In many organizations, the corporate marketing function has lost budget, head count, influence and confidence, resulting in strategic consequences that run deeper than many senior managers may realize. The question is not how to rebuild the marketing center, but how to disperse marketing competenceacross the organization.
In many companies, the marketing function is in steep decline. Over the last decade in particular, there has been a marked fall-off in the influence, stature and significance of the corporate marketing department. The trend toward integrated marketing — much discussed in earlier decades — seems to have been overtaken by a counter trend towarddisintegration.
You do not have to go far to find tales of woe. For years now, conferences and workshops for the marketing profession have been awash in advice about how to determine and demonstrate a return on investment for the function. Marketing departments have been the scenes of peprally-like meetings one moment and hand-wringing layoff announcements the next. Chief marketing officers — a title that cynics believe came into being as a cover for deep cuts in marketing headcount — have an average tenure of less than two years, according to surveys of 100 top-branded companies by executive recruiter Spencer Stuart.1 Every marketer, it seems, has a personal story to tell: the chairman who axes next year’s brand-development program without debate or discussion; the senior marketing vice president who hosts a “Marketing Day” for his global team and two weeks later is fired. What’s more, recent polls byChief Executive magazine indicate that 35% of CEOs claim their marketing organizations need improvement.2 A recent article inThe McKinsey Quarterly said that more than half of European CEOs interviewed were unimpressed by their marketers’ analytical skills and business acumen, saying in essence that marketing people “don’t think like businessmen.”3
Financial pressures, a shift in channel power and marketing’s inability to document its contribution to business results have combined to force reductions in marketing spending and influence and to accelerate a transfer of funds and responsibilities to the field sales organization. (See “Forces Shaping Marketing’s Role.”) In practice, many elements of the central marketing function have been “centrifuged” outward and embedded in functions as diverse as field sales and product engineering that are closer to customers. Today, marketing in many large companies is less of a department and more a diaspora of skills and capabilities spread across and even outside the organization.