Over the last five years, I have been visiting the business faculty at the University of Queensland to give guest lectures on marketing. My lectures mostly focus on how to overcome the challenges faced by marketers in today’s over-communicated world with massive media fragmentation.

Every year, as students come and go, I get asked several interesting questions- the answers to which might also be useful to my blog readers. Hence, with this post, I’m starting a Q&A series where I’ll be answering questions that many marketers and executives ask or might want to ask.

Question: Why is the marketing department not taken seriously in many organisations and treated like a colouring in department whose job is to just churn out communication material? Is it their fault or Executive’s?

One of the reasons this happens is because of the communication gap between marketing and executive. When marketing presents to the executive, what the executive is looking for is bottom line impact. They want to know how the marketing department’s actions are going to increase the bottom line in terms of sales, reduced costs, increased loyalty, etc.

However, when marketers communicate, they use technical and esoteric marketing terms like brand position, brand equity, essence and awareness. Executives struggle to understand how all of this will translate into sales/profits. So there’s a clear gap in communication which leads to marketing being sidelined. It is almost like a Tower of Babel situation, where both parties get frustrated.

Time is another factor to consider. CEOs are typically focused on short-term gains such as shareholder returns, revenue and costs. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the average tenure of CEOs is reducing.  In comparison, some marketing initiatives only reap benefits in the longer term. The net result is higher focus on short term marketing campaigns around discounting, promotions etc.; initiatives that may achieve short-term results but not necessarily long term benefits.

A marketing department, when used strategically, can enable businesses to drive significant growth, increase customer loyalty and also save costs.

The onus of understanding this reality lies with both parties.

Keep watching this space for the next questions: If Internal Culture and Customer Experience are both in bad shape, what should one focus on first? and If, as you say, Word of Mouth (WOM) is four times more powerful than TV advertising, should one advertise at all?