Everyone is on the Marketing Team

Who holds responsibility for marketing? While we as marketers certainly like to say we are in charge of our domain, the truth is, just about everyone in your organization plays a part.

One of publishing’s best known anecdotes tells how 10 years following initial publication of Stephen King’s The Stand he published an expanded edition. He explained that the original release required cutting about one-third of his content. This request came neither from editors nor publishers, who loved the book and cheered the full content. Instead it came from the accounting department. It did not matter how good the story was, the number crunchers said. A book that big would cost more than the market for Stephen King books could bear at that time.

This real-life example demonstrates how responsibility for marketing involves more than the department, sales force, or advertising. In this case offering a quality product with an appealing design to an established market following advanced promotion did not suffice for a realistic marketing plan. Notice that even those elements involve editing, art, design, sales, advertising, marketing, and production staff already. Despite all that, one of the most crucial marketing factors — product cost — meant that a massive work of literature needed one out of every three words cut.

Advertising is an important part of marketing, and you may say, “Advertising makes me buy products or services.” But if you ask a group of 19-year-olds what kind of toothpaste they use, about 90 percent of them use the same toothpaste they did when they were 6 years old. In this case, what determined the brand of toothpaste a 19-year-old uses? It’s whatever their parents bought, rather than advertising. Their parents might have thought about the purchase partially based on advertising, but it’s about a lot of other things. Likewise marketing and how it impacts consumers is much more than just advertising.

Modern marketing must overcome existing marketing momentum, such as the power of social media and search engines. This challenge only begins with official company sites. In 2009 a Domino’s Pizza employee in Conover, NC damaged the entire brand by posting a video on YouTube showing him tainting products. That video made its way around the world. ABC News credits Domino’s with proactive response, and using the same social media that distributed the content as vehicles to counteract the damage.

One employer takes a different route to enlist all employee personal influence in marketing. A New York City CBS affiliate reports that the CEO of Rapid Realty offers his employees a 15 percent raise for getting a tattoo of the company logo — any size, any place. So far 40 employees have accepted the offer. One commissioned employee expects it to mean $25,000 to $40,000 more in her paycheck over a year. Human Resources may be the most neglected department in marketing strategies, even though it hires everyone involved.

Through team and morale building activities it engages greater interaction among departments. It is also best positioned to recognize employee aptitudes conducive to a positive company image. The best employees to promote a solid company image may not be in a marketing role at all right now. So even when the Marketing knows customer desires, it takes Research & Design to figure out how to make it happen, and Production to give it shape. It takes everyone on the team to preserve a viable public image, and share what the company intends.


By Doug Stayman, Associate Dean for MBA Programs, Associate Professor of Marketing, Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management