the FT's article, too many of those people are either not very good (as per boardroom perceptions) or the wrong people in the first place, or both.

You could apply this thinking to just about any job function, IMO.

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