on marketing and leadership

Last week’s Ad Age juxtaposed 2 pieces worth noting:

First was an excerpt from David Aaker‘s latest book, “Spanning Silos:  The New CMO Imperative.” Its main thesis was, “Autonomous silos defined by products, countries or functions, often operating in isolation if not in competition with each other, are no longer a viable option…However, that does not mean the answer is to blow them up, or even that the goal of the organization should be to centralize or standardize. Rather, silo-driven problems should be addressed using a variety of approaches, each geared to the context at hand.”

It went on to provide recommendations for addressing silos such as “One route to getting the CEO onboard is to align the role of marketing with that of the CEO’s priority agenda” and “Another route is to use hard numbers to show the relationship between marketing and financial performance.”

While I agree with these points, I found them quite intuitive and was left wondering what the big “a-ha” is.  I am a big fan of Aaker’s (his Managing Brand Equity and Building Strong Brands texts have largely shaped the thinking and practice of my 18+ year career in brands), so I’m taking a risk by questioning what’s the news here.

But I do hope the book provides more prescriptive and specific advice, and gets into what the piece features as its last sentence “The key is to provide the freedom that will empower the silos to hit home runs and give the organization communication and sensing power to identify great marketing when it does occur; and the process power to test the ideas and roll them out.”  Learning how to do that would be great.

The second of the 2 Ad Age pieces was a commentary by Jonathan Salem Baskin, author of “Branding Only Works on Cattle.” I’ve only recently gotten to know Jonathan, but the more I learn his POVs, the more I really value them.

His piece discussed how Steel City Re developed an innovative way to objectively measure their brand’s value.  Their methodology, Jonathan explained, “quantifies ‘reputation’ as the sum of non-balance-sheet assets that can be managed and changed — that is, the business processes that drive quality, affirm sustainability, create security, ensure safety and promote integrity.”  For a company like Steel City Re, their “reputation” functions like their brand, so essentially they’ve developed a forward-looking management tool that helps them assess and manage risks to their brand.

Jonathan ended his column by saying, “Thinking of brand as the outcome of business performance rather than what’s applied to business performance would open up both resources and ideas (and not just nice words and images) that should be applied to the dire challenge of selling stuff.”  Wow — that’s a big idea!

And it’s a great answer to the challenge to “reframe marketing as strategic — a driver of the business strategy instead of a tactical management function” which Aaker issues in his piece.  Thanks, Jonathan, for outlining one way to make “brand-as-business.”

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