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The ego has landed

It’s a sobering thought that the credit crunch started six years ago –  the ECB and the US Fed began pumping money into their respective economies in August 2007.

Since that world-changing moment, we’ve adjusted to a new style of marketing, which you could euphemistically call ‘revenue focused’; or perhaps ‘backs to the wall’ or ‘desperate’ if your glass was half empty.

However you describe it, the words ‘demand generation’ have become common parlance in this period, whilst ‘brand’ has become a dirty word. Marketers, we are told, are focusing on revenue and sales alignment above everything else, meaning brand-focused activities (which are hard to measure or justify) have generally gone out of the window. Those practitioners who have refused to make this transition have found their marketing budgets, if not their jobs, on the line.

So it came as a complete surprise to hear that brand is very much still on the agenda for many B2B organisations – although often for the wrong reasons. My revelation occurred at the recent roundtable that we conducted for senior B2B marketers, in association with Ogilvy. 

Far from being totally against brand marketing, the panel agreed that CEOs often demand it as a means of competing in a kind of corporate ego arms race – and to maintain their personal prestige. This is despite the economic backdrop that sees marketing spend under constant threat and intense scrutiny. As one attendee testified “the CEO once asked ‘why we don’t advertise more in airports’?”

The panel were remarkably sanguine and pragmatic about this situation, regarding it as part of their job to manage these illogical, contradictory and potentially conflicting requirements.

Now more than ever it seems that politics is central to the role of the B2B marketing leader, and no-where is this more important than when dealing with the CEO. Practitioners must be able to speak the language of the board, to understand (if not agree with) their sense of priorities and be willing to acquiesce to these if required. Understanding how far to compromise and judging where to make a stand could be the factors that determine which marketers will fail and which succeed.