Written By: By Lawrence Kutinyu

How do we get every board to have a marketing professional?

Marketing has been defined in short as the anticipation and satisfaction of consumer and customer needs. This means every business that exists has done some form of Marketing. It means every person lives by selling something. So that means this profession is very critical to the success of every organisation profit and not for profit.

Unfortunately, research has shown that marketers, despite their said and accepted importance  in all organisations, they  are rarely represented at the strategic level i.e. as CEO and board members. A research paper in the Journal of Marketing by Kim Whitler et al states that from a study of 65 000 global board members, only 2,6% were marketing-experienced board members (MEBM).

Is this picture the same in Africa and Zimbabwe?

Sadly Yes. In SA in a study that we conducted of 20 JSE listed companies there were only 14 MEBMs compared to 72 with a Finance background and in Zimbabwe  on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange  in a sample of 20 companies only 7 members have a marketing background vs 42 with a background  in finance. This makes for dire reading especially because the 2009 Cranfield Business School White Paper, which included 100 chief financial officers within its survey, found there was no significant difference in the proportion of chief marketing officers and CFOs that recognised the strategic importance of marketing (68%) or the exceptional importance of branding (80%) to their business.

Whitler’s study  found that of the 1500 S&P firms studied over a 6 year period, those with MEBM delivered on average 3 percentage points higher returns than those without, with the stats being higher when the firm was in decline.

Of interest is also a study by Hedrick and Struggles which found that of the Fortune 1000 companies only 34 Marketing Directors sit on the executive board. On the FTSE 100 18% of the CEOs are former Marketers making Marketing the second most common route to CEO only behind those in Finance (36%). 

So why there are so few marketers on the boards despite the proven worth of their presence?

The below are answers from board members who were asked this question. They are not nice to hear but give context to current position and as a profession we need to demystify them if we are to increase our influence

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