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Selecting the Right Marketing Approach: Big M vs. Little m


new-marketing.jpgDeciding what kind of marketing approach best suits each corporation can and has been fiercely debated. After all, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. To best assess however what creates greater efficiency, or ultimately which approach is more productive, requires aligning your overall marketing strategy against both strategic and tactical objectives. Generally this constitutes an independent anlaysis which steps outside the quarterly earnings requirements and focuses on a longer term fiscal year(s), or more strategic view.

While at Harvard Business School, my professor, Rohit Deshpande’ (great guy) discussed the fundamental differences between organizations that revolve around a small m, or those that operate under the big M, pardon the grammar. Shown in the chart within this discussion, Rohit’s description of the little m is generally what could be attributed to a more conventional, or CEO driven policy, whereby organizations that operate under the big M, drive the corporations marketing activities from a Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) perspective. What is important about this distinction is the totality of the corporations marketing focus. All of which leads me to the logical next topic as to why product based corporations generally have CMO’s and service based organizations generally do not-at least within the Federal defense sector.

First of all lets look at the commonalities between a product or service organization:

  1. Large retail companies generally have a multitude of product lines. Companies such as Nike, Kraft, Hewlett Packard, you name them have a myriad of different product offerings, and without exception, all lean toward employing a CMO, or operate under the framework of the big M.
  2. The defense industry also provide multiple offerings-albeit services. If we omit the OEM’s for a moment, the remainder of non-OEM’s typically provide enterprise IT services, logistics and engineering services, IA/IO services, healthcare, knowledge management, environmental, etc., and, unlike product companies, typically operate under the small m.
  3. Service companies, like product companies, are both driven by capturing market share.
  4. Both also strive to establish and maintain a value proposition for their clients.
  5. Finally, both require strategic partners to expand either they’re distribution channel or market presence.

Why is it then that product and service corporations approach to marketing/branding seems to be philosophically different, when their objectives to expand they’re market share, and increase their top and bottom line growth are essentially the same?

As was discussed by Michael Porter, if all your trying to do is the same thing as your rivals, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be very successful. Therefore the commodization of services, albeit some unique, seem to fit the very essence of why having a CMO would benefit service companies.  After all a CMO is principally hired to help distinguish their employer from those competitors who provide the very same services.

In closing, success in public corporations is measured by shareholder value. In that sense, there is no financial distinction between product or service companies. Quite possibly sometime in the future, we may see some federal sector corporations begin to test the longer term value of Chief Marketing Officers. If a collective vision for branding services helps seperate yourself from your rivals, then at least experimenting with the big M is one worth exploring. For more information please contact me at:

http://www.McguirkConsulting.com

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One Response

  1. Thanks Jim

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