Dear CMO:

You know how hard it is to explain to your mother what it is that you do. She pretty much makes it up when she explains it to her friends. Apparently all of her friends’ kids have easy jobs to remember, like “doctor”. No, sonny-boy does something altogether too complex to describe the same way twice. That’s the joy of family, isn’t it.

What hurts much more, of course, is that your management probably has the same problem. Yes, we’ve gone over this ground before – the lack of the ‘no-brainer metric’, the mea culpa, Roy Young’s note that many marketers feel they should drop ‘marketing’ from their titles. The popular press and blososphere have smacked down the marketing profession so hard that many of us look with longing at the relatively polite and fulfilling world of politics.

I’d love for “Chief Marketing Officer” to have meaning in a world where the executive suite can articulate what “marketing” is. I’ve heard “Chief Cash Flow Officer”, which makes no sense to me unless we’re also supposed to handle accounts receivable, DSO and payment terms. And titles like “Chief Creativity Officer” all mistake creativity for marketing. It’s kind of like calling beer, “yeast”. Sure, it’s in there, but you’re missing the big picture.

The marketing “no-brainer metric” is SELL THROUGH. That’s it. That’s all. Everything you do, marketing brothers and sisters, must translate to more stuff getting bought. It may be the same people doing all the buying and it may be a lot of new people experiencing your stuff for the first time. It may be indirect as all get-out, like industrial design and out-of-box experiences so inspiring that it causes uncontrollable giddiness and a subsequent meteoric rise in positive word of mouth… which makes friends and family buy more stuff. It might be lovely messaging and words and images. Or blogs, RSS feeds and viral videos. It might also be the dull, heavy lifting, like training in-store salespeople, setting up great merchandising and creating world-class packaging. It might just be that cleverly gorilla-suited guy in a sandwich board promoting your carpet remnant business, too. Does it sell more stuff? Are you making more than all this is costing? Then consider it good.

It was suggested in an exchange with a pal in the business that ‘loyalty’ was the next big thing. But loyalty doesn’t pay the bills unless more stuff gets sold. You might love that old diesel you’ve been driving for thirty years, but if you never buy another one and never convince your neighbor to get one either, poof! Your dealer is out of business and the parts start to get hard to find.

So the next time it’s your turn to speak in the glass-walled executive atrium, load up for big game. Sell through is the ultimate barometer of brand health. It is the bell weather of real customer satisfaction.

And guess what… it’s all yours.

Best regards.

Copyright © 2006 Stephen Denny