I’m really looking forward to reading Umair Haque’s new book, The New Capitalist Manifesto, Building a Disruptively Better Business. I’ve read lots of his blog writing across the Harvard Business Review and other venues, and included several of his thoughts here on Succincity, but I’ve never seen him comment on marketing’s specific complicity within the current state of corporate culture.
Here, he does:
Today, marketing is the equivalent of the corporate ghetto — with good reason. In too many boardrooms, marketers are minions, flunkies, and sidekicks who refuse to stand up to the CEO, CFO, or board, and say “No! In the long-run, it’s really not a good idea for us to push a lowest-common-denominator that sucks — and sucks health, wealth, and character out of our society.”Marketing’s role has become to find slightly cleverer ways to convince “consumers” to buy more — more rapidly-depreciating, mass-produced, joyless, drab stuff.
He’s talking about consumer marketing and I think we’ve all seen too many terrible examples that corroborate his point — from tobacco and fast food to the cable and cell phone companies who nickle-and-dime their customers into a frustrating oblivion.
My experience, however, is in corporate marketing; pushing services to other companies. Sadly, it all translates.
CEO collaborates with CFO and Sales VP to build next year’s projections and goals. Marketing’s role is to make these folks happy and meet them… by hook or by crook. Leaders with no marketing background and a hawk eye on the balance sheet make misguided suggestions, and marketers, interested in justifying their own salaries, take them into the field.
Problem: the single metric for success is financial, from top to bottom.
That’s because of who is at the top. The issue here is organizational. Where in the goal setting process were employee lifestyle improvements factored? How about customer/client/user experience improvements? How about new customer acquisition by referral; word of mouth testimony to how much better you’ve made somebody’s world? The top-level group of decision makers must include someone whose primary responsibility involves the non-financial metrics of corporate success.
After all, when employee lifestyles, customer experiences and word-of-mouth referrals improve, so does the bottom line. A non-financial top-level decision maker is the suicide safety net who ensures long term profitability when the balance sheet mongers would threaten it, willing to play in the dirt just so they can see black. This person is charged with challenging — out loud in the board room — what many corporate leaders’ consciences are now failing to do silently. Without this element on the executive team, the visible distinction between generating real value and hawking enough trash to make targets becomes increasingly blurry.
Because we all know that which gets measured gets managed.