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February, 2024

Why Market Leaders Need Marketing Leaders

Bruce McDonald FCPM GAICD BEcon (ANU)
Board Director, Australian Marketing Institute; Member of Professional Advancement Committee
February 2024

Market leading brands, whether long established (e.g. Toyota in Australia, every year since 2003) or newly ‘crowned’ leader (e.g. Chinese EV manufacturer BYD globally, in 2023), are always under attack from their competitors and challenger brands.

How, and how effectively, leading brands (in any sector) defend their leadership, requires them to constantly optimise the application of marketing strategies available. Continuous new product or service innovation, customer value proposition reinforcement, memorable and remarkable customer experience enhancement, application of technology to deliver frictionless business processes and ‘Blue Ocean’ thinking are just some of the numerous options which can be applied to defend and protect market dominance.

The above defensive strategies, and numerous others, are available to the leaders of leading brands. The creation of a sustainable competitive advantage, including a source of differentiation which is valued by existing and potential customers, is the core principle driving their continued success.

But the attainment of sustainable competitive advantage and brand differentiation doesn’t just ‘happen’. It requires numerous attributes and behaviours within the business, most importantly leadership. Marketing Leadership.

It’s plausible to suggest that the sustained success of a business is the responsibility of the entire leadership team. But ‘when the music stops’, it’s the marketing leader who owns this responsibility.

That means you! Are you the marketing leader in your business? What does it take for you to effectively deliver strategic marketing leadership?

Here’s a suggested short-list of six (marketing) leadership behaviours to consider, drawn from my extensive local and overseas career, in no priority:

  • Growth Mindset, specifically revenue growth mindset. You may be already the CMO or aspire to be appointed to that role. Why not redefine your role as the CGO? Chief Growth Officer? As the custodian of your business’s brand, the responsibility to drive revenue growth starts, and stops, with you.
  •  Inspirational Leadership. If you’re a marketing leader, you’re a people leader. Your people. They constantly look to you to deliver exemplary soft skills, all the time. Remember, you need these soft skills to make hard decisions, invariably those which impact people.
  • Customer Fixation. Business success requires more than just customer satisfaction. Of the numerous metrics available (NPS, et al.), the ultimate measure of your customers’ experience with your brand is their loyalty, as demonstrated by their willingness to repurchase your product or service, with its associated favourable margin implications. As the marketing leader, your behaviour as the resident customer champion defines the culture of your team, and indirectly the entire organisation.
  • Commercial Acumen. As the marketing leader, you’re running a business, ideally a profitable business. It’s essential you understand and be able to interpret the financial and regulatory implications of your marketing decisions. Incidentally, if you’re a leader in the Not For Profit sector, NFP also means not for loss (or deficit).
  • Uncompromised Integrity and Humility. Frankly, if these words need an explanation, you may need to reconsider your leadership aspirations! Embedded within this behaviour is the principle of the Shadow of the Leader, a topic for another time.
  • Relentless Pursuit of Excellence. Perfection is unachievable and an unrealistic expectation. As marketing leader, your pursuit of excellence, and rejection of mediocrity (good enough is never good enough!) sets the standard for others to emulate.

You’ll have noticed I earlier described the above behaviours as (marketing) leadership behaviours. Why (marketing)? Quite simply, they’re not exclusively marketing behaviours. They strengthen your brand, and your business, as you strive for, or defend your market leadership.

That’s why market leaders need marketing leaders … like you!