CMO 2014: A Return To The 3 Purposes Of Marketing


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Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)

For many CMO’s and leaders in marketing, there has been a litany of proclamations about what marketing will become. During the past few years, urgent bell ringing to dive into new definitions of marketing has besieged marketers:

  • Social marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Search marketing
  • And, most notably – content marketing

Without question, many marketing leaders today must feel like they are being pulled into every direction possible. Despite the average tenure of CMO’s increasing, it is reasonable to believe many still feel at risk due to constant changes in the dynamics of marketing.


Content marketing has been the latest to join new proclamations of redefining marketing. The call has been for the reinvention of marketing to become publishers with their own editorial staff. As with most new business concepts these days, this one calls for its’ own chief. Suggesting Chief Marketing Officers should be replaced with or have a peer relationships with Chief Content Officers.

This idea appeared to peak in interest late 2012 and early 2013. Heading into 2014, many marketing leaders are gaining perspective. Much needed perspective in fact. Here is the voice of a leading CMO, who requested anonymity, recently interviewed:

“The notion of creating a newspaper like publishing staff is an interesting idea. But, let’s not get carried away here. Customers have changed and want more information and we need to provide it. But, we are not in the newspaper business. Our job is marketing. We are here to promote and get things sold.”

Return to Marketing

Other recent conversations have pointed to an emerging perspective we can call – return to marketing. Content marketing, as in all the terms mentioned above; deal with the “how” of marketing. Changes in how people and businesses buy do require new developments in how marketing is done. Let us not though, lose sight of the fundamental purpose and “why” of marketing. In my humble opinion, the best definition of marketing in my lifetime as well as standing the test of time is by Peter Drucker:

“The aim of marketing is to understand your customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

3 Purposes Of Marketing

This definition by Peter Drucker is a simple sentence but profound in being the guiding purpose on the role of marketing. There are three major points, which serve as a compass:

  1. Understand your customer so well. To gain a “so well” understanding of customers means the role of marketing is to research and gain deep as well as profound insights into buyers and customers.
  2. The product or service fits. A guiding purpose of marketing is to identify the specific goals and needs of customers and to guide the creation of products or services to fulfill them.
  3. And sells itself. Marketing must be able to communicate as well as provide information, which enables buyers or customers to make informed decisions in such a way – it is self-evident.

What content marketing and the other new terms have in common is they pertain to point three. Which is, how to communicate and provide information to buyers and customers. CMO’s and marketing leaders today should be adapting to changing buyer behaviors and identifying new ways to fulfill this important third element of marketing. However, prudent perspective is needed to not lose sight of the first two important elements. Marketing is not solely about spreading the news.

Without excelling at the first two elements, the third element fails to click with buyers and customers. And, this offers a simple explanation of why much of content marketing today, as several surveys have indicated, is ineffective. If marketing fails to understand their customers deeply as well as guide the creation of products or services to fit the goals of buyers – then whatever is communicated will not be self-evident to buyers.

Marketing 2014

The right perspective is to view content marketing as an important component, one of several, of the third element of marketing mentioned above. It is not the definition of marketing in of itself. As CMO’s and marketing leaders look ahead to 2014 and beyond, they can be guided by these three strategic principles:

  • Implement formal and ongoing customer and buyer insights research to gain the deep and profound understanding needed
  • Gain the right level of insights needed to be the guiding voice to product and/or service development on how to full the goals and needs of buyers
  • Develop a multi-channel communications and information provisioning plan which encourages dialogue with buyers and makes the brand fulfillment promise self-evident

A Seat At The Table

An aspiration for many marketing leaders is to gain a stronger voice and seat at the table. To do so, marketing must return to marketing. Fulfilling all three strategic elements as offered by Peter Drucker several decades ago.

As 2014 looms ahead, marketing leaders will need to put into perspective rapid changes in buying behavior with an eye towards the purpose of marketing. Taking care not to be solely defined by ever changing tactical tools of the trade. But, to be defined by understanding customers so well, the product or services fits and sells itself.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


  1. Great job on the article Tony.
    Peter Drucker’s quote surely does put things in perspective for marketers who are so overwhelmed by the buzzwords that they lose sight of what is important. In fact, I also happened to come across another article that reminded marketers that the basics are important
    Everything considered, marketers really need to focus on their unique business requirements and avoid distractions that are developing every day

  2. Tony: thanks for this article to bring the hype back to earth. I agree with your three purposes of marketing insofar as marketing must do the things you mention. But understanding, identifying, guiding, and communicating are table stakes for any marketing department. Done well, these tactics enable business strategies to develop and revenue to grow. Done poorly, and you’re just another Marketeer.

    From your article, I didn’t pick up strategy development as a main purpose, but isn’t that a fundamental purpose of marketing?

  3. Andy,

    Thanks for commenting. My central point is marketing must recapture its vision and purpose. This understanding is crucial to strategy making and tactical approaches to achieve strategies. There is plenty of strategy development taking place – however – out of alignment with the purposes of marketing. In order to do strategy development well, marketing leaders must get grounded in their purpose and have a vision around this purpose.


  4. Hi Tony,

    Peter Drucker’s quote rings true as much today as it did when he said it. The basic foundations are the same, and yes, the buzzwords and new technology should be thoroughly researched for practical application . Some types of technology can be implemented as they are tools to help execute that vision and purpose in the very fast-paced digital world. But yes, it is easy to get caught up in the newest shiny tool or buzzwords and lose sight of the vision and purpose.

  5. Thanks Tamar for your comment. Well said. New technologies and tools can help execute a strategy designed to fulfill a vision and purpose. Sometimes, we have to guard against being blinded by the shiny new object and believe the object itself is the vision and purpose.


  6. you are right, i think also that Developping a multi-channel communications is something really important for building a strong marketing strategy


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