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 / Summer 2006 / Issue 43(originally published by Booz & Company)


Beyond Brand Management

The anatomy of the 21st-century marketing professional.

Illustration by Seymour Chwast
In the 1920s, the Radio Corporation of America invented the broadcast network, a mass communications medium as broad in scope and reach as the contiguous United States. In the 1930s, Procter & Gamble Company, recognizing the growth opportunities in this newly connected mass consumer market, revolutionized marketing with the introduction of brand management. This new organizational structure enabled multiple brands from a single company to compete in the same product category by providing each brand with a dedicated team of professionals and specialized marketing strategies. In the 1950s came the capstone, broadcast television: mass communications about mass products, illustrated with emotionally compelling moving pictures. Marketing as we know it was born.

For the best part of the next half century, television and brand management held sway over marketing theory and practice. The practice was based on a judicious blending of television and print advertising, direct mail, and trade promotions, supervised by managers trained to analyze (and base decisions on) measurements of magnitude (the size of the audience reached). These managers were abetted by sets of contractors skilled, by turns, in art and science. To this familiar recipe, modern marketers added a pinch of the Internet, a sprinkle of product sampling, and a dash of PR, but the basic model remained largely unchanged.

Until now.

The marketing profession is currently undergoing its most significant transformation in more than 50 years. Driving it are massive shifts in technology and society (see “The Future of Advertising Is Now,” by Christopher Vollmer, John Frelinghuysen, and Randall Rothenberg, s+b, Summer 2006), which are converging to make the old marketing model obsolete. As the world changes, so must the capabilities of marketing professionals.

Marketers can read the writing on the wall. Many companies are experimenting with new approaches and techniques. But most of these experiments constitute mere tinkering with the traditional marketing model.

“Marketing communications in particular is stuck in the late 1980s paradigm of tactical implementation,” says Don E. Schultz, professor emeritus in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. “We keep planning on the basis of campaigns, looking for short-term returns, using measurement systems that don’t work. The real questions today are about how we can develop horizontal integrating processes and systems that work across disciplines, not just across communication formats. We need some new concepts and new approaches, not just rehashes of what we have been doing for the past 75 years.”

The transformation of media and markets has profound implications for the way in which marketing is organized, the skills and outlook required of professional marketers, and the types of training that marketers will need. Some features of the new professional model for marketers are already clear:

• More Diverse Skills. Marketing teams increasingly will address a broad, complex agenda for consumer engagement, through a wide range of communications media, including electronic, experiential, and nontraditional channels. Success will mean blazing new career paths that combine the sophisticated quantitative skills and the leadership ability needed to supervise teams working in multiple, rapidly changing markets, with traditional creative and management capabilities.

• Entrepreneurial Aptitude. The typical business marketing career has attracted gregarious people who operate comfortably within a familiar professional culture with well-defined techniques. But now marketers must not just select and purchase proven instruments. They must envisage, shape, and develop new tools for designing and engendering more effective consumer connections. This demands openness to experimentation, an inclination toward pioneering, and an ability to integrate marketing with strategy as never before. The new marketing team must do this while honing the number-crunching analytical ability that is needed to justify and fine-tune new strategies.

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  1. Charles Fishman, “This Is a Marketing Revolution,” Fast Company, May 1999: Profile of Capital One, a pioneer in analytic marketing. Click here.
  2. Paul Hyde, Edward Landry, and Andrew Tipping, “Making the Perfect Marketer,” s+b, Winter 2004: Research-based guidance for marketing-department designers developing career paths for the team. Click here.
  3. Steffen M. Lauster and J. Neely, “The Core’s Competence,” s+b, Spring 2005: A federalist-style organizational structure can make it easier for consumer products companies (and others) to rebuild marketing skills. Click here.
  4. Gail McGovern and John A. Quelch, “The Fall and Rise of the CMO,” s+b, Winter 2004: Harvard Business School studies of the pinnacle role in a well-designed marketing profession pyramid. Click here.
  5. Tesco annual review: Source of detail on this innovative market-facing retailer. Click here.
  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004: Source of figures on marketing professionals.Click here.Click here.Click here.
  7. For more articles on marketing, sign up for s+b’s RSS. Click here.
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