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7 Forgotten Fundamentals of Marketing Leadership
Nov, 27,2012
Founder and CEO, Moksha Group

The marketing function has changed dramatically in a very short timeframe, causing marketers and their leaders to go into a bit of a frenzied tailspin trying to navigate – and deliver results in – the new landscape. The default response to our social, mobile and hyper-connected world is to keep learning and fixating on the new tactical tricks of the marketing trade. Marketers are working harder than ever, but aren’t necessarily getting more done nor achieving better results.

That’s because the success of what marketers do is now trumped by how they do it. By focusing on timeless, bedrock principles of marketing effectiveness, marketers can regain a solid footing and success, even as tactics and best practices in the marketing mix come and go. These principles emphasize things like agility over process, goals over function, and focus over frenzy.

Here are the 7 immutable fundamentals for marketers that separate the fabulous from the forgettable and the passionate from the burned out:

1. Focus

I’ve witnessed marketers get increasingly overwhelmed by trying to keep up on allfronts – new technologies, new media, new screens, new best practices. They fixate on shiny new tactics and lose sight of desired outcomes like revenue growth and customer loyalty. When this happens, highly talented marketers stop having a meaningful impact on their company, great campaigns fizzle, and results flatline. Company leadership and sales teams, equally enamored with everything new and sexy, exacerbate the problem with tactical requests (“We need a Pinterest account”) rather than strategic guideposts.

More than ever, marketers have to be ruthless about maintaining focus on their goals, and make the tradeoffs that yield the greatest return against the big-picture goals. The tendency is to want to do it all, but, as they say, if you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

2. Action-orientation
Pedigreed marketers have been trained to get things “right” before the big reveal or launch – testing concepts with audiences, agonizing over ad campaign creative, and rewriting copy until it was “perfect”. That doesn’t work when we operate at the “speed of social.” Perfection now gets in the way of effective.

Marketers today need to maintain a bias for action over apex, because they don’t need what’s perfect (perfection is subjective and elusive anyway); they need what WORKS – both for their company and their customers.

3. Connectedness
We humans are connected to an unprecedented degree because of the technologies and networks available to us. This connectedness has single-handedly raised the stakes for marketers: they can directly have positive impact on customers, colleagues, and brands, or they can unwittingly cross a line and create lasting damage.

Connectedness in marketing means several things:

·         A measure of a brand’s relationship with its audience. Today, brand awareness pales by comparison to brand connectedness as a measure of a company’s value.

·         A new way to talk about integrated marketing. All functions within marketing (branding, product, promotion, sales enablement, demand generation, etc.) must be connected more tightly than ever before to create a unified customer experience that begets unwavering loyalty.

·         A statement about how inter-related marketing is as a function. Because the customer is at the core of marketing’s raison d’etre, marketing is inextricably linked to all functions within a company. Ignore these connections and a company won’t operate optimally.

·         An approach to team management. Because the lines are blurring between marketing functions (who owns a campaign, for example?), in-fighting — or at least inefficiency — within marketing organizations is on the rise. Marketing leaders need to break down silos in favor of more goal-oriented connectedness.

·         A world view. A global mindset is critical today, even if your company has a single-market focus. Once you put up digital real estate, people around the world can easily check out what you’re up to, and tomorrow could be key to opening up new revenue streams.

4. Simplicity
Cutting through the proverbial noise of today’s stimulus-rich, product-rich, information-rich environment is essential to get anyone’s attention. Because complexity is what defines our very existence today, simplicity is what gets through. Think Amazon’s one-click. Or Apple’s click wheel. In fact, Siegel + Gale research confirms that the brands with the highest “simplicity index” do the best business-wise.

So make it simple, especially when it’s not: your messaging, your product design, how customers communicate and interact with you, and even reports to the board. Simplicity ironically takes more effort – so be prepared for that. Winston Churchill famously quipped, “I’m going to give a long speech today. I haven’t had time to prepare a short one.” The extra effort pays off exponentially.

5. Authenticity
Consumers today are uncannily good at sniffing out a fake personality or greasy sales message, and don’t respond well to them. They won’t hesitate to let their friends know to steer clear as well.  An authentic company is one that knows its purpose. Authenticity fuels everyone’s mandate within the company, and it’s what your customers, fans and followers bond to and (most importantly) get evangelical about.

Marketers are the key caretakers of corporate authenticity. Brand personalities, visual designs, tones of voice, and product innovation all evolve from this source, and pass through a marketer’s hand in one way or another. They need to take this role very seriously because the impact of one inauthentic action can be felt far and wide in today’s highly-transparent, lightning-quick environment.

6. Centeredness
Ancient Chinese philosophy teaches that the two opposites of everything – the male and female, the light and dark, or yin and yang – are interconnected and interdependent. The opposing forces are what form the whole and make things happen. Marketers face so many dichotomies today, and the temptation is to see things in black and white. But in order to really make things happen, enlightened marketers need to stop the pendulum swings and realize that only with heads and tails do they get a coin:

·         Long term and short term: I’d be the last one to advise against delivering leads, product, and revenue today, but over-focusing on immediate gains actually stifles growth. If companies aren’t investing time and resources in increasing awareness, growing their market, developing game-changing innovations, and building value in their brand, they will keep plodding along at their current pace of growth.

·         Left brain and right brain: Because this is the first generation of marketers to have access to tons of data and analytics, things like “the big idea” or “the creative person” feel out of fashion. But it’s the big idea and creative outputs that get to those human beings’ hearts and minds. Marketing leaders need to be as left-brained as Einstein and as right-brained as Picasso to fully deliver.

·         Centralized and decentralized: Effective marketers take the best of both approaches. They create on-brand, on-strategy guidelines for the business units and geographies to adopt and adapt to their particular needs, constraints or goals.

7. Flexibility
Because change is what’s happening every second, marketers have had their flexibility tested dramatically, and are struggling to adapt quickly enough. And things aren’t about to “settle down and get back to normal again.” The new normal is unsettled. Adaptability allows marketers to not only deal with constant disruptions, but also be more effective and efficient because of them. They need to build experimentation into their marketing plan, and agility into the DNA of their marketing organization.


Chaos theory states that, “We grow in direct proportion to the amount of chaos we can sustain and dissipate.” Firmly planted on the 7 fundamentals described above, marketers will be growing their careers and their companies like never before.