Marketing is the lifeblood of any business. Without loyal and engaged customers and new customers, a business will wither and die. All successful companies know this. What they may not know is that having a true marketing leader has never been more important.

Regardless of title – Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), VP of Marketing, Marketing Director (for smaller companies), or VP Sales & Marketing – companies need someone whose primary responsibility is to lead the marketing function. With the economy finally doing well again, businesses have come out of their foxholes and are focusing on growth and innovation. Hence, the role of the Marketing Leader takes on added importance.

 What does the Marketing Leader do?

In this new era of marketing, the Marketing Leader develops and positions the company’s brand for the long term while engaging customers 24/7. Engagement is critical because it:

  • Shows that the brand is honest, authentic and cares
  • Enables the company to respond quickly in ways that won’t harm its long-term brand identity
  • Provides an important source for innovation
  • Helps keep the brand relevant in the eyes of its customers and potential new target audiences

Branding and Politics: The Positioning of Hillary Clinton

Business is no longer the sole domain of branding efforts. Recently, Hillary Clinton hired Wendy Clark, president of brands and strategic marketing at Coca-Cola, as her CMO.  Clinton already has an army of political strategists, advisors and pollsters to help her get elected, why does she need Clark? Clark’s role is to position the former First Lady for her entire presidency, not just help her win one election.

To do this, she needs to position Clinton in the context of her target audience – the American people. She needs to frame who Clinton really is, what she stands for/her value system, how she differs from everyone else seeking the office, and why we should believe that this will help her govern well.

Clark’s challenge will be defining Clinton’s true brand personality.  Do the American people want her to be competent and sincere? Or would we prefer exciting and sophisticated? Whatever brand she ends up with, it must be consistent. Americans are tired of politicians who careen from issue to issue (based on what their handlers advise is the most expedient political solution) rather than doing what they believe is right.

Branding political leaders reminds us of the age-old conflict between marketing and sales. Sales focuses on short-term goals while the brand is built for the long term. In politics, the election is the short-term goal, albeit a big one, and the brand lives on to govern for the long term.  Voters want to know who they are really getting.

Most importantly, a well-positioned and consistent brand is hard to de-position. For example, if a conservative politician accuses a rival of being a tax-and-spend liberal, people will look at a well-positioned and consistent brand and say, “No, that characterization doesn’t fit.”

Core Brand Promise and Innovation

To connect with the target audience, a brand must be as good as the product or service. Does the brand (and its promise) meet or exceed expectations? Is it positioned to deliver? Good marketers can gain a product trial, but it’s the product’s intrinsic qualities that drive repeat business. The political corollary is the one term politician. They get elected (trial) and serve just one term because they under (or don’t deliver). That is bad execution against the brand promise.

Importantly, brands must evolve and innovate or they die (think Kodak and Blockbuster). In business, the Marketing Leader ensures that the entire brand is consistent in how it speaks and evolves. In politics, innovation allows politicians to embrace ideas, understand those ideas in the context of their brand, and consistently evolve their positions.

To evolve and innovate while keeping the brand consistent, organizations must embrace the Marketing Leader. In a recent Fortune article, columnist Verne Harnish said the two most important things a business can do is have the CMO and CEO engage with each other on a daily basis, and have marketing and R&D collaborate more to drive relevant innovation.

Positioning a brand isn’t easy. But if the core brand is strong, it can be effectively positioned to reach its target audience while also inspiring a broader audience that aspires to the brand. Hillary Clinton has taken the first step in hiring a Marketing Leader. It will be interesting to see where her brand ends up.

Is your organization committed to empowering your Marketing Leader to drive authentic brand growth and innovation? We’d like to hear your comments or examples.

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