When Marketing Enters the Boardroom, How Can Agencies and Clients Respond?

Many company boards view the term “brand” as little more than a simple marketing tactic, not as a core driver of cash flow or a key to retaining a customer base.

In many cases, marketing as a whole is discussed from an ad-hoc perspective during budget talks—which is why it’s often the first expense to be cut when revenue comes into question.

It’s also the likeliest reason the marketing discipline is so underrepresented at the board level. Just look at the Fortune 1000: Active marketers don’t hold even 1% of board seats.

And that probably won’t change in the very near future, as marketing ranks toward the bottom of “most-wanted” board backgrounds at 21%—well behind financial expertise at 62%.

But business is much more competitive and moves at a faster pace than in years past, with the journey from marketing to revenue reduced dramatically. No longer is marketing the end of the pipe, focused solely on using a product or service and driving demand. As the world economy moves from pipe business models to platform- and ecosystem-based models, the dynamics of demand creation and monetization are merging to create holistic value. As a result, marketing will take a more central role in the new business dynamic.

And customers are driving it all. They are in full control of the path to purchase, increasingly demanding more from brands—with louder and louder voices, no less. If boardrooms fail to maintain a pulse-check, they can lose sight of a customer base. Now throw in changing forces of the market, especially with direct-to-consumer business models taking a stronger hold, and it only stands to reason that marketing needs a seat at the table.

Marketing can help leverage data to speak to the key dynamics of the business and keep the voice of the customer at the center of the boardroom.

Besides, Marketing often sits at the center of a company’s transformation. Whichever direction you move or innovate your brand, it will have limited value if it’s not connected to—or, indeed, driven by—customer needs.

The Agency-Business Relationship