A Three-Pillared Approach to Marketing Leadership

Posted by Daniel Incandela on

When you work in and talk about marketing long enough, you begin fine-tuning a personal philosophy about your craft. In recent months, I have pondered the overall role of marketing within a company and how I want to shape it in my own personal style.

This has led me to what I think of as the three pillars of marketing. It may seem overly simplistic, but at the very least, I believe marketing should fulfill three basic promises to the rest of the organization.

  1. Build, drive, and evolve a healthy brand
  2. Deliver meaningful demand, new business, and metrics
  3. Contribute and add to a thriving company culture

In your own marketing role, I challenge you to think about your underlying philosophy. It will help you frame your leadership style, but will also provide a structure for how you position marketing’s role to the rest of the organization. As marketers, we are also storytellers and it’s important to communicate across the company.

Pillar 1: Branding

Let’s jump into the first pillar: branding. It can be intimidating at times. It’s difficult to measure. And it can be hard to define. Here’s how I think about branding: it’s the personality of a company.

In reality, the brand is owned and embodied by the entire company, but it is absolutely marketing’s responsibility and duty to build the brand identity, drive brand awareness, and evolve the brand as the business (hopefully) grows and changes. Employees are the best brand ambassadors, and marketing will have many supporters within the company, like your HR or Sales team. But brand begins with the marketing team.

Think about it this way. A marketer’s job is to create wonderful experiences like events and campaigns and content; or in this case, a culture. Take this responsibility seriously. A healthy brand drives healthy results. And in this era, marketing is expected to deliver better results.

Additionally, the brand weaves itself into a number of integral marketing functions that often go overlooked. The brand voice, messaging, and positioning are all inspired by the company culture and mission. The adjectives used to describe your brand are likely the same or similar to the ones that pop up in your corporate messaging and competitive differentiation. They describe, how your customers are treated. Jeff Bezos sums it up nicely when he says, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

Don’t underestimate the power of good, authentic branding.

Pillar 2: Demand

I don’t recall another time when marketing was under such immense pressure to deliver results and justify their program spend. We have at our fingertips an unprecedented amount of data we can use to make better decisions with more pressure to perform.

I love this quote from Ewan McIntyre with Gartner for Marketers: “As CMOs survey the landscape, one thing is clear—previous budget increases have come with weighty expectations, some of which have yet to be met.” We have a duty and responsibility to perform. We should be held accountable in delivering meaningful demand, driving new business, and improving metrics. I love this approach, because numbers do not lie.

Marketing is often perceived as emotive, experiential, and left-brained. And while that’s true, it also doesn’t tell the whole story. This disconnect can lead to confusion internally about the exact role marketing serves, how we spend money, etc. Again, this is why I appreciate the numbers.

Driving towards a strong ROI, justifying your spend, and delivering results to your sales team is the best way of improving credibility and perception within your organization. This leads to more freedom, support, collaboration, and a “seat at the table” when it really counts.

There are a few actions I think are crucial to setting your marketing team up for success in driving demand and proving value to the organization:

  • Own a healthy relationship with sales.
  • Deliver a ROI focused approach to marketing initiatives.
  • Empower your entire marketing org to lead with data and metrics.
  • Be fully transparent to the entire company in your decision making.

Pillar 3: Culture

Culture got a brief mention earlier when I was talking branding. Apologies if that is confusing! Branding and culture are good friends—in fact, they’re connected at the hip—but they’re not the same thing. Marketers need to give some serious thought to how they can shape a more positive culture within their organization, independent of brand.

Internally, marketing has always been considered a “service industry.” We help our colleagues across departments, we get countless requests for help, and we embrace collaboration. We are also champions of company culture, which is something we should not take for granted.

Marketing is like a heartbeat, providing energy, creativity, and inspiration. This manifests in many different ways, including how the company operates, how our offices look and feel, and how we come together as a group. This can be hard to measure and goes far beyond our current metrics driven obsession. But it remains important.

A great culture positions everyone for success. A selfless approach to the company’s success inspires those around us. And a healthy, thriving culture will influence everything from employee retention to customer success to product innovation to meeting revenue targets. The brand and culture is owned by everyone. But marketing should lead the charge. Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO at Airbnb puts it much better than I can: “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”

These are my three pillars of marketing. What are yours?

This post originally appeared on Martech Advisor.


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About Daniel Incandela

Daniel Incandela joined Return Path in January 2015 and currently serves as Chief Marketing Officer. As the head of Return Path’s marketing organization, Daniel’s vision shapes the direction of global marketing efforts, providing leadership and innovative strategy to drive the business forward. Prior to Return Path, Daniel held marketing and digital leadership roles at Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget), Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In each of these positions, he reinvented the organization’s approach to marketing and established new standards for digital marketing excellence.

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