Monday, February 10, 2014
THE MEANING OF INTEGRITY IN MARKETING
“Integrity within the organization isn’t merely about telling
the truth to each other. It’s even more about
not withholding the truth (often ‘bad news’)
from each other.”
--Wayne Calloway, Former Chairman, PepsiCo
As we regularly do, the two of us were sharing observations recently—perspectives, really, from our “outsider’s” vantage point—about bedrock values that any company seeking the most from its Marketing Function ought to rightly demand. Values so fundamental that they must, in fact, be a given. And it was during this conversation that Wayne Calloway’s words came to mind. Mr. Calloway passed away at the relatively young age of 62 back in 1998. But before that, he had served as PepsiCo’s Chairman and CEO for ten years—ten years of impressive growth, with the Company’s market value increasing by $35 billion over his tenure. He was a man much admired, frequently named by leading business magazines as one of America’s “most admired” CEO’s. Within PepsiCo, he was widely loved—as a man of character who exemplified “graceful competition.”
His thoughts on integrity are simple, but profound. Of course, all successful, high-reputation companies require honesty and truthfulness from their employees. And most would be quick to remove any employee caught in acts of dishonesty or deceit. But the demand for the second part, that often overlooked part about not withholding the truth or the “whole story” from colleagues (especially senior management colleagues), that’s not always so obvious. How often have you heard something like this in your own companies?
All of which got us to asking ourselves a couple of basic questions: “What would the meaning of integrity in Marketing be? How would integrity in Marketing manifest itself, day-in and day-out?” As usual, before trying to answer these questions or coming up with examples of Marketing integrity in action, we double-checked the dictionary. It turns out that integrity has two commonly held meanings: (1) adhering to a code, typically a code of honesty or moral values; and (2) constituting a wholeness or completeness. No big surprises here: we speak of a woman or man of integrity (such as a Wayne Calloway); we also speak of things that “hang together”…for example, a Brand Positioning Statement or an annual Marketing Plan that holds together as an integrated whole, as something with integrity.
With these two meanings in mind, then, here are the first few manifestations of integrity in Marketing that we would offer:
I. Telling the whole story—when, and as, you best know it. Obviously, this follows directly from Mr. Calloway’s words, and it ties to integrity as a code of honesty. But, what specifically, does it mean for the Marketer every day? It means very mundane things such as reporting some new competitive intelligence (perhaps called in by a regional Sales rep) to the entire team right away—even if such intelligence threatens a planned/about-to-launch action by the brand. Similarly, it means communicating any new market research findings as they are known—and not delaying them when they fail to support a planned initiative. And along these same lines, it also means not over-playing some “incidental” research finding—you know, like taking one or two verbatim responses in a series of focus groups that comprise fifty or more respondents, and making these two seem to be group consensus. We’ve all encountered these kinds of maneuvers and, perhaps, convinced ourselves that they are mere gamesmanship. But, if we’re really honest, they are breaches of integrity because they fail to tell the whole story when, and as we know it.
II. Seeking legitimate concurrence—particularly when we are trying to sell something. Good marketers are internal sales people. They’re relentlessly trying to sell their senior management (their “board of directors,” so to speak) on strategies and, mainly, investments for their brands—usually at the expense of other company brands. After all, there is only so much marketplace spending to go around. But selling with integrity, especially in the “completeness” or “wholeness” sense, demands a verifiable team consensus…demonstrating that the recommendation is not only analytically well-founded, but also that it carries the credibility of multiple functional perspectives.
It used to be common practice at Procter & Gamble (perhaps it remains so) that all major strategic or investment proposals initiated by Marketing carry with them a stated concurrence from other appropriate functional team members. For example, in proposing a plan to launch a major line extension, the document would also require—right within the first paragraph—some statement like this: “Product Development (Ms. ___________) concurs with this recommendation.” And when it came to all research studies fielded by Marketing, while the marketers themselves wrote up the findings, conclusions, and indicated actions from the study, none of these was considered actionable without the required concurrence-endorsement from Market Research: “The Market Research Department (Mr.____________) concurs that this summary is technically correct and consistent with the findings.” Nowadays, writing detailed summaries may not be in vogue at most companies; but the legitimate and verifiable concurrence with proposed Marketing actions should never go out of style. It makes for a proposal with integrity.
III. Being genuinely accountable. When you get to the heart of the matter, true integrity means being responsible, being accountable, regardless of the actual outcomes. And, for marketers, as for any other company employee who directs or expends company resources, there is no better means of being responsible and accountable than setting and reporting ROI. Again, thinking about the “completeness” aspect of integrity, no marketing strategy or investment initiative story can really be complete without the return on investment “rest of the story.” Actually, and from what we’ve seen over our long careers, when the Marketing Function operates routinely with ROI reporting, because someone or someone’s are accountable, the old game of “hiding in large groups” or evading responsibility virtually vanishes. There is no hiding from or finagling the facts…and that tends to foster a great deal of integrity.
Sure, besides these, there are other earmarks of integrity within Marketing. But we think these three make for a “must-have” set of bedrock values. We also think it likely that Mr. Calloway would agree.
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
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