The Marketing Role and Owning the P&L

The Marketing Role and Owning the P&L


The marketing role is always evolving.  Increasingly marketers are taking on P&L responsibility.  CMO marketing technology spend is now rivaling CIO technology spend.

Gartner reported earlier this year that 75% of marketing leaders said they own or share responsibility for the P&L.  As Gartner’s Jake Sorofman said, “Over the past several years, we’ve witnessed an expansion of the CMO mandate, from what was largely a promotional role to what is now often seen as the growth engine for the business.”

That shift from marketing as cost center to marketing as growth engine makes this a particularly exciting time to work in marketing.  But sometimes that increased accountability outpaces actual authority.  Most of the time, marketers have to market by influence, rather than by direct control.

I first drew a version of this cartoon in 2006 while working in brand management.  Brand managers are trained to think of their brands as their businesses.  I technically “owned” the P&L for my brand.  But most of the line items (trade spending, manufacturing, etc.) were managed by other parts of the organization.  So I had to learn how to operate in a matrix of conflicting responsibilities.  Brand management taught me to cultivate a P&L mindset — always trying to tie marketing strategies to an effect on the bottom line.

Since then, that pressure on marketers has only increased.  There are better tools and far more data to measure the impact of marketing on the business.  A friend reminded me of the earlier cartoon last weekend and I decided to recreate it in color to illustrate some of that tension in the evolving marketing role.

Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:

“Seat at the Table” – May 2015

“Marketing ROI“ – May 2016

“CMO of the Month” – October 2013

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