Secrets of the Marketing Masters

What the Best Marketers Do -- And Why It Works

 Secrets of the Marketing Masters

Author: Dick Martin
Pub Date: May 2009
Print Edition: $24.00
Print ISBN: 9780814409435
Page Count: 288
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814410226

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‘‘The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.

Only two functions do this: marketing and innovation.

All the rest are costs.’’



The late business guru Peter Drucker put marketing at the center

of a business’s purpose, but that center turns out to be peppered

with blind alleys and potholes.

What makes some marketers successful while others are the fruit

flies of the ‘‘C-suite,’’ nuisances who fill the air with buzzing but don’t

accomplish much in their blessedly short lives? Sadly, in recent years,

the fruit flies of marketing have been multiplying.1 According to executive

recruiter Spencer Stuart, chief marketing officers last only about

two years. Since it takes almost that long for most marketing campaigns

to get off the ground, it seems that the average chief marketing

officer has one—maybe two—times at bat. By contrast, the average

rookie baseball player can look forward to more than five and half

years in uniform.2

No one can bat a thousand, but a small number of marketers

would be on anyone’s All-Star team. I call them the masters of marketing.

They sometimes get their names in the paper. If, like some of the

people in this book, you work for an industry giant such as Procter &

Gamble, Unilever, General Electric, Diageo, Microsoft, Fidelity Investments

or American Express, it’s hard not to attract the media’s attention.

But the marketing masters are not necessarily ‘‘superstars’’

whose names bloom brightly in the media before fading away. Some

of them work quietly behind the scenes. They all tend to stay in one

place longer than average. And they seem to have cracked the code on

helping their companies achieve consistent profitable growth. What’s

their secret? That’s the question this book answers in terms that apply

to marketers of all stripes, whether ‘‘chief’’ or humble ‘‘brave.’’


As far as I know, no one has yet had the nerve to put ‘‘marketing

master’’ on his or her business card. And I’d look askance at anyone

who claimed the title out loud. If you have to say you’re a marketing

master, you’re probably not. But I know they’re out there, and I set

out to find some of them.

My first stop was at the door of the top executive recruiters—the

headhunters who created the title of chief marketing officer. Some cynics

say their purpose was merely to inflate the value of their searches;

others claim it was to give the head of marketing title parity with other

executives in the so-called ‘‘C-suite,’’ for example, chief executive officer,

chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and the like.3

Whatever their motives, the executive recruiters I spoke to made it

clear that more than extra feathers come with the designation of chief

marketing officer. Jane Stevenson, who leads the marketing practice

for the Heidrick & Struggles recruiting firm, says CEOs have different

expectations of their top marketers today. ‘‘Marketing used to be all

about advertising,’’ she says. ‘‘In the past, some companies would

house the ‘creative geniuses’ of marketing in padded cells, apart from

line leaders. Today, with business heads more stressed than ever,

they’re looking for business partners. Advertising is a much smaller

part of the equation.’’

Interestingly, the heads of the major advertising associations, who

were my next stop, agreed. For example, Bob Liodice, president of the

Association of National Advertisers, which bills itself as the voice of

the marketing community, says ‘‘I’d get rid of ‘advertising’ in our

name if I could, because it creates the connotation of a one-way monologue.

Marketing is a platform for creating customer connections. It’s

all about dialogue.’’ As head of the American Association of Advertising

Agencies from 1994 until his retirement in 2008, Burtch Drake

was Liodice’s counterpart in the ad agency world. ‘‘Every major ad

agency realizes its role is changing,’’ he told me, ‘‘but few have figured

out what to do about it.’’

In fact, the ad agency heads I spoke to thought marketing has

changed more in the last nine years than in the previous ninety. For

example, Shelly Lazarus, chairperson of Ogilvy&MatherWorldwide,

thinks that marketing is in its infancy again. ‘‘All the old formulas

need to be rethought,’’ she says. ‘‘New technologies have unleashed

changes in people’s behavior. They have different habits, whether

they’re shopping, working, or just hanging out at home.’’


The academics and consultants I interviewed also describe a function

trying to redefine itself. Donovan Neale-May is president of the GlobalFluency

communications firm that also operates the nonprofit CMO

Council, which he founded. Over the years, he has worked with hundreds

of the world’s leading marketers and has seen the shift in their

responsibilities firsthand. ‘‘Successful marketing executives today play

a role broader than just leading the marketing organization,’’ he says.

‘‘They help drive innovation and provide strategic vision.’’

At some companies, marketing is the engine of innovation; at others,

it provides critical fuel and direction. But everywhere there seems

to be a broad consensus that, whereas marketing used to be largely

about advertising, now it’s expected to influence, if not encompass,

the entire product realization cycle, from development to service.4

Modern marketing is just as central to a business’s purpose as Drucker


‘‘Marketing is all about growing the company by harnessing the

elements of the business in a profound way,’’ says Heidrick & Struggles’s

Stevenson. ‘‘In fact, some of the best marketers I know don’t

even have a marketing background. The CMO of Wachovia came

from treasury services, the CMOs of Target, Starbucks, Citigroup, and

Best Buy all have broad management experience that was originally

outside of marketing.’’


So, two dozen or so interviews in, it was pretty clear I wasn’t looking

for the secrets of this generation’s ‘‘Mad Men and MadWomen.’’ The

big ad agencies had not only moved off Madison Avenue, they no

longer show up as often in corporate boardrooms and executive suites.

The intellectual capital of the marketing world seems to have moved

to the client side.

With that in mind, I compiled a long list of candidates—people

who had attracted the attention of these industry leaders for their marketing

savvy. Some were the usual suspects who appeared on nearly

everyone’s list because of their high profile and record of accomplishment.

Others were relatively unknown, doing exceptional work in

quiet obscurity, often for companies struggling to recover from reverses

on someone else’s watch.

I spoke to as many of these individuals as I could, and to people

who had worked with them. I read about them and their companies.

And in the end, I developed a list of about a dozen people who are

clearly masters of marketing. They ranged from the well known—for

example, John Hayes at American Express and Beth Comstock at

General Electric—to the lower profile—for example, Lauren Flaherty

at Nortel and Alessandro Manfredi at Unilever. Some are entrepreneurs—

Steve Knox at Tremor and Dan Pelson at uPlayMe and the

Warner Music Group—while others have worked at one large company

for most of their professional life—Mich Mathews at Microsoft

and Michael Francis at Target. Some are technically not chief marketing

officers, but CEOs who still cast a large shadow over the function

that made their companies so successful—Tony Hsieh at Zappos and

Robert Stephens at The Geek Squad. Some are relatively new to the

function—Jon Iwata at IBM—while others have spent decades in

nearly every marketing discipline—Rob Malcolm at Diageo.

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