Does marketing deserve a seat at the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity tables?

I believe that the marketing function has a valuable role to play in customer experience and customer-centricity

In the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity communities I have noticed a certain dismissive attitude towards the role and contribution that the marketing (and advertising)  folks can and do make.  To some extent this is not a surprise as some of the most visible proponents of Customer Experience come from a customer services background. Others who share this dismissive attitude tend to come from an operational improvement background and are deeply embedded in process thinking – the engineering mindset.

Whilst I can see the shortcomings, I can also see the value of the marketing function and the contribution it can, does and needs to make: to the customer centric orientation and to the customer experience in particular.   Recently I made my point of view clear on a Linkedin conversation:

“The companies that have marginalized the marketing function are making a big mistake. In my experience, the folks working in the marketing and advertising arena are one of the few tribes that truly get the emotional nature of human beings. The best marketers get the impact of standing for something that resonates with human beings. They get the importance of symbols and how these move human beings. And they get the importance of beauty. They know how to touch upon the emotional, engage and move human beings. Customer Experience requires the harmonious integration between the rational and the emotional.”

There are plenty of people who disagree with my point of view

I was not at all surprised that my comment on Linkedin resulted in the following response – a response that I believe is representative of many working in the CE and customer-centric communities:

“Regarding marketing losing its place at the table in customer-centric companies, had marketing exhibited the skills and behaviors you describe often enough, marketing still would be at the table. However, as an overall profession, marketing is far better at promoting to people than communicating with them. “Understanding” customers isn’t sufficient. In customer-centricity, companies have to see through customer eyes, rather than understand how to look at customers.”

Does this response raise a valid issue?  Absolutely.  Is it an accurate description of marketing?  Let me share an example with you and then you can decide for yourself.

Lets examine the issue through a concrete example: my wife and Tesco

My wife used to shop regularly and almost exclusively at Tesco (the biggest supermarket chain in the UK) and made frequent use of their online shopping and home delivery service.

Over the last three months she has shopped less frequently, bought less and spent less with Tesco.  In part this is simply because she is travelling more and finds other supermarket chains (Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda) more convenient.  It is partly because she is being more frugal.  And it is partly because she had a disappointing experience at a Tesco store: Why my wife will not be relying on Tesco….

On the 24th March 2011 my wife received the following email (I have extracted some information from this email to shorten its length) from the marketing team:
If you haven’t shopped online for weeks. 

Don’t worry.

All your favourites are still here.

So you can fill your basket in minutes.


£7.50 off
Start Shopping >> e
Dear Mrs Iqbal,  

We’ve noticed that you haven’t placed a grocery shop with us for a while, and we hope that we haven’t let you down.

Please don’t forget how easy and convenient it is to shop online.  All the purchases you’ve made online and in-store are still kept in ‘My Favourites’.

And because we’d really like to welcome you back, we’ll give you £7.50 off your next grocery order when you spend £75 or more.

eCoupon code:
Valid on deliveries up to and including 2nd April 2011.

So why not let us do your shopping for you again soon?

Best wishes,

Kendra Banks
Kendra Banks
Marketing Director


Double Clubcard points still on; Spend £1, Collect 2 points, Every 150 points = £1.50
Award Winning Service

What impact does this email have on you?  Does this piece of marketing produced by the marketing function improve or degrade your experience, your perception, your attitude towards Tesco?

How has my wife experienced this communication from the Tesco marketing team?

My wife is pleasantly surprised that Tesco noticed that she has shopped and spent less with Tesco. How is she left feeling towards Tesco as a result of this marketing communication?

She says “It makes me feel valued as a customer.  I matter to them and they want me back.  And Tesco is providing value to me as their customer by giving me £7.50 off my next order.  I know it is not a huge amount, yet it does matter that they are giving me this discount.”

What other impact has this email from the marketing function made on my wife?  She is left thinking that Tesco:

  • Is a professional company that is on top of things because they noticed a change in her shopping behaviour;
  • Is proactive because Tesco has taken the first step to recover / ignite the previous shopping behaviour; and
  • Tesco is simple (as in easy to do business with) and straight with its customers because the email is written in that way – no fluff, no gimmicks, no tricks.

You might say great, but has she actually made any behaviour changes?  The answer is yes – she is once again shopping and spending more with Tesco.  And all because of a single email from Tesco’s marketing team.

So what is the lesson?

Marketing matters, the marketing function matters because it touches the customer in so many ways.  And if your marketing function is not making the kind of impact that the Tesco marketing function is making then it is time to learn from Tesco (and others who practice good marketing).

Disclosure: I am a member of the Institute of Direct Marketing and thus possibly biassed!

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

3 thoughts on “Does marketing deserve a seat at the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity tables?”

  1. I guess the gripe would be that marketing normally simply tries to sell (read ‘persuade customers’ or ‘trick customers into buying’) products, rather than try and help them.

    The ads at the bottom of the Tesco email are more traditional marketing, I think, and, as such, jar against the email copy.


  2. Maz
    I’m with you on this one! In fact I feel that ‘marketing’ and the ‘customer experience’ are completely interlinked. The definition of Marketing I use with my clients is ‘Finding, attracting and keeping the customers that you want and maximsing your profits’.

    That means EVERYTHING you do to target customers, get them to come and buy from you, and get them to come back and buy again is ‘marketing’. It’s an integral part of the customer experience and vice versa!


    1. Hello Leon and Andy

      First I thank you both for entering into the conversation. What you say is valuable and I just wish to respond to what you have said – to do otherwise would be rude.

      Leon, as I understand it the marketing function has a number of jobs to do. First, to figure what what customers want / will buy. Second, to figure out how to get through to customers to let them know what is on offer. Third, to seduce the customers into making a trip to the shop – so that they buy. And persuasion is the name of the game. Ultimately, the marketing function has to show what value (revenues, profits) it is delivering for the funds that is has borrowed from the banker (the finance director). So, if you are focussed on improving the customer experience then you have to invite the Marketing function to the banquet – you cannot leave it out because you do not like its behaviour. And then you have to coax the marketing function to change behaviour – to behaviour that is more customer friendly.

      The other point that I perhaps did not make strongly enough is that people are human beings. Human beings are human by virtue of emotions: computers can think and sometime arguably better than human beings, what they do not do is to feel. And the one tribe that gets that is the marketing and advertising tribe. As such it is important to get them involved and tap into their mindset and skillset to design the customer experience to deliver on the emotional needs. There are too many accountants and engineers (disguised as consultants) who are stamping out the emotional stuff in order to deliver on the rational needs. Yes, the rational needs can be delivered in such a way that you are left feeling cold: not recognised and treated as a human being. Incidentally, I get the cold treatment works well for some of us: the issue is that some 80% of consumer purchasing behaviour is driven / influenced by women.

      Andy, from a theoretical (textbook) perspective I am in complete agreement with you. There is marketing as a mindset even a philosophy. There is marketing as a set of interralated processes that cut across the enterprise and involve just about everyone in the enterprise. And then there is marketing as an organisational function. This is where reality intrudes and it tends to create a mess because now everyone collapses marketing (as a mindset, as processes, as organisational behaviour) into the marketing function. And in many organisations the marketing function should simply be called the marketing communications function: responsible for only 1P – Promotion. Because of this some authors (academics) have suggested that the marketing function should be disbanded. It is not something that has been taken up by people in business.

      If I have misunderstood you then please do let me know. And once again, I thank you for dropping by and sharing your voice on this blog. When I considered writing this blog, one of my key intentions was (and continues to be) to enter into a conversation with my fellow human beings and professionals – people like you.


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