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December 07, 2004

The Discipline of Marketing Leaders

In another great article from Strategy+Business (Winter 2004) titled, Making the Perfect Marketer ... the authors outline three distinct models for how Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) can manage the marketing function:
(1) Marketing Service Providers
(2) Marketing Advisors, and
(3) Drivers of Growth.

I couldn’t help but link these three CMO management models with the value disciplines outlined in the “Discipline of Market Leaders” (by Michael Tracey and Fred Wiersema).

In the “Discipline of Market Leaders,” Tracey and Wiersema proposed three distinct value disciplines companies can follow to market leadership: (1) operational excellence, (2) product leadership, and (3) customer intimacy. Their research showed the most successful companies excel at one value discipline and deliver satisfactory results in the other two areas.

For example, Wal-Mart excels at being operationally excellent and is satisfactory in product development and satisfactory in being intimate with its customer base. Nike excels at product leadership and is satisfactory in the other two areas. And Harrah’s excels best at customer intimacy and is satisfactory in the other two disciplines.

With the “Discipline of Market Leaders” as context, I propose we think of these three CMO models – Marketing Service Provider, a Marketing Advisor, and Driver of Growth – as the Discipline of Marketing Leaders.

Using this understanding, successful CMOs must choose one of the following three marketing management models to excel at and be satisfactory in the other two models.

Marketing Service Providers
“… lead a small corporate staff function; manage marketing services that offer centralization benefits, such as media buying; and coordinate marketing-service supplier relationships.”

The Marketing Service Provider-focused CMO manages a marketing cost center with business unit managers (such as marketing directors, creative directors, consumer insights directors, etc.) having P&L responsibilities. Usually this CMO will facilitate relationships with outside marketing service providers (ad agencies, media buying, research firms, etc.) as well as coordinate the creation of all marketing collateral materials. Additionally, this CMO will usually be the company’s “brand cop” monitoring logo usage and trademark matters.

Successful attributes of a Marketing Service Provider-focused CMO include:

  • Being a proven administrator and an adequate strategic thinker
  • Having the mentality of thriving in a ‘supporting’ role and not a ‘leading’ role
  • Exhibiting a strong competency in at least one marketing support function (e.g. consumer research)
  • Influencing others and building healthy cross-functional teams

    Marketing Advisors
    “… lead a corporate marketing function (by) help(ing) align division marketing plans with corporate strategies, ensure compliance with corporate trademark and brand guidelines, and coordinate the sharing of best practices across the businesses.”

    A Marketing Advisor-focused CMO manages more through influence and respect than through being a marketing dictator barking out orders. This CMO ensures that short-term and long-term marketing needs are top-of-mind with company leadership. S/he is also counted on to provide the ‘voice of the consumer’ during all decisions made by the company’s senior leadership.

    Skill sets of a successful Marketing Advisor-focused CMO include:

  • Being a patient yet persuasive communicator
  • Knowing when and where to pick his/her battles (i.e. being politically savvy)
  • Holding their own in intense discussions with line managers and C-level execs
  • Forgoing publicity unless required in order to represent the company with outside marketing service providers

    Drivers of Growth
    “… propel the corporate growth agenda; direct brand strategy, business development, and innovation; drive the marketing capability agenda and ROI; and … align marketing in the business units, and their personnel, with the central agenda.”

    The CMO who specializes in being a Driver of Growth is a seasoned senior marketing executive who usually presides over a single 'master' brand which is recognized as a very strong global brand. S/he is expected to propel the company’s growth agenda for the company and align all business units under the central agenda. Additionally, this CMO is responsible for directing global brand strategy, innovation, and increasing marketing’s effectiveness. Along with the CMO title, this executive usually carries a senior or executive vice-president to boot.

    Driver of Growth-focused CMOs typically have the following skill sets:

  • Having a keen analytical and creative mind
  • Attracting and retaining a strong roster of marketing management talent
  • Serving as a transformational change agent
  • Displaying confidence and expert communication/debating skills


    So ... does the Discipline of Marketing Leaders concept for CMOs resonate with you? Of the three disciplines – Marketing Service Provider, a Marketing Advisor, and Driver of Growth – which do you value most in how a Chief Marketing Officer manages the marketing function?

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    Another great post John! I love the analogy, however, I think Tracey and Wiersema's analysis was flawed. Market leadership can only be attained through customer intimacy. Once the expressed and unexpressed needs and desires of the customer are discovered - through intimate relationships - then the choice of operational excellence (Dell) or product innovation (Sony) can be selected and leveraged. But hey . . . I could be wrong.

    Okay ... and I think your analysis is flawed. (Ha-Ha. Hee-Hee.)

    The price of admission for any company to do ‘business’ is to meet expressed/unexpressed needs of customers. If they don’t, then the company shouldn’t be in business.

    It seems as though you're defining 'customer-intimacy' differently. Your definition of 'customer-intimacy' seems very tactical compared to Tracey and Wiersema’s more global definition.

    Tracey|Wiersema definition of ‘customer intimacy’ is more centered around fulfilling the mass-customization promise and nurturing ongoing 1:1 relationships.

    But hey … we all could be wrong.

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