Why marketers need a seat at the table

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
April 12 2017,
July 3 2020

A friend was telling me he was recently “ring-side” at a debate between a marketer, a lawyer and a compliance officer.
All of them competent, committed people possessing plenty of common sense. The meeting was meant to be a client’s final sign-off prior to a campaign launch, but what unfolded was fascinating. Eye-opening.

A united aim

With a supposed single aim – to ensure best value from the campaign, achieve its goals (engagement, traction and leads) while not exposing the organisation to risk or legal backlash - all of them, without doubt, had the company’s best interests at heart. 

The various perspectives

The business in question operates in a highly regulated market. As such, conformance to regulations and guidelines is critical – quite rightly so. But that makes the compliance people cautious and risk-averse.

The company solicitor takes a steer from Compliance and adds her own reservations about ability to prove (beyond a shadow of a doubt) claims made in the copy and an issue of “passing off” regarding some of the artwork.

The result? A lot of head-shaking, sharp intakes of breath and a default position of “no”. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object… with the poor marketer stuck in the middle!

Nobody got fired for buying IBM

It’s always easier to toe the line and play it safe. “Buying IBM” was a euphemism for not taking risk and for doing the same as everyone else. But that’s what makes campaigns “vanilla”. Pushing the boundaries and being creative is what makes great brands stand out from the crowd – think Innocent, Virgin, Red Bull – they’re quirky and continually surprise their customers.  

Losing sight of the goal

Editing a message, toning down the creative, or even pulling a campaign altogether is always a possibility. And to some within an organisation that may be the solution. If your role, and what you are judged on alone, is to negate any risk of legal action or guarantee 100% adherence to the rules, that makes sense. But for the marketer whose eye is firmly fixed on the sales and profit prize, finding a way to turn the “no” into a “yes” (while staying within the rules) is paramount because NOT marketing is only safe in the very short-term.

The colouring-in department

GDPR is around the corner and flouting that, and any other the law, is of course absolutely not an option. But marketers then, perhaps even more than now, will need to be fully involved, fully conversant  and ready to push back against those advocating a “stay safe, do nothing” approach. Otherwise we’re in danger of being relegated back to what was once affectionately called the “colouring-in department”!

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