Roy Young and David Stewart are coauthors, with Allen Weiss, of Marketing Champions: Practical Strategies for Improving Marketing's Power, Influence, and Business Impact (Wiley, 2006). The three have collectively logged about 100 years' worth of experience in marketing. Roy is the Director of Strategy and Development at MarketingProfs and serves as a consultant and coach to marketing executives. Allen is the founding publisher of MarketingProfs and Professor of Marketing at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. David is the Robert E. Brooker Professor of Marketing at the Marshall School and the editor of the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.
Here, Roy and David answer 10 questions about their new book:
1. When did you first come up with the notion of "marketing champions"? And what in the world made you decide to write an entire book about them?
Roy: I was originally inspired to think more about marketing champions when I read Allen Weiss's short article on MarketingProfs.com, "Why Marketing Gets No Respect." I felt that the situation—the lack of respect for marketing professionals—needed more attention and a lengthier response to how marketers could address the problem. The field seemed to be crying out for a prescription for marketers to learn how to win respect and gain a seat at the strategy table.
I also became aware of a lot of myths about marketing that non-marketing managers circulate—such as "marketing is only about advertising" and "marketing is about tactics, not strategy."
I looked around for a book that dispels these myths, and couldn't find any. So the idea emerged for doing the book ourselves—not only to shatter those destructive myths but also to provide guidelines for marketers to better articulate the value they create for their companies.
2. Who would you elect as the ultimate marketing champion?
Dave: No single person comes to mind as the ultimate marketing champion. But you can certainly point to the usual suspects who would qualify as champions in most people's minds.
Many of them have become celebrities by virtue of their role in their company—they manage multimillion-dollar ad budgets and have enormous clout—rather than their actual accomplishments.
Roy: True marketing champions may be celebrities and occupy high-profile positions in their firms, but they also generate visible and measurable value for their companies. They might take unusual, creative approaches to introducing new products, clarifying marketing's impact on the company's bottom line, using the media in new ways to get the company's message out to an audience, or building bridges between marketing and other functions.
3. Why is marketing championship so important today?
Roy: Too many non-marketing executives think of marketers in limited terms. And when they don't recognize marketing's connection to company profitability and strategy, they miss out on the real value that marketers can provide. We wrote Marketing Champions to show marketers how they can combat these perceptions and "market marketing" inside their organizations.
Dave: The book is also timely because marketing has recently been demoted (in many executives' eyes) to a subordinate position. It's treated as an expense and a tactical tool, and executives don't see it as contributing to their company's bottom line.
This didn't used to be the case: In earlier decades, when the U.S. economy was growing fast, marketers were seen as the ones who really drove business. They had a lot more stature then, and we think it's time they regained that stature.
4. So are marketing champions are a rare breed. And when you do find them, where do they tend to hang out? In what sectors, I mean.
Dave: They are definitely few and far between—again, because of recent widespread discounting of marketers' value. But those who are out there are operating in lots of different industries, including consumer packaged goods, high-tech, and banking.
Roy: It's especially hard to be a marketing champion—and be recognized for it—in big companies. The larger a company, the slower it moves and the more inwardly focused it becomes because of the complexity of managing a huge entity. In these companies, executives have the most trouble recognizing marketing's importance.
5. You offer a lot of practical advice in your book about how marketers can boost their power, influence, and business impact. If someone (oh, say, a desperate reader) grabbed you by the lapels and demanded that you identify the single most important suggestion, what would it be?
Dave: I'd advise them to understand and demonstrate their role in contributing to their company's financial performance, in both the short term and the long term, including identifying and taking advantage of growth opportunities. And I'd suggest focusing on your leverage points to change perceptions of your value to the company—understanding that you can't transform an entire organization's culture.
Roy: My message would be to understand that no matter what your role is within your organization, you can increase the perception among non-marketers that what you do has an impact on the company's financial performance.
The book uses a compass metaphor to guide readers: You influence your superiors' perceptions of marketing ("managing North") and your peers' perceptions ("managing East"). You leverage the resources under your control to generate visible business value ("managing South"). And you identify and take advantage of new opportunities on the business horizon ("managing West").
6. Imagine that everyone on the marketing staff at, say, Big Huge Products, Inc. puts your advice into action and becomes a marketing champion. What would change at Big Huge Products?
Dave: In the short run, you'd see a difference in how marketers interact with the rest of the organization. They'd be more actively engaged with people from sales, R&D, finance—and all of them would be working toward a common goal: making the company more successful.
In the long run, a company like this would become more nimble, innovative, and profitable.
7. Of all the people who are about to read your book, who do you think will find it most useful? Are we talking about high-level marketing executives here? Midlevel managers? People just starting out in the profession?
Roy: We mostly have in mind senior marketing professionals working in mid-to-large companies. They're the ones who most need to align the marketing function with other departments. But more junior people can also benefit from the book. Those who can see how marketing fits within their company—and how the cultural landscape works—have the best prospects for applying the techniques in our book and rising fast in their organizations.
Dave: The book can be read at two levels: the organizational level (how senior marketers can improve their companies' performance by leveraging marketing) and the individual level (how more junior marketers can shape their careers by enhancing perceptions of marketing in their companies).
8. What's the most difficult challenge for someone striving to become a marketing champion?
Roy: Some people might be tempted to try to "do it all" in their company—overhaul the entire culture. As Dave said, it's important to pick the few actions that have the greatest promise and focus on those.
For example, if you have a better shot at building bridges between marketing and the sales team than between marketing and R&D, then concentrate on improving your relationship with sales.
Dave: I would add that a marketer might listen too often to others who are saying, "Marketing doesn't work that way in this organization." People need to keep in mind that they can proactively define their role in their company, by managing North, South, East, and West.
9. At one point in your book, you point out how hard it is for even CEOs to change their organization's culture so that people throughout the company appreciate more of what marketing brings to the table. That sounds pretty discouraging for marketing professionals working in hopelessly unenlightened organizations. Do you have any words of encouragement to offer these poor souls?
Roy: We do! Marketers in any organization have tremendous opportunities to change perceptions of marketing if they use their resources wisely and win allies throughout the organization. So we do convey an optimistic message in our book: There's the possibility of change in any organization. But you have to take responsibility for it instead of just whining about how "marketing doesn't get any respect."
Dave: And you'll know when you're doing it right: You'll be perceived as different from other marketers in your organization. You'll start hearing people say things like, "You're more strategic. You help us think through important issues, and you give us good ideas, instead of just executing the plan." So the bright side is that in the companies that are least enlightened about marketing's value, you'll stand out more if you take steps to demonstrate your value.
10. What's the first thing you're going to do after you get your hands on a copy of your book, fresh off the presses? I hear that a lot of new authors sniff the pages...
Dave: Well, we each get 10 free copies to do whatever we want with. My mother said she had no interest in the subject, but she's already read the entire manuscript for the book. She gave a great testimonial: "I don't really understand it, but it's very good!" Maybe we should have put that on the back cover....
Roy: No one in my family is interested in the subject. I guess I'll get to keep all 10 of my copies for myself.
For more information on Marketing Champions, visit the Web site https://www.marketingchamps.com.
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