The seat of power

Posted on July 26, 2011

Laments about the demise of marketing power in the boardroom have been a constant refrain in practitioner circles for some time. Some will argue that "marketing is not what it used to be". Others will note that (thanks to the significant prevalence of chartered accountants occupying the driving seat in many corporations) marketing never was top of the firm's agenda, anyway. Whatever the case may be, it can only change if the custodians of marketing not only have a seat at the boardroom table, but can influence their executive peers to invest in building marketing capability. An article by Nash and Mahajan published in the January 2011 edition of the American Journal of Marketing (generally acknowledged as the holy grail of marketing academics) investigates the drivers and outcomes of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) power. Previous research by the authors had found no relationship between the presence or absence of a CM0 in the Top Managment Team (referred to by academics and researchers as the TMT') and a firm's business performance - a worrying situation for top marketers seeking to justify their remuneration! This new study built on the previous findings by investigating whether Chief Marketing Officer empowerment, rather than mere presence, had more influence on a company's performance. The authors define CM0 power at top level as the ability of the marketer to influence decision making - not via personal attributes, but via power that derives from resources controlled by the marketer. These could be financial, physical, legal, informational, human, relational and organisational. Nash and Mahajan make the case that Chief Marketing Officers typically don't have control over the first three (I disagree with them on the first resource because marketers often control significant budgets, particularly in the business-to-consumer context). 'Informational' resources include data and insights about customers and the market place, while 'human' resources comprise the skills and knowledge of employees in the marketing function. 'Relational' resources embrace relationships with channel members, end users and marketing services agencies, while 'organisational' can involve marketing capabilities which integrate the other resources (for example, a firm's 'marketing way')...

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Nicola Kleyn is a senior lecturer in marketing at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).

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