Is Culture The New Mandate For Marketing?

[This is a guest blog post written by Brand ManageCamp 2018 speaker, Michael Brenner. It previously appeared on the Marketing Insider Group blog.]


I’ve been speaking and writing a lot lately on the topic of culture. We know that “Digital has changed everything” How we interact with the world, how we learn, how we buy stuff, even how we date.

For marketers, it has dramatically interrupted our marketing mix and the expectations from senior executives.

This disruption has forced executives to put increasing pressure on CMOs to implement marketing strategies and programs that deliver a quantifiable return on marketing investment. At the same time, marketing leaders are faced with colleagues across every function who have strong opinions about what marketing tactics we should deploy.

So we’re stuck between a rock and a very hard place. We’re stuck chasing shiny objects, such as new social channels, mobile ads, bots, augmented, and virtual reality. We’re stuck being asked by executives to splash our logos and ads in places our audiences ignore. All the while, we are being asked over and over again: “What’s the return on investment?”

Amid these increasing expectations, we have consumers who are tuning out and turning away from promotional advertising, and colleagues who aren’t sure if we should do what we’re told or what we know will deliver real results.

Which leads me to this point: The biggest threat inside companies today is a culture that doesn’t champion ideas from every employee.

Whether they are in sales, marketing, HR, customer support, operations, even legal and finance, every employee has a pulse on the goals of your company, the pains of your customers, and the challenges of their peers.

Culture, indeed, is the new mandate for business. Do you have a culture that encourages innovative ideas from these employees? Because no one has greater potential to impact your bottom line than happy and engaged employees.

Culture is shaped by the values that define who we hire, promote, and fire. And most organizations aren’t hiring and promoting their innovators. They are hiring and promoting those of us who protect the traditional hierarchies that no longer serve our business.

What organizations so desperately need today are leaders who encourage innovative ideas from around the organization. These “champion leaders” are looking to deliver organizational impact through employee engagement.

Champion leaders are rising from the ashes of traditional marketing. They no longer take orders to create content no one wants, to execute campaigns everyone ignores, and to slump in their chair when the results don’t materialize. They realize the true power and potential of their colleagues from around the organization. They realize they are the ones who know how to authentically reach new customers, to deliver the expertise customers need to succeed, and to deliver business impact that executives can be proud of.

How To Become A Champion Leader
You can easily identify champion leaders inside every organization based on the following traits:

  • They put the customer at the center of everything they do by asking one simple question: How will this impact our customers?
  • They encourage their peers to share their passion and expertise, not because the company wants them to, but because it benefits the employees themselves. They encourage their colleagues to build their personal brands around the things they know and love, knowing that passion is contagious to both potential customers and sought-after HR talent.
  • They know how to push back on self-serving ideas constructively. They not only ask, “What’s in it for the customer?” But they also challenge what impact decisions will have on their teams and the ability for measuring business impact.
  • They encourage champions across the entire organization. They know that real culture change doesn’t come from an executive mandate, an HR survey, or a revolution. Culture change happens when a critical mass of leaders start marching to the same tune of customer impact, employee engagement to deliver business results.

Digital disruption can be seen all around us. It has destroyed well-known brands and propelled previously unheard-of startups. It has many marketers and brands chasing the latest fad and shiny objects. We’re all looking for the magic bullet to survive in the digital age.

But this is a great time to push back against the bureaucracy. To fight for your customers, to lift up your team, to embrace innovative new ideas. And to drive culture change across every organization.

Culture is the new mandate for marketing. And this kind of change starts with leaders like you.

Are you interested in driving cultural transformation for your team? Contact me here and let’s talk about how I can help!

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by ForbesPlease follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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  1. Leigh Cowan

    Culture has actually been an inclusive function of Marketing. Anyone who genuinely understands the definition of Marketing knows it is NOT a synonym for “advertising” or “promotion”, but the holistic “management of exchange” including the 8P’s of Marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Processes, Positioning & Politics). Every complete Marketing Plan includes an INTERNAL Marketing action plan. Every genuine Branding expert is a master of the “Total Product Concept” and the effect culture has on brand equity.

    • Len Herstein

      Thanks for your comment Leigh! Based on my experience, though, I would say your perception of what is currently happening in the world of marketing is rosy at best. Ask people if they work for a company that has built a culture around championing new ideas, that don’t promote based on politics, that value the process as much as the results. You’ll get some outliers who will report that is their current working environment – but I believe most would not. So, in terms of what SHOULD be, I would say you and Michael are in complete agreement. There may be a gap, though, in the perception of where the majority of the world of marketing is on this today…


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