Interview: Philip Kotler

Philip Kotler examines why marketing isn't always high on the boardroom agenda


The world’s leading marketing expert, Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, talks about why marketing isn’t high enough up the boardroom agenda, what place social responsibility has in marketing and the future challenges facing marketing.

Interview by Stuart Crainer.

There is a lot of debate at present about how to move marketing higher up the boardroom agenda. What are your thoughts on this?

Marketing is poorly understood by business leaders. They largely view marketing as a promotion function. In too many companies, marketers have become 1P marketers, the 1P being “promotion”. Their responsibility and control of the other 3 Ps – product, price, and place (distribution) – has weakened and is handled more actively by others. One factor is that many CEOs view marketing as the marketing budget, which is largely spent on promotion. People in other departments work actively on product (R&D), price (finance) and distribution (the sales force).

Where is the unified vision that starts with defining target markets and their needs and carries this all the way to preparing integrated solutions? My view is that marketing must become the driver of business strategy. Businesses that grasp the true role and potential of marketing will use it as the driver of their business strategy and not simply as a tactical complement. Marketing must also gain a seat on the board, which is rare. Today top management consists largely of people from accounting, finance or legal backgrounds.

That said, marketing cannot be resurrected overnight. In the first place, too many marketers have become so specialised that they don’t think in terms of the company’s big picture. Marketers typically lack financial and strategic skills. Second, marketers won’t get more respect until they learn how to deliver more ROI accountability for what they spend. CEOs want and deserve better metrics for measuring marketing’s ROI.

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