5 Things I Know about Marketing – Duke’s Christine Moorman

Christine Moorman is the T. Austin Finch Professor, Sr. of Business Administration at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. She is the academic facilitator of MSI’s Marketing Analytics Roundtable and the coauthor of “Organizing for Marketing Excellence,” recently released in a special AMA/MSI Journal of Marketing, and directs the bi-annual “CMO Survey”, which collects and disseminates the opinions of top marketers. She spoke with Executive Director Kay Lemon in September.


Finding and maintaining a customer focus is surprisingly difficult for most companies.

We have understood the importance of having a customer focus for a long time. It seems like something leaders should know by now. And yet it seems difficult for firms to find and maintain a customer focus.

The difficulty appears to arise in the implementation. Losing touch with customers is so easy! It gets crowded out by so many other requirements: operational, performance, competitive. It takes a very conscious effort to stay in touch with that customer-first view. The fact is that if we don’t have a customer focus in our companies, the rest of our marketing and nonmarketing efforts will be less effective and efficient. Marketers have to have the courage to bring that perspective to their jobs every day.

I tell my students: “Love your customers.” It’s the fundamental desire to please and create value for these individuals you have a relationship with. It’s a very heartfelt thing—once you have that sincere desire it’s just a matter of work and building the capabilities to make it happen effectively over time.


Marketing strategy is shaped by the organization in fundamental, albeit often invisible, ways.

We tend to focus on a company’s observable actions, but marketing strategies are produced by the firm’s structure and culture. That is the foundation from which effective marketing strategy arises. Firms may keep trying to get the strategy right, but rarely ask what in the culture or what in the structure is giving rise to fundamental problems?

I have a wonderful quote by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos: “Your culture is your brand.” His point is that the brand is not just pulled out of thin air. It’s constructed via the actions of employees or in Zappos’ case, the creation and delivery of outstanding service.

So if your company’s culture is, for example, fundamentally focused on the short term, your strategies are going to mirror that. When strategies are failing, go deep into the organization’s culture, structure, metrics and incentives, and its talent. The problem likely lies there.

That’s why “outsourcing” marketing strategy—as firms often do with social media or new product development—can be disastrous. If you outsource activities based on critical insights that only employees closest to the customer can provide or that require integration between critical parts of the organization, then your marketing strategy is going to be less effective because it is not dosed with these critical organizational elements.


It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of customer insights to marketing.

Customer insights are essential elements in any marketing plan. Insights give rise to innovations, new go-to-market strategies, and new business models. They can also produce critical tactical-level improvements in marketing activities. We can all share success stories of companies that converted a powerful insight into great financial success.

So it was disappointing to find in The CMO survey that marketing leaders report no change—and maybe even a slight reduction—in their companies’ development and use of customer insights. Why aren’t these numbers increasing? There are a number of reasons, some organizational, some driven by metrics, and some based on lack of capabilities such as weak theory development skills among managers. Another reason is that people don’t like new things. They say they want insights, but many actually prefer the status quo.

“Own industry bias” is another culprit. Marketers often think they can only learn about marketing from others in their own industries. In fact, marketing is probably the one discipline where there are many ideas that should cross industries. How do you target? How do you develop insights? How do you manage customers? There are so many ideas that marketers could share across industries to create value.


New marketing skills require a change process to succeed in value creation.

Social media, marketing analytics, mobile marketing all require the adoption of new skill sets, new processes, new people, and even new structures. If companies are going to get really good at these new marketing activities, they must think about how to lead their organization through this change process. 

Evidence from our CMO survey shows that’s not happening. There’s growth in spending in social media and analytics, but CMOs predicted they would be spending a whole lot more. One hypothesis regarding why spending hasn’t met expectations is that leaders assumed they would just morph these new capabilities onto their current organizations. But that is not how new capabilities take hold.

Capabilities are marketing skills and accumulated knowledge, exercised through organizational processes that enable a company to carry out its marketing activities. That little parenthetical phrase—exercised through organizational processes—is critical. Knowledge and skills are all these little bundles that exist around the organization and organizational processes carry the bundles of skills and knowledge through the company to impact performance.

I like the view of capabilities as recipes. You need half a cup of flour, then a half a cup of sugar, but one function has the flour and another has the sugar. You need to get both ingredients in the bowl at the right time to make sure these new marketing activities are performed efficiently and effectively.


Marketing leaders do indeed create value.

Over the last two to three years, we have seen solid evidence from major studies that strong marketing leaders and strong marketing functions really do improve firm performance—not just in sales revenue, but on financial market indicators like firm market value.  

In one study, Christian Homburg and coauthors show that companies that have a CMO on board are 46% more likely to get funding in their IPO. This suggests that just having a CMO makes people feel more confident that the company will do the right thing when it comes to managing marketplace interactions.

In other work, Frank Germann, Peter Ebbes, and Rajdeep Grewal found a 15% increase in Tobin’s q, a capital market measure, for companies with a CMO in the C-suite.

Finally, while most of us would probably guess that marketing department power has decreased, Feng, Morgan, and Rego examined a multi-industry sample of U.S. firms from 1993-2008 and found that marketing’s influence has increased over this period. Further, marketing department power predicts short-term profitability and, beyond this effect, directly predicts longer-term shareholder value

I think marketing is often viewed as making things happen in the short term. Honestly, good marketing is a long-term play. It requires finding the right customers and doing things that meet their needs. If you’re doing those two things you’re well on your way to capturing value for your company. 

Related links

The CMO Survey:

Feng, Hui, Neil A. Morgan, and Lopo L. Rego (2015) “Marketing Department Power and Firm Performance,” Journal of Marketing (September). See also

Germann, Frank, Peter Ebbes, and Rajdeep Grewal (2015), “The Chief Marketing Officer Matters!” Journal of Marketing (May).

Homburg, Christian, Alexander Hahn, Torsten Bornemann, and Philipp Sandner (2014), “The Role of Chief Marketing Officers for Venture Capital Funding: Endowing New Ventures with Marketing Legitimacy,” Journal of Marketing Research (October).

Moorman, Christine and George S. Day, (2016) “Organizing for Marketing Excellence,” Journal of Marketing (November).

Moorman, Christine (2016), “Insight on Insight,”

Moorman, Christine (2016), “Driving Toward the Digital Marketing Organization,”



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