Conversations with Marketing Masters

By Laura Mazur and Louella Miles

This book sets out to offer some compelling insights into the often-controversial concept of marketing by assembling the collected wisdom of some of the world’s most influential marketing gurus. Contributions range from reflections on their professional journeys to current views on the state of marketing today. It also offers their thoughts on where particular companies have taken the right — or wrong — route to market.

For instance, the interviews reveal:

  • David Aaker’s determination to use the concept of brand equity to put brands onto the strategic agenda.
  • Philip Kotler’s lifelong mission to dispel the myth that marketing contributes very little to company success in the long term.
  • Jean-Claude Larreche’s passion to raise the game in terms of marketing leadership and marketing excellence.
  • Regis McKenna’s marketing vision that launched some of the legendary names of Silicon Valley.
  • How Don Peppers and Martha Rogers turned traditional marketing on its head by pioneering the idea of one-to-one marketing.
  • John Quelch’s quest to untangle the intricacies and research the benefits of global marketing.
  • The journey made by Al Ries from the seminal concept of positioning to his modern take on focus and divergence.
  • How Don Schultz’s founding of integrated marketing communication led to his current emphasis on organisational alignment.
  • Why Patricia Seybold’s trailblazing work into the impact of interactivity has started a revolution in the way companies deal with their customers.
  • Positioning co-founder Jack Trout’s fervent belief that some of the biggest problems facing marketing today are Wall St and uninterested CEOs.
  • Lester Wunderman’s delight that the internet has brought to life his dream of true dialogue between consumers and advertisers.

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Following is an excerpt from the chapter of the book featuring Q&A with David Aaker:

Q: What is your current view of marketing? How has it changed in the intervening years, and why?

A: There is a tension in most firms with respect to marketing. Should it be strategic or tactical? Should it be centralized or decentralized? There are efforts to change marketing to make it more strategic and centralized, but the pace is spotty. Another major change is that mass communication vehicles that marketers have relied on in the past are much less effective and dominant, so there is a need to develop and manage new brand-building efforts.

Q: Where do you think it’s going wrong? Going right?

A: I think it varies by firm. Those firms that are blessed with a depth of marketing talent and an externally-oriented CEO with marketing instincts, such as Procter & Gamble (P&G), are making good progress. But those firms that lack a marketing capability and have technical or finance-oriented CEO’s often flounder. They frequently encounter situations where marketing, and especially branding, is undeniably important but they don’t have a clue what to do.

There is often a tipping point, a point at which the CEO who was a spectator becomes engaged. That often occurs when there is a new business strategy that is not supported adequately by the current brand assets. Brand strategy, as a result, becomes a priority and the CEO gets involved in making it happen. Sometimes the CEO, who was recently on the sidelines, then becomes an evangelist for brands.

Q: What happens when they reach that tipping point?

A: The CEO often gets personally involved in articulating the business strategy, creating a vision for the brand, linking the vision to the values and culture of the organization, and helping to communicate that vision. They usually also actively attempt to find a CMO and marketing team that are competent and credible using internal or external sources or both. Until that tipping point is reached, it’s hard to get on their radar screen. They view marketing as tactical. It’s something that can be delegated, that they needn’t worry about.

Q: In the USA the role of CMO seems to becoming more prevalent. Is this helping to raise the stature of marketers?

A: Without question. There is a new breed of CMO coming along with two major goals. The first is to get control of product and/or geographic silos, which are prevalent in virtually all organizations, from General Motors (GM) to Hewlett Packard to Unilever to Citigroup. Each silo has its own marketing group that has an ‘I know this market and your don’t’ orientation. Unfettered decentralization has a host of advantages including fostering business vitality and adaptability but also results in unacceptable inefficiencies and lost opportunities. As a result firms are realizing that accountability and central control of brands and programs need to be introduced.

The second is to provide market-driven growth to the firm. In many cases the firm, which may have relied on downsizing and acquisitions to achieve financial performance, has explicitly targeted the need to grow internally. The CMO naturally needs to own this effort if it is to be more than ad hoc initiatives.

The challenge is how to introduce a CMO-led central marketing to resistant organizations.

Q: Why are some organizations resistant to this new breed of CMO?

A: The decentralized units are reluctant to lose power and budget to a central group for selfish reasons and also because they believe they simply know better. They can access political and process tools to obstruct a new CMO. Further, it is often easy to relegate marketing to a tactical role and resist including the CMO as a driving partner for a strategic growth strategy. So it can be difficult for a new CMO to achieve credibility and effectiveness in a resistant organization. One study said that the average life of a CMO is 18 – 20 months, which is a dramatic commentary on the job.

Q: What advice would you give to these CMOs about managing brands across product and geographic silos?

A: I recently completed a CMO study that provided some guidelines. First, attempt to get the CEO on board and leverage that involvement. Second, create a strong team that can demonstrate competence and results. Third, develop and use cross-business task forces and teams to break down silos. Fourth, get easy wins to demonstrate success. Fifth, play the facilitator role, which is much less threatening than more ambitious roles, to influence strategy. Sixth, deliver excellence, starting with the brand vision. Excellence attracts supporters. Finally, don’t over-centralize but balance central opportunities and local needs.

Reproduced with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., from Conversations with Marketing Masters. Copyright © 2007 by Laura Mazur and Louella Miles. This book is available at all bookstores, online booksellers, from the Wiley web site at and

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