War in the Boardroom
As marketing professionals, Al and I spend
way too much of our time trying to sell our ideas to top management. Meetings often
turn into boardroom battles between marketing on one side and management on the
other. On many occasions, we have lost these battles and have the scars to
So we tried to figure out why marketing and
management always clash? And it occurred to us. They don’t understand each
other because they think differently.
What makes a good chief executive? A person
who is highly verbal, logical and analytical. Typical characteristics of a left
What makes a good marketing executive? A
person who is highly visual, intuitive and holistic. Typical characteristics of
a right brainer.
What are you? Not sure? Take our quiz to
Because they think differently, the two
sides don’t see eye-to-eye. Management is logical, marketing is not. What works
in marketing is almost exactly the opposite of what seems to be the right thing
Take expansion, for example. Management at
almost every company in the world is committed to expanding its line. More
products, more markets, more distribution channels, more variations, more price
Take the U.S. airline industry. Every major
carrier offers multiple classes of service and flies both domestic and
international routes. That makes sense to a left-brain manager.
But not to a right-brain entrepreneur like
Herb Kelleher who launched Southwest Airlines, the first “no-frills” airline.
Coach only. Domestic only. No food. No pets. No advanced seating reservations.
No inter-airline baggage exchange.
Entrepreneurs are invariably visually-oriented
right brainers who often turn out to be exceptionally good marketing thinkers,
too. They are usually “visionaries” who focus on the “big picture,” sometimes
suffering in the short term.
That’s not true of the vast majority of
managers in America today who are verbally-oriented left brainers. Why is this
so? Because of the way people move up the ladder in the corporate world. In
many companies, you don’t get promoted,
you get elected.
Management is like politics. Employees find
a way to let management know whom they would like to work for.
Right brainers don’t have much of a chance
in the office game. A left brainer is an extrovert, particularly good at
schmoozing with people. A right brainer is an introvert, totally outclassed
when it comes to office politics.
As companies get older and bigger, their
upper levels tend to be staffed almost exclusively with left brainers. As a
result, the innovators and marketing people (primarily right brainers) tend to
leave or get pushed out.
Chief marketing officers, for example, have
the shortest tenure of any top executive, only 26 months. “This job is
radioactive,” reported BusinessWeek.
We certainly don’t advocate a right-brain
takeover of corporate America. Business needs both: Logical, analytical left
brainers to manage the business and intuitive, holistic right brainers to
create the new marketing ideas and concepts that will insure future success.
But for this to happen, both sides need to better
understand each other.
Our new book War in the Boardroom
available on February 24, 2009.
You can read more at Ries.com
Order today at Amazon.