What Marketers Need to Become C-Level Leaders

October 13,2016

by Carla Johnson

You become like the people you surround yourself with.

We’ve heard that since we were knee high from our parents. It’s the reason they wouldn’t let us hang out with the coolest of the cool kids.

“If SHE jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?”

I realize her point was that I shouldn’t follow the cool kids just because they’re cool. But, dang, I have to admit that more than once I thought that if all it took to hang with the cool kids was to jump off a cliff, I’d do it.

What my mom pointed out is what I now know to be true: You become like the people you spend time with. You begin to normalize aspirations and expectations. Your behaviors have more common ground.

Which is why I found a recent article in Forbes interesting. “Survey Reveals The Companies That Develop The Best C-Level Marketing Leaders In 2016.” It turns out that if you’re a marketer, where you work and who you work with has a big impact on the likelihood of moving up to a C-level executive.

While marketers struggle for traction and credibility, this article lists a breeding ground of brands who consistently – as in for decades – produce top talent for the C-suite. The article looked into this and found a critical distinction between the do’s and don’ts of boosting the executive population…

“Importantly, the best companies tend to put marketers in strategic roles, rather than marketing communication roles. In some industries, marketers are relegated to communicating the strategic innovations led by others. In the best firms, marketers are in the driver’s seat in terms of developing the direction for innovation. This is a big difference. The former tends to prepare marketers to be communicators while the latter prepares marketers for the C-suite.”

Looking at what the top firms did differently, it boils down to seven factors:

  1. Recruit the top talent. To become the best at what you do you have to invest in the people you hire. These firms picked top talent from MBA programs and other companies.
  2. They deliver the best training. These brands have created systematic, rigorous, and disciplined approaches to development. Managers are often held accountable for grooming those below them. Some firms provide cross-functional training while others provide cross-brand training.
  3. They have a long track record. A reputation is built over time. Executive recruiters talk about how important it is that these companies have demonstrated that they have a “system” for developing C-level talent that transfers well to other firms and industries.
  4. They’re trained to be strategic P&L leaders who “own” brand results. To reach the C-level in any profession, you have to have P&L management experience. Not every company believes that marketing’s a central function. And without that support, they don’t offer marketers enterprise-wide training and preparation. In contract, the firms on this list value marketers and train them to be enterprise-wide, P&L leaders who are accountable for total business results—not responsible for just a cost center.
  5. They have superior consumer-insight generating, analytically-centered skills. Customers rule. And the marketers in these organizations are customer-centered, which gives them the ability to generate innovation-creating insights. Customer focus and innovation isn’t a marketing thing; it’s a cultural thing.
  6. The best firms are big. Let’s face it, the bigger the brand, the bigger the range of opportunities to spread your wings. These companies are all global and large enough to be well resourced—including budgets that let marketers make investment decisions to drive growth.
  7. They have purpose-driven and values-based cultures. P&G’s one of the most well-known in this area. The brand’s mission is to provide products and services of superior quality that improve the lives of the world’s consumers. J&J’s puts the needs and well-being of the people they serve first. Starbucks’ mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time. And Coca Cola’s mission is to refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit. These companies all put the customer at the center of the firm, have lofty, aspirational mission statements, and have created cultures that stand the test of time.

Read the full article here

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Photo credit: Flickr user Hernen Pinera

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author