Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seeking the Antidote to the Mono"P"olarization Epidemic

As everyone settles back into a work routine after a busy festival month in October, I see everyone gear up for their final big push for the year. I recently checked in with several dear friends, who are also Desi CMOs, many of whom I met at the iMedia Brand Summit in Goa a few months ago, and everyone is trying to balance an intensive travel schedule and intense annual budget planning sessions with their teams. We all know it takes a lot of stamina and ambi dexterousness to focus on flawless tactical execution and strategic planning! And all of this is just part of 1 of the 4 "P"'s of our job - Promotion!!!

At the iMedia Brand Summit, I was asked to facilitate a very interesting roundtable about the "evolving role of the CMO". There was intense discussion and debate by several CMOs who participated about the 4 Ps and how somewhere along the way our role has been relegated to just one P. This was further validated by the recent Global CMO Study where 99 Indian CMOs were also interviewed, which showed that Desi CMOs feel they have the most influence on Promotion, followed by Product and Place and Price was a distant fourth. Promotion, per the study, was made up of the following responsibilities: Integrated Advertising and Promotion, Aligned Internal and External Communications, Innovative Social and Other Emerging Media.

Most CMOs still subscribe to Kotler's marketing principles and strategies and do aspire to live up to the bigger role but there seems to be a "Monopolarization Epidemic" that has struck the marketing community. Let me explain. Mono, meaning the focus on one (mono) P, and Polarize, meaning to divide or separate. By focusing on only one P, CMOs are inadvertently polarizing themselves and their function from the rest of the business and marginalizing their activities and impact.

Maybe we have brought this on ourselves. We spend most of our time focusing on how campaign and media planning, briefing agencies and recently have been spending a lot of time figuring out how to re-balance our marketing mix to add more digital, even though we know that earning a "seat in the boardroom" and credibility with our other C Suite peers and the CEO will require us to play a broader role, especially when it comes to representing the voice of the customer in decisions like product development, pricing, customer service and e-commerce strategies.

We like to see ourselves as business leaders first, marcom leader second with a deep understanding of the customer needs. This requires us to find quiet time to understand client needs (not just broad based marketplace and competitive landscape understanding) and go beyond the transaction data like sales and quantity and size of purchase and sales channel, to relationship focused data like customer sentiment analysis and customer satisfaction indices.

But lets face it. My weekly scorecard is already 70+ pages, I wonder how much more data more poor brain can digest! More Ps shouldn't end up being more Pages in my scorecard or need more People on my team! We need to work smarter, measure the right things and leverage best practices from the best in our community. I know some Desi CMOs found the antidote to this epidemic - please come forward and share!


  1. Hi Virginia,

    Interesting debate to start. Though, in all fairness, I myself would be tuned in to see where it leads to. One thought that comes to my mind would be for the marketing fraternity to contemplate shifting the goalposts. I think it was Peter Drucker who famously said that "business has only two basic functions - marketing and innovation : all the rest are costs. And marketing is the unique distinguishing function of business".

    Taking ownership of the innovation process is in my opinion the way forward for the community to make a mark. With its natural advantage in understanding consumer insights, and in idea creation and guiding the ideation processes, marketing is best positioned to own the innovation process and with that, drive business strategy and results.

    Else, as someone else said, marketing will become too important to be left to the marketing people!

  2. Philip Kotler formulated the concept of 'holistic marketing' where companies are able to find, create and deliver value by linking demand management, resource planning, and partner alliances; and central to it is the use of technology interventions like Internet, company intranet and various extranets. These technologies got deployed but due to huge size of organizations, the marketing function got segregated or slightly distant from the sales or the product departments. As a result, marketing seems to be more confined to 'Promotion' and hence treated more like a cost centre. It is quite ironical to Peter Drucker saying - "business is all about marketing and innovation", as correctly mentioned by Vasanth also. Virginia, I completely agree with you that today we need to gear up marketing function to become more integrated with the other functions and focus beyond 'Promotion'.
    In many organizations, although CRM systems have been deployed but not sure if there are well integrated with available marketing tools, to provide a comprehensive view on the customer, which could help marketing to think and work beyond promotion. The key is the integration so that technological tools can provide a complete view on customers and help to develop 'propensity to buy' models as well as identify future needs to develop/enhance products. It may further help in improving the conversion of leads into deals, thereby improving the much talked about ROI.
    There are already huge number of metrics/reports and what seems to be the need of the hour right now is to align/integrate marketing reports with other department reports. The resultant could be 2 sets of dashboards only - real-time marketing information dashboards and planning dashboards. While Real time marketing dashboard helps to monitor sales, prices and costs in different geographical and segment markets, the planning dashboards are used by brand and product managers to develop stronger marketing plans. Technology and various predictive analytics algorithms have made it possible that the manager can simulate or find out how to do any procedure, such as testing a marketing concept, develop a sales promotion, test the effectiveness of an ad or run a test market. The planning dashboard would open a marketing encyclopedia of best marketing practices on the computer screen.
    We can deploy any number of technology tools and metrics but the key requirement is the simplified view as well as skills of people to understand the insights and leverage them to build into actionable plans.
    A strong business case needs to be presented to CEO of the organization so that marketing can get its well deserved place and people start thinking ROI in terms of qualitative benefits also (more of effectiveness) and not only $$.

  3. Virginia

    Interesting point and probably quite contentious from a CMO POV. I work on the other side of the an agency..and have seen the remarkable change in marketing folks who have gone more and more into looking at communications than focusing on what I think is the core function of marketing...demand generation. At the 'easiest' end is fixing the creative or the campaigns. at the other end is the product. As companies have got more specialised or 'siloed' I think some of the Ps have gone out of reach of the marketing department having been appropriated by other functions resulting in incredibly hard decision making. This came home to me recently when a friend, due to a an extremely odd confluence of circumstances, was CEO, CMO, heading sales and finance of a reasonably large company. He was telling me about the decisions he was able to take wrt stocks, margins, retailer programs, product segmentation ..things which he said were extremely difficult to do in a normal bizz environment where each function had a lead and then negotiations were the norm.
    When everything is a battle then I guess the natural tendency is to work in the area where one feels one can make a difference..and often that ends up being 'promotions'.
    That is an outside-in view so may not reflect exactly what CMOs such as yourself see/face.

  4. Kotler is just plain wrong! In all my experience with Indian IT companies, I'm yet to come across any CMO who does anything significant on product, price, and placement apart from some market research to decide on positioning.

    And as you rightly say, promotion is full time work. As for Kotler -- waal, so how come a professor who studied economics and mathematics and never ever worked in marketing is the oracle for marketing? (By the way, I think his book is a terrific read. Just don't believe all of it!)

  5. Interesting comments. BTW, I was quite encouraged this weekend when I met 2 CMOS (Suvodeep from Kaya and Srinath from Wadhawan Holdings) who seem to have figured out a way to expand their mandate beyond promotion. They have set up a way to get continuous feedback from customers throughout the buying cycle - pre and post purchase and by becoming the voice of the customer internally. They heavily invest in deep customer analytics, not just transactional but also predictive to feed back into the respective functions. As a result they seem to be influencing the other Ps! Congrats to both!

  6. In my interactions with marketers in large MNC B2C orgs, I saw that they were the pivot around which the business revolved. They influenced and collaborated with research on new products or variants based on changing consumer trends, they had to ensure that all the 4 Ps were integrated and aligned to drive biz objectives. IMHO the mono P trend is more prevalent in B2B (mainly IT) orgs. A moot question to ask would be how involved marketers are or allowed to be - in IT product or services co’s in decision making around new innovations, products, services, pricing..etc. Any thoughts?
    Of course we have all heard of expanding the 4Ps to 7Ps especially for services biz....adding people, process and presence (physical infrastructure)….I would probably add one more - 7a which is “web and social media presence” too.