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Monday, May 16, 2016





“This saying always amuses me.  Partly because it’s true, partly because it’s funny, but also because it’s often misunderstood.  It’s funny because it sounds like marketers are too stupid to be in charge of marketing…. But my take on what it really means is that marketing is so important that it should be an integral part of the fabric of a company’s mindset, culture, and strategy.”

                         --Dan McDade, Pointclear Blog, July 2015


A few weeks ago, we featured the famous David Packard (of Hewlett-Packard) quote in this week’s title.  In that version of our weekly DISPATCHES we were aiming to better understand why fewer and fewer marketers were rising to become CEO’s these days.  Since then, we have been thinking more about the Packard quote itself—more specifically, what Mr. Packard really had in mind, what he meant when he said it.  As you can see in our sub-quote by Dan McDade, we’re by no means the only ones wondering more about what Packard was thinking.  And, while we agree with McDade’s take, we would like to offer some additional potential meanings.


First, thinking about what he didn’t mean, it’s pretty unlikely that David Packard was for limiting marketing’s role due to some inherent lack of intelligence; H-P was never in the habit of hiring slow thinkers—for any of their departments.  Nor is it probable (though very tempting, given the current low expectations of still, way too many big companies for their marketing functions) that Mr. Packard believed marketing’s role was merely to develop materials in support of Sales.  No, in thinking “bigger picture” about what he really had in mind, it’s highly likely that Mr. Packard was expecting—even demanding—much more from the marketing function than a few brochures or trade show booths.  What might he be expecting? 


  1. Marketing should be fundamentally about creating customers.   Consistent with the root word in marketing—“market”—then, the marketing function in any company ought to be taking the lead on defining the market for the company’s products, as well as creating new markets for the company’s future products.  And at the heart of defining the market is that singular, lead responsibility every marketing team has to define the customer or consumer Target.  Such defining must go well beyond thinking simply about a media target; it must robustly describe a potentially loyal, growth target for the brand over time.  In terms of creating new markets, the marketing team clearly has the responsibility to keep looking ahead, to track with disciplined research methods where the markets of the future are likely to be.  Obviously, these kinds of actions take considerable precedence over the preparation of selling materials.

  2. Marketing should be fundamentally about serving customers better than the competition.  Implied automatically in this role is something super-obvious:  marketers must be experts in both determining and addressing customer (or consumer) needs.  While they definitely should consult and benefit from other company functions--such as R&D, Sales, and Market Research--in determining the needs, Marketing takes the lead.  But there’s something else.  The marketing team ought to comprise strong “thought-leader” individuals who are also inherently competitive…who are driven to win in the marketplace.  With this passion for winning, they are better able to choose which needs, functional and emotional, that their brands can win with versus their competition.

  3. Marketing should, therefore, be a lot more strategic in its thinking and actions than tactical.  Naturally, if one aims to out-think and out-maneuver the competition (which is typically not without its own share of talent), one has to think strategically.  In the words of one of our former CEO bosses, “Strategy is a series of integrated activities designed to achieve and sustain a major competitive advantage.”  But here’s the best part:  being more strategic doesn’t mean that everything is up to marketing.  Rather, it means initiating and carrying on a “strategy dialogue” with senior management…as a way to better ensure a winning strategy.  After all, regardless of how experienced a marketing team may be, why would any team pass up the even more seasoned, marketplace experiences of its senior managers?


It seems to us that these three expectations of marketing must be a lot closer to what David Packard had in mind when he uttered his well-known quote.  But, perhaps there is an even bigger, more over-arching meaning behind his words (consistent with what Dan McDade thinks):  Marketing is the responsibility of everyone in the company.  In scrolling through a number of on-line expressions of the true role of marketing, we came across this one, which seems to echo that:


“Marketing is the hub of the business wheel.  It’s where product development, manufacturing, finance, communications, and sales all meet.  Marketing’s stakeholders are every critical function in the Company.  Every member of the leadership team is an adjunct of the marketing department.”  (Steve Tobak, Managing Partner, Invisor Consulting)


We agree!  So, with all due respect to David Packard’s legacy, allow us to re-write his famous quote with one, tiny change:  “Marketing is too important to be left to just the marketing department.”


Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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