Speaking at the IMC’s Marketing Gets Naked event, Greg Garden was quite frank about the state of South Africa’s marketing industry.
The CEO of the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA) stressed, “What marketers need, more than anything else right now, is credibility. And more than ever before we need to unite for the sake of our profession.”
While Garden admitted that there was a lot to celebrate, with marketing in South Africa being “alive and kicking, vibrant, transformative and thriving”, he admitted that, at the same time, it was “one big crazy mess” and “currently going through an existential crisis”.
The role and value of marketing
Several factors were leading industry players to question the role and value of marketing, especially in its current form (with tech threatening to disrupt everything we know).
“The democratisation of marketing technology and tools (data, AI, augmented reality, digital marketing) has happened at a pace much more rapid than the evolution of organisational design or company culture or the business science of marketing has actually been able to accommodate,” commented Garden.
This has led to the creation of two groups of marketers, the “old-school, traditional 4Ps), and the “data-driven, digital-savvy ‘visionists'”, both of whom lack knowledge about the new economy, and traditional marketing values respectively.
With chief marketing officers (CMOs) often not having a seat at the boardroom table, it is not surprising that the role, function and value of marketing is often misunderstood in business, or completely disregarded, Garden added.
Bad news for marketers
Results from an often-quoted 2012 Harvard study revealed that “80% of CEOs don’t trust marketing”, while 2017 research by the same institution revealed that “80% of CEOs are dissatisfied with their chief marketing officer”.
These both illustrate the fuzzy role that marketing and chief marketing officers currently fill, and something has to be done to show business the true value that these can offer.
New local research
MASA decided to embark on a study of its own, collecting local data on the perceptions of CEOs towards marketing and chief marketing officers.
“I should have a T-shirt from some of the CEOs, which says ‘don’t call me, I’ll call you’,” Garden joked, indicating that the full results of the study were not yet available. However, Garden provided some quotes to keep attendees up at night. These were:
- “Without marketing we’d be poorer, with it we are”.
- “Marketers are good at detecting and analysing problems, but not as good at finding solutions”.
- “In most areas of business, jargon is a way of describing things of substance. But marketing jargon is gobbledygook, flavour of the month lingo I’m not sure that even marketers understand”.
- “I think most marketers just wing it”.
These are the questions that the study is asking CEOs:
- What role do you see marketing playing in the business?
- How do you see the role of marketing in the delivery of business results?
- Do you see marketing as low, medium or high impact in the delivery of those business results?
- Do you see marketing as suitable for representation on the exco or at board level?
- How would you rate the current capability levels of your marketing professionals?
- What are the strengths and opportunities and how can these be improved?
Garden left attendees with three suggestions of actions to take next. These were:
“We can do better at standing together and supporting each other. Marketers unite! Network more, learn from each other, and have a common voice and shared values.”
“We need to relaunch marketing as a profession. It’s time for us to take control of our destiny.”
“We need to be clear and consistent on our value to business and as marketers brand ourselves better. The way to do this is for marketers to become designated.”
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8
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