| November 14, 2016
As a panelist at Effectiveness Week in the UK the other week, I got to hear Patrick Barwise review some findings from his book, ’The 12 powers of a marketing leader : how to succeed by building customer and company value’. Barwise asserted that marketing sounds less reliable than other business practices because it mostly deals with the future. But is marketing inherently less reliable than finance?
Barwise made the assertion that marketing sounds less reliable than other business practices when addressing what he identified as one of the gaps that marketers needed to bridge in order to be effective. He suggested that other business disciplines like production, logistics and finance deal with more predictable and measurable outcomes, and so tend to be seen as more reliable. By comparison marketing deals with the future, and so is perceived by colleagues and senior management as inherently less reliable.
At the time I have to admit that I nodded in agreement, but later in the week I was given pause for thought. Asked what he thought of the idea that marketing was less reliable than finance because it was forward-looking rather than backward-looking, Martin Glenn, now CEO of the Football Association and previously CEO of United Biscuits, disagreed. Finance, he suggested, was often asked to make huge investments based on an analysis of likely future returns.
This is, of course, absolutely true. Part of the job of finance is to judge the risk and reward attached to capital investments that have a lifetime of years, not months. Budgeting involves the assessment of the state of the business across the coming year or more. Maybe the difference is that there are generally accepted practices and procedures by which these functions are made more transparent? The actual analysis might be no more than wishful thinking – did I say that? – but the analytic process and presentation makes the practice look more reliable?
Every year I hear marketers being encouraged to speak the language of finance if they want to be taken seriously. But if we really want to bridge the trust gap maybe what we need is less words and more numbers, numbers that relate to specific marketing objectives? We have many different ways of assessing the likely impact of marketing campaigns, both in the short-term and the long-term; but what is often missing is a very clear statement of what a campaign is intended to achieve. In other words, how will the campaign help the brand realize more value?
If you didn’t attend any of the Effectiveness Week events, you can read some articles based on the Kantar presentations written by my colleagues Graham Page, Izzy Pugh and one by myself here. But what do you think? Is objective setting the real issue or is it something else? Please share your thoughts.