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


Growth Champions

How to drive the only marketing metric that matters.

Illustration by Seymour Chwast
What distinguishes a truly great marketer? In earlier times, leaders at consumer product and service companies might have answered by citing brand management, creativity, or promotional expertise. But today, they’d say it is the ability to grow a business, particularly in mature or established industries, or across an expanding base of potential customers. In an era of unlimited opportunities but constrained resources, the only marketing metric that matters is growth. Driving growth means stretching the traditional boundaries of the marketing function to encompass activities many companies don’t even think of as marketing — yet.

In late 2005 and early 2006, Booz Allen Hamilton and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) surveyed 2,000 executives about the structure and practice of their companies’ marketing organizations. Marketing organizations, we found, broke down into six basic categories, each with its own orientation to its role within the company, its primary constituents, and its most important capabilities within the marketing domain. (For more about the six categories, and to consider which one your team might fit into, see “The Marketing Organization's DNA.”) But only one of the six organization types correlated clearly with better performance; teams in this category are 20 percent more likely to exhibit superior revenue growth and profitability for their industry than marketing departments in the other five categories.

We call these marketers Growth Champions. Although only 9 percent of the companies we surveyed have marketing departments that fall into this category, their traits and experiences suggest methods by which all marketers can increase their ability to generate superior results, no matter which type of organization they have today.

Unlike the other five categories, Growth Champions see themselves as “owners” of their company’s key growth-support functions, whether or not these fit into conventional definitions of marketing practice. The chief marketing officer (CMO or equivalent head) of a Growth Champion marketing department leads such general management activities as product innovation and new business development; he or she also approves large investment decisions to enter new markets or launch new products. In addition to their broader scope of responsibility, Growth Champions share several other significant characteristics:

  • They can identify their contributions to revenue growth, and they gain added authority from their ability to define return on investment (ROI).
  • Their members have a broader range of capabilities than their counterparts in other companies.
  • They use standardized tools and processes for efficiency.
  • They are proactive, not reactive, in providing both guidance and services that they believe add value to the senior leadership team.
  • They are perceived by other executives, especially C-suite officers, as contributors to and leaders of the growth agenda.

Though Growth Champions constitute a relatively small portion of the marketing universe, there are indications that more companies are advancing in this direction. Last year, for example, Coca-Cola Company announced it was eliminating the position of chief marketing officer and rolling marketing, innovation, and strategic growth leadership into a single corporate function. Coke followed Pepsi, Intel, IBM, Samsung, and other pioneers in explicitly linking the marketing function and the imperative for growth.

Leading the Business
The six types of marketing organizations fall into three broader pairs, related to the primary role the marketing department plays in the life and activities of the firm. The most traditional marketing teams, Service Providers and Brand Builders, specialize in delivering conventional marketing services to teams or the whole company, respectively. Best Practices Advisors and Senior Counselors play a more consultative role, adding advisory services to the mix of tactical support. Those in the final pair, Marketing Masters and Growth Champions, take active leadership roles in their companies. The Growth Champion CMO and the Marketing Master CMO are both members of the firm’s leadership team, for example.

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  1. DataMonitor, “International Business Machines Corporation Company Profile,” updated July 2005: Source (along with interviews) of information about IBM. Click here.
  2. Paul Hyde, Edward Landry, and Andrew Tipping, “Making the Perfect Marketer,” s+b, Winter 2004: The earlier Booz Allen/ANA study reveals the love–hate relationship between marketing and strategy. Click here.
  3. Gail McGovern and John A. Quelch, “The Fall and Rise of the CMO,” s+b, Winter 2004: Harvard professors describe the innovative position of the “super-CMO,” a harbinger of Growth Champion marketers. Click here.
  4. Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack, “The Cat That Came Back,” s+b, Fall 2005: Basic overview of the organizational DNA concept, describing the successful strategic change made at Caterpillar — with many implications about the relationship of marketing and strategy. Click here.
  5. Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack, Results: Keep What’s Good, Fix What’s Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance (Crown Business, 2005): A comprehensive guide to organizational DNA.
  6. Marketing Profiler Web site: Anyone can take the survey and learn more about their own company’s marketing capability and predisposition. Click here.
  7. For more articles on marketing, sign up for s+b’s RSS feed. Click here.
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