In these pages, today, John Quelch said,
"Many marketing managers are failing their employers. They are often creative right-brain thinkers who can dream up campaigns to drive top-line sales but they show little interest in the balance sheet impact of their promotion programs. Such marketers lack the quantitative, analytical skills necessary to drive marketing productivity…"
This is well and good, as far as it goes. In a perfect world we would all be utility infielders, equally gifted in all the things a marketer needs to do. But we know perfectly well there’s a trade off. The more skillful we are at some things, the worse we are sometimes at others.
Except at the Harvard Businsess School, where Professor Quelch teaches. In point of fact, there is plenty of training in "left-brain" and quantitative skills at HBS, but virtually none in qualitative skills and what Prof. Quelch calls "creative flair."
This is a problem not just at HBS. Most marketing managers are not formally trained in the performance of their "right brained" activities. This is in some small part because of the influence of HBS. Despite this educational, intellectual deficit, marketing managers continue to be one of the great founts of value for the corporation. While their colleagues are busy squeezing nickels, the marketing managers are the ones who attempt to reap the whirlwind of contemporary consumer taste and preference. And a good thing, too. For as Prof. Quelch points out, "Since customers are the source of all cash flow, marketing and sales excellence are critical."
In sum, Prof. Quelch is whipping the marketing manager for failing to acquire statistical skills when in fact this manager is a) the only reliable supplier of the creative problem solving from which the corporation now extracts much of its value, b) hampered in this exercise by a paucity of formal training in qualitative skills and creativity. (Take a bow, HBS.)
It’s a great idea to give every marketing manager better at running the numbers. While we’re at it, should we make up the bigger deficit in matters of cultural literacy, pattern recognition and creative problem solving.
The corporation is a little ship on the high seas. It must negotiate the perfect storm of the contemporary market place. Reading the instruments is a necessary skill. Looking for land, this, too, could be useful.