A tough time for Marketing

If you’ve spent years building a career in Marketing, you would have stumbled upon two worlds; one where businesses are built on brands, and the other where businesses are building brands.

Now ten days in (1 July 2014), P&G, the world’s biggest spender on advertising announced it will remove the word marketing from job titles and organisations in order to focus on brands. From their press releases, they have gone as far as to confirm the renaming of the Marketing department to ‘Brand Management’.

This is big news, no? Well I thought I’d look deeper into this but I did not find as many conflicting opinions as I had initially expected.

Not much of a surprise, it seems. For a company such as P&G who had invented the brand management system over 50 years ago, it seems like they are merely just tweaking their system – going back to their roots to championing Brand (but now botched in with some consumer point of view). And the industry seems to be in agreement.

Though I much admire their stance on this (given they are an enormous beast of an organisation to sell-in and implement), I honestly have my doubts. Here are my thoughts:

Turning Marketing on its Head.

horse on head

Is it enough to drop the word “marketing” and insert the word “brand?” Will brand management ever replace Marketing all-together?

Marketing focuses on the activities associated with the promotion and distribution of products and services.  It’s how brands accumulate value.

Brand management on the other hand, focuses on identity, management of the market value and competitive strength of a brand, as an (intangible) company asset. It’s how products continue to wrap story and distinction around what they offer to increase competitiveness and build loyalty.

The two are linked – but different. Marketing is the means (‘the how’), whereas Brand management is the goal (‘the why’). I can see the advantages of addressing and focusing on ‘the why’, but I too can see it detracting from basic Marketing goals which are often measured in volume and sales. The success of reclassification of the marketing function to emphasise on brand management can only be achieved if total company value will overtake revenue as the primary business objective.

A new marketing model is needed.


I do not really know the agenda behind this reorganisation, but maybe it’s just a matter of finding a reason to restore relevance to the Marketing department.

Stuck in many, many decades of inertia – a belief in and a reliance on the mass market; an emphasis on marketing quantity, not quality; and a decision-making process based on experience, not facts and analysis, the reason why the Marketing department has survived is that it has been too difficult to do any better.

In 1931, the infamous memo written by Neil McElroy (see below) changed marketing forever which lead to the creation of the discipline of brand management. Brand management then became a communication function in Marketing, where brand managers would sit within this department. Over this time, our predecessors have been trying to force change by introducing new and increasingly more functions within the Marketing department, consequentially becoming generic.


Within the Marketing department in this present day, you can name at least these functions: planning & strategy, market research, public relations & corporate/marcomm, product management, advertising/promotion, creative (copy/art/photography), production, campaign management, events, direct and now digital…and the list goes on.

Today, increasing speed of technological adoption and cultural trends are beginning to force change. Fast. A major reason incidentally why present-day consumers are far less inclined to be brand loyal than their parents.

In many brand-based companies, the marketing department is fast becoming irrelevant. Numerous companies have tried taking several routes. One approach taken by many, is to install matrix organisations on top of the traditional brand structures. In such companies, marketing initiatives are controlled jointly by geographically based units, e.g. regions, in partnerships with global brand or category managers, who in theory reconcile the demands for global scale and local responsiveness.

Other companies have spread responsibility for brand management across teams of functional managers. In these organisations, the critical marketing decision-making is often now dominated by MBA’s from top schools to increase the knowledge base.

For the most part, these fine tunings have not worked. We know this. We’ve all worked in these capacities one way or other.

Do I have a solution? Well, I’ll ponder about this a bit more and get back to you. If I do… I have it made.

What signals are P&G sending to the industry?

we see

Overall, it says very little about the functional title changes because fundamentally Marketing is about shaping the future and based on this guiding light, marketers should be driving the health of the brands and the business, anyway.

Instead, I question whether this change will foster further vertical structures, siloed business divisions and introverted thinking because they are encouraging a “single-point responsibility” for brands. How do these ‘brand managers’ cross-sell or upsell?  To each their own – everyone will be looking out for their own performance and accountability, instead. Watch out for cannibalisation, I say!

As Michael Lee (contributor) wrote in a recent article in Forbes – It’s no longer about “managing” anything. It’s now more about creating: creating value for a brand, creating products people love, creating content people want to share, creating dialogue with your audience you need today and the audience you need to attract in the future.

So have a look around to see how others are delivering on the customer experience strategy. For example, PepsiCo too recently announced they are re-evaluating the capabilities required within its marketing teams on a global level. According to PepsiCo’s Global CMO, Frank Cooper, he believes that the marketers of the future will be more brand curators than brand managers.

Only time will tell which strategy has worked best based on the successes of these companies. This is indeed an interesting time as I reflect my own career path, and wonder – what’s next?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s