Book review: A tool to help markets climb the corporate ladder

Fewer than half of marketers are happy with the level they have reached in their careers, according to surveys carried out for the book The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader.

This failure is mostly because of a trust gap, according to the authors. As so much of marketing deals with the future, its leaders tend to be seen as less credible than their peers, who are talking in today’s solid operational or finance numbers.

The authors – Thomas Barta, a former McKinsey partner with 20 years of marketing experience, and his mentor Patrick Barwise, an author and London Business School emeritus professor – stress that this is a leadership book for marketers rather than a marketing book.

The lessons are based on what the authors claim is the largest global study conducted on marketing leadership: Barta surveyed a global sample of 1,200 senior marketers and then tapped into a database of 67,000 appraisals of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by their superiors, co-workers and direct reports.

What it found was that, although 71 per cent of marketers thought their business impact was high, only 44 per cent were satisfied with where their career path had taken them. Worse still, their bosses are least likely to promote them out of all their direct reports.

“Despite endlessly saying they want to be more customer-focused, many firms don’t have a marketer in the top team,” the authors say. “Too few CMOs make it to CEO, and marketers’ reputation with CEOs is mixed.

“Many marketers are great at doing marketing,” they add – pointing to operational tasks such as brand communications and social media, “but their efforts aren’t always translated into internal influence and stellar careers”.

To lead in marketing, they say, marketers need to increase their influence in their business, to find the sweet spot between the customer’s needs and the company’s needs.

The very first table in the book summarises in a handy pocket-sized form the 12 powers and their effect on a marketer’s career. Canny marketers will focus in on those that have the biggest effect on their own career rather than the business.

Published by McGraw-Hill Education last month, The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader is available in hardback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Patrick Barwise, the co-author and emeritus professor of management and marketing at London Business School, tells Suzanne Locke more about The 12 Powers Of A Marketing Leader:

You say marketers should change their language – how?

Use the language that’s right for the people you’re trying to communicate with. In the case of customers, don’t talk about “unique selling propositions”, talk about things meaningful and important to them. Inside the organisation, particularly at a senior level, ultimately that means financial language. Avoid marketing jargon such as “brand equity” – talk about making the brand more relevant or friendly.

Any case studies that spring to mind?

News Corp Australia’s marketing director, Ed Smith [who led the introduction of paid newspaper content on The Australian in 2010]. He showed that persistence is hugely important, walking the walk again and again with colleagues to get acceptance for his strategy. And Simon Kang [who took charge of LG’s appliances business in the US in early 2000, when US awareness of LG was minimal]. He was a finance guy sent to the US, probably expecting he would not achieve much, like his predecessors. He got the LG logo up in Times Square.

You say personality doesn’t make a difference – really?

We measured CMOs against the standard Big Five personality traits: openness to experience, dependability and self-discipline, extroversion, agreeableness and emotional resilience. They explained only three per cent of senior marketers’ business impact and nine per cent of their career success. We’re not saying personality doesn’t matter at all, but most competent marketers have it in themselves to become effective and successful leaders. But your main job is as a leader. Don’t use personality as an excuse.

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Suzanne Locke

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