Do marketing directors make good chief executives?
Directory-enquiries firm 118 118 has just handed its top job to former Superdrug marketing director Gerry Murphy, while several bosses with marketing backgrounds were listed in Marketing’s Power 100.
SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR
It’s said that the two most important skills a chief executive needs are the ability to demonstrate strong leadership and motivate colleagues. You can’t motivate people without understanding what makes them tick, and no person can better understand how different we all are than a marketing director. As for leadership, it’s all about motivating people toward a common goal, which is a pretty good definition of a marketing director’s role in itself. Add to this a marketer’s communication skills, logical yet creative thinking, team working and ability to manage people, grow business, hit deadlines and meet budgets, and you have a pretty good chief executive on your hands.
DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY
SAATCHI & SAATCHI
Others in the organisation may have greater experience at managing the supply side of the business, but this is often precisely why marketing directors make great chief executives – because they are dedicated to understanding how to generate fresh demand – they are focused on growth. Add to that their innate belief in the commercial power of brands to extract value from consumers and the truth is they are often perfectly placed to drive the business forward. Marketing directors also recognise the importance of emotionally engaging their audience. If they apply this within their organisation, they will have a motivated and productive workforce, too.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
But 10 years ago, the answer would definitely have been no. There has been a sea-change in marketers’ calibre – they are no longer about fluffy words and pretty pictures. Today’s successful marketers are commercially savvy, hard-nosed business people who know every aspect of a business and consider the bottom line in every decision they make. They also know the brand is everything and have become the spokesperson for the consumer – again vital in today’s market. Marketers, particularly those who have worked their way up through a business, are perfectly placed to lead the board – and even more so in a recessionary market, where they can deliver real ROI from the front.
SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT EMEA
The question should be why wouldn’t a marketing director make a good chief executive. Customer-centric businesses are winning today, so who better to lead them than someone able to grow the value of the customer base? The ability to deliver profits by looking at customers, brands and markets commercially and creatively has earned marketers their places at board tables and make them natural candidates for the top job. Today’s board-level marketers need great relationships with their finance and operational colleagues, just as chief executives do. An interesting question is whether they change the balance of power and, if so, whether the consumer wins.
Rod Geoghegan works with Marketing Services Agencies, Tech Start-ups and Professional Services Firms to plan and deliver growth.
He is Founding Partner at Metropolis Partners