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Bringing brand into the boardroom

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Bringing brand into the boardroom

It’s time for marketers to make the shift from event dollies to boardroom ambassadors


Let’s face it; marketing is not taken seriously in many boardrooms. What many of us suspected has been confirmed by the inaugural Brand Marketing Barometer Survey*. The research, compiled by the Brand Council of South Africa, makes it clear that marketing does not command respect from the higher powers in the boardroom. And this disconnect is not unique to South Africa (or limited to a particular industry) as Deloitte’s Marketing in 3D global report uncovered that one third of CFOs do not believe that marketing is a key growth driver or is crucial to devising strategy.

We marketers all know the power that brand has to offer. We’ve seen the case studies. We constantly monitor those annual surveys that show certain brands to have greater financial value than the GDP of some countries. It’s not unusual to find marketers waxing lyrical about brand being a great intangible asset. Given this, it seems strange that marketing is struggling to get air-time in the boardroom and is often considered to be a tactical function filled with ‘event dollies’.


When the marketing function is regarded as a tactical area rather than the integrated, strategic partner it should be, it is incredibly difficult to demonstrate the power that brand has to offer. Marketers need to shift how marketing is perceived in the boardroom. But talking about the power of brand and marketing is proving to be a fruitless task. The only way marketers can change boardroom perceptions is by changing their actions and behaviours. The 300 senior executives surveyed in the Brand Barometer Survey indicated that the sector needs to take urgent action to ensure that it brings long-term economic, social and cultural value to South Africa. Marketing has a number of important shifts that it needs to make.


  1. Learn the language of the boardroom


To raise the profile of marketing, it’s critical to raise its thought leadership and its boardroom conversations to a strategic level. The first step simply is to get on the same page as the executives. All too often, when marketers are given the opportunity to showcase work, we hear lingo such as ‘tissue-sessions’, ‘visual language’ and ‘shadow endorsements’. If the boardroom executives can’t understand what you’re saying, it’s unlikely that your message will have any impact.


In addition, to connect with the business executives, it’s imperative for marketers to have a perspective on the business outside of their department. Understanding the broader operating context makes it easier to have hard-hitting, strategic conversations. If marketers are too insular, it shows.


Some practical tips for strategic conversations:

  • Make it a non-negotiable requirement for marketing staff to understand the figures on the balance sheet, income statements and annual report;
  • Ensure that there are appropriate interventions in place for marketers to learn more about the operating environment – there is a world beyond Q4’s campaign.
  • Consider your audience when showcasing your work


  1. Make it about profits, not promotions

Ultimately, boardroom executives are interested in the profits, not the promotions you are running.

Unless marketers can demonstrate that they are smart with the way they spend money, they will continue to be seen as an extravagant and peripheral cost centre. It doesn’t help marketing’s cause when boardroom airtime is used to showcase the latest augmented reality campaign, app or print advert. These campaign elements may be exciting, but unless they demonstrate value creation and return-on-investment, they should be kept out of the boardroom.


Some practical tips for demonstrating marketing’s return-on-investment:

  • Use solid financial metrics – don’t confuse the executives with metrics designed for tactical marketing activity. Demonstrate how the marketing activities have driven consumer choice and therefore sales and profits – and track these measure on a dashboard;
  • Always link your marketing objectives to a marketing strategy that spurs from business strategy and show this connection;
  • Think twice before you spend budget on putting slick AVs together for boardroom meetings. These may be entertaining, but the budget could be used for something more beneficial for the business;
  • Remember that marketing will usually be bored of a campaign before the target market has even seen it – don’t spend money on 4 campaigns annually if you can execute one really effective campaign, really well.


Brand does deserve a place in the boardroom, but unless we marketers are able to broaden our commercial skills, it won’t gain the respect it deserves. It’s critical that marketers can demonstrate a substantial contribution to business results and be seen as the providers of business leadership. In doing this, perceptions can be shifted and brand can have a permanent seat in the boardroom.

Last modified on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 11:43

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