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Dear CMO: Why do the mis-steps of our leaders get so much press? Why do we spend more time watching CEOs who have fallen into the potato salad on YouTube than the ones who are quietly leading their companies through troubled waters? This is unfortunate, so we're going to correct this with a post praising the CEO. Here's why....


. Turner CEO Phil Kent did the right thing following the recent Boston debacle. He didn't personally sign off on this stunt. But he stood up and did what CEOs do under the circumstances. So good on him.
. My friend Larry called me on the carpet over lunch today for being too opinionated (I swear, it's not true -- and I can prove it) and reminded me that as a marketer, we're all playing roles in our respective companies, the leader of which is the CEO.
. My lovely wife has animated this point perfectly, as her tireless work in the nonprofit world puts her in harm's way every time a group of volunteers takes it upon themselves to make 'unilateral' decisions.
All these things point to a simple conclusion: there's a reason we have CEOs. Bosses. The people in charge. They in front of whom the buck stops. The signature of last resort. He or she whose name we envoke to end all discussion.
We marketers are often mis-cast as "creatives" floating somewhere above the surface of the earth, spinning our impractical ideas to the consternation of finance and the amusement of sales. This isn't always true -- sometimes, of course, it is (did someone say "Boston"?)
Our ideas, and the budgets that support them, may be good ones. But they may not be the right ones. Beyond just being a pretty good Zen riddle, there's a hidden meaning that all of us marketers should dwell upon here.
We are always ready to charge up the hill, Custer-like, and seize the marketing high ground. There's a good reason for this: we're taught to take the high ground. Our fault then is not one of judgment but one of perspective. The CEO is at a different vantage point, where he can see that there are pitfalls to taking the hill that we just don't see. The reasons for this are too many to try to list, but you get the picture.
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Key Takeaways:
> Marketers are responsible for sell-through. CEOs are responsible for companies. It's not our job to question their judgment but it is their job to question ours. Interesting to take this perspective once in a while.
> Sometimes bad budget cuts happen to good people. Sometimes pet projects get canned for good reasons. It's not personal. Get back on board, don't pout, and if you're asked to play special teams this quarter, do it and do it well.
> We marketers are paid to understand our markets and then adapt our company's products, messaging and strategies to suit our market's needs. Sometimes we need to focus these talents inwardly towards our own company.
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We marketers are role-players in our companies, the focus of which is capturing the hearts and minds of our end users and channel partners. Sometimes we take a hard left hand turn just when we thought we were about to grab ahold of something great out of the right hand window.
Don't complain about the driving. You may have just missed a head-on collision.
Regards.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Stephen Denny

I've spent twenty years connecting brands to the wants & needs of technology users, as a consultant and as a front line executive managing the people, strategy and budgets at brand name companies like Sony, Onstar, Iomega and Plantronics.

This generally means that I've spent a lot of time saying "no" to very charming people and defending very creative marketing ideas in front of people who don't always laugh at my jokes.

What else can I tell you? I've lived and worked in the US and Japan, hold multiple patents, have lectured at top graduate schools and industry forums, and have a Wharton MBA, the diploma for which is somewhere in my office.

My consulting business is focused on helping consumer technology companies nail their branding so they get through the ambient noise in the market, as well as guiding them in how to win in the trenches of the channel, where all business battles are won or lost.

What you see on my blog, StephenDenny.com, is what I've netted out of the conversations I get to have with lots of smart people. Drop in and comment at your convenience ~!