The death of marketing leadership

How times change! Just over two years ago, the Harvard Business Review featured an article titled ‘Marketing is Dead’. It went on to quote the kind of research we’ve all heard many times about how “CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth”.

As we enter 2015, there has been a significant and exciting shift in the tone of the debate about Marketing and its role. IBM’s latest C-Suite study points out that since the 2008 financial crisis, driving business growth has been a vital priority in most companies. As a result, “CMOs are wielding more power in the boardroom, as CEOs increasingly call on them for strategic input”. 

The Economist Intelligence Unit agrees, arguing that the transformation caused by digital technology and social media has been a driving factor, with customers now wielding much more power in their 2-way conversations and relationships with corporate organisations. “Marketing is on the ascent. It has frequently led at big consumer products companies. Now its influence is growing everywhere: at B2B companies, professional service firms, companies dominated by engineering and logistics”.

Crunch time for marketers

All of this is great news for those of us working in Marketing. But it brings with it a challenge too. While there is a growing need for marketers to play a more strategic role within their organisations, that does not necessarily mean they are equipped to play it. Being good at the traditional siloed brand communications-focused role referred to in the original HBR article is no longer good enough.

Marketers must step up to provide customer-centred leadership, driving business growth by inspiring and engaging people throughout the organisation to create better value for their customers. To do so successfully, there are two crucial dimensions in which they need to strengthen their capabilities and performance.

Firstly, marketing leaders need the skills to handle the technical side of the role, the things they need to DO as strategic marketers – connecting customer insight with the business model, using segmentation to drive portfolio strategy, creating purposeful brands and designing integrated, engaging customer experiences. Secondly, and at least as importantly, they must also develop the right mindsets and behaviours to support the way they need to BE as leaders of the organisation – connected, curious and passionate about their customers, lifting other people’s spirits, making their colleagues feel valued and focusing their attention on what really matters.

Planning your own development

How can you go about developing these skills and characteristics in practice? To help leaders plan their personal development, both as marketers and as leaders, Brand Learning has developed the Customer-Centred Leadership Framework™.

Customer-Centred Leadership Framework™

The framework helps to integrate the different elements of Doing and Being involved in Customer-Centred Leadership. To get a quick sense of where your own strengths and development needs lie, have a think about the following questions.


These are just some of the questions we are exploring at this year’s International Marketing Leaders Programme. Brand Learning have also published a white paper providing more information about this approach. To download a copy please click here.

Originally posted on the Marketing Society blog.

Brand Learning: Lifting capabilities to drive customer-centred growth
We work with companies across the world to lift the performance of their teams to drive growth by delivering better value for their customers.

For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s customer-centred leadership capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly @AndyBird_BL. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Customer-Centred Leadership.

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