What’s in a name: Marketing or Branding or Plain Good Sense?

11 07 2014

Over the past weeks I have read several articles about P&Gs change in their organization structure.   The titles of the articles include:

The End of “Marketing” as We Know it at P&G.   (AdAge,  June 30)

Does P&G’s Reorganized Marketing Department Go Far Enough?   (Forbes, July 8)

Why Brand Management will Replace Marketing.   (Brandingstrategyinsider.com, July 3)

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the driver of these articles.  As of  a couple of weeks ago, P&G’s marketing directors and associate marketing directors become brand directors and associate brand directors.  The new role houses four functions: brand management, consumer and marketing knowledge, communications and design—thus creating a “single-point responsibility for the strategies, plans and results for the brands…simplifying our structure to free up time for creativity and better execution,”  said a spokesperson for P&G.

I look forward to reading these articles because they stimulate the mind and as we know P&G is world renown for creating the concept of brand management.  So when P&G talks, everyone in marketing and branding listens.   Yet, as a marketing executive (more correctly a business executive), I was somewhat disappointed in the perspectives in these articles in several areas.  

Now maybe I should not be surprised.  As they say, “to a hammer, everything is a nail.”    Most of the authors were from the BRANDING or advertising gurus.    Remember, in 1993 or so, P&G changed titles and responsibilities from Advertising Manager to Marketing Director because they realized there needed to be a broader perspective for the people managing their product line and brand assets. 

As a purist in marketing, I am not sure that P&G should be the final say in the right organization of marketing or branding for all companies.  But let me say up front, that I have to give kudos to P&G to recognize a broader perspective of the role of the individuals who manage the marketing and branding functions of the company and putting the onus of accretion of brand asset value on the shoulders of individuals makes sense to me. 

Here are my thoughts from the perspective of a “Big M” marketing executive and consultant and as a technology executive as well.

First, until we actually see what P&G does in terms of palpable actions, I would be hard pressed to say that P&G abandoning marketing.    Now, let’s also think about where P&G fits into the economy.  They are a CPG company yet the economy is (or has already) switched to a tech based company with the likes of Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Facebook being the vanguard of the “new marketing.”  So even if P&G changes their approach, I believe that would be interesting but not convincing that brand replaces marketing. In short, both exist and which takes precedence within a company depends on the market in which they compete, the stage of growth of the business, and the strategy that the company pursues.

In one of the articles the author points out that marketing is about spending money and that marketing “focuses on activities associated with promotion and distribution of products and services.   Ok.  That is part of it.  But this minimizes the importance of marketing.  In the 1980s, marketing was about the 4Ps: product, place, promotion and pricing.  So let’s not at least forget about the other two elements.   However, in my opinion, the new marketing adds a few other Ps- especially in the tech and service world.   These Ps are product development, people (as the front line sales and support people affect the perception of the brand), and process.     I raise these points because I find that many people still have a narrow perspective on marketing and I felt obligated to set the record straight- at least looking out from my own rose colored glasses.  For many tech marketing executives who come out of the product management function, product management is the tech correlate to brand management in the CPG world.  

Second, while it is true that marketing spends money, the CMOs that I know and who are really good business people, look at that marketing spend as an investment and look at the return of that investment at both the tactical level i.e., marketing program as well as the strategic level i.e. new product revenue, margin and support of the business plan.    And in the tech world in which I am familiar, marketing has the role of brand maven as well so accretion of the brand asset value is also within the domain of the CMO.  Again, perspective and context need to be considered.

 I do believe that there are changes afoot in the marketing and branding world as evidenced by the plethora of articles written lately on the roles and capabilities.  Whether brand takes precedence or marketing takes precedence is not the real issue for CMOs and their bosses.  Will the CEO for example, give the CMO the breadth of responsibilities that are required?   If so, the CMO will be concerned about being the linking pin from the outside world of the customer to the inside world of production of goods and services.   In performing that function, the CMO will have to be an integrative force among the various corporate functions as well as have a full complement of both traditional and digital tools to increase top line revenue, margins, and brand value. That is the real challenge they face and that requires a unique individual.  

What P&G does will, of course, be important because they are thought leaders of the CPG world.  And we should also look at what the leaders of the tech and service sectors do as well because the economy has shifted to a digital and tech economy.  One thing is for certain: marketing and branding will change over the next several years and it will be good for business and open up a new horizon for would be brand directors and marketing executives. 

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