The Gap Between the Vision for Marketing and Reality

The ideal role of marketing was articulated 60 years ago. How close to the ideal have we come by now?

The growing number of chief marketing executives reflects the increasing importance companies attach to marketing. Yet the average tenure of a chief marketing officer (CMO) is three and a half years, well below that of the typical CEO. Both the prevalence of the CMO position and its precariousness give rise to the question: Has marketing realized the vision to which its adherents have long aspired? A recent global survey of CMOs reveals both how far marketing has come and where there is room to grow.

The Vision for Marketing

For more than 60 years, marketers have had a clear vision of the ideal role of marketing, which consists of two core ideas. One is the concept of the “marketing mix,” which dates to the late 1940s. Harvard’s Neil Borden, while president of the American Marketing Association, realized there was no set formula for successful marketing. Instead, the marketer must choose the best mix from the set of all possible mixes. Jerome McCarthy later codified the mix in the classic 4Ps of marketing — product, price, place and promotion. The task of the marketing executive is to have control of, or at least influence on, all of the 4Ps and blend them to produce the best value. The second fundamental idea is that marketing decisions should be based on a solid understanding, supported by hard data, of target customers and other stakeholders. Anchoring decisions in data has become part of the bedrock vision of marketing. These two core components — control of the marketing mix and customer-oriented, data-based decision making — are fundamental to the field’s shared vision of marketing. It has been over a half century since that vision, now clearly spelled out in marketing textbooks, took shape. So what is the status of the field relative to the vision?

How Chief Marketing Officers Rate Their Influence

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To answer this question, we turned to the IBM 2011 Global CMO Study, consisting of face-to-face, hour-long interviews with more than 1,700 CMOs from 64 countries and 19 industries. CMOs were asked to rate how much influence they have over each of the 4Ps.

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