It is still a journalistic trick to pose a provocative question as an excuse to draw in viewers to watch the news. The one that caught my eye recently in the Wall Street Journal was the statement that the average tenure for chief marketing officers working for the county’s biggest brands has fallen for the second year in a row. You could easily infer from that, that marketing was losing its allure.
The WSJ article then fanned the flames of concern with: “Tough business headwinds, new technologies and pressures to change quickly” are among the many reasons for the churn, said Greg Welch, a consultant in Spencer Stuart’s marketing officer practice. “It’s the perfect storm.” The higher turnover rate is being driven, in part, by tough business conditions that many industries are dealing with, from retailers to consumer-goods companies — sectors that have seen profits slide as consumer shopping and eating habits change. “If you are CEO and you tried a game plan and it’s not working, what do you do,” Mr. Welch said. “You change the playbook and change the players.”
The winds of change are fickle of course. My favorite phrase here is to beware of the Seer Sucker Theory … that is for every Seer there is at least one Sucker. I seem to remember the theory that a chimpanzee could pick stocks as successfully as any of the famous portfolio prognosticators. It seems so alluring though when you look at the up and down cycles … there just must be a way to beat the odds here and get the upper hand.
The short shelf life for ideas isn’t the only problem discovered in the study. It also revealed shortfalls in the diversity that exists among the top CMOs in the country. Of the marketing chiefs looked at in the study, only 9% were African American, Hispanic or Asian, the study found moreover that about 23% are women. Advertising agencies are under increasing pressure to address diversity problems, which have been highlighted by several high-profile scandals involving accusations of sexist and racist behavior by agency executives.
This all starts to look like companies hiding behind social change as the excuse for failing to offer products and services customers want. Maybe that is because they still have not figured out how to differentiate themselves from all the lookalikes and knock offs. Where is another Steve Jobs when you really need one? We need truly new ideas that break paradigms.
Some of you know what I am talking about. We will be taking the wraps off this by this fall. And thanks to those of you who have stuck with us.