The costly gap between the corporate vision and marketing goals

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half!” said John Wanamaker at the start of the last century. He was a proponent of the advertising industry and a pioneer in marketing. If we assume that Wanamaker was right and apply that thought to your marketing budget today, up to 5% of your revenue could disappear into the black hole!

The gap that exists between the board of directors intentions and what is actually done can erode shareholder value significantly. Early in my career I learned to enjoy reading financial statements which state the vision of the leadership and translates it into a comprehensive set of numbers. However when I occasionally have discussions with marketing teams about their goals I find that the annual statements are rarely consumed internally and some key messages are lost. Advertising goals are derived from the communication goals, which come from the marketing goals, which are determined by the company’s goals that are ultimately guided by the corporate vision.

Therefore a consequence of details lost from the corporate vision is a mismatch between purpose and execution and the goals defined by the marketing team will vary from those stated by the Chairman & the CEO. This conflict of agendas can be very costly to an organisation as time & resources are wasted on pulling in separate directions. A popular story goes that a US President was touring NASA and he run into a janitor sweeping the hall ways. On inquiring about his role at the facility the janitor responded by saying that he was helping to send men to the moon! He was clear about the purpose of the organisation, understood his contribution to that goal and therefore took his work quite seriously because he didn’t want to let the team down on such an important mission.


Communicating the vision with passion is important when sharing it with your staff. Coca-Cola’s ability to sell its brand passion to its teams is impressive, as I have never met ex-Coke employees that didn’t sing the praises of the company or remain loyal to their brands even years after they’d left. The beverage company markets its brands internally in creative ways and ensures that the most passionate promoters of the brand are within the company walls. This passion is translated into marketing programmes that eventually touch the consumers and generate brand loyalty.

Simplify the message

Seek creative ways to market your vision and values to your staff. I use the word marketing deliberately because it is important to go through the processes even for this internal activity. Defining your marketing goals, deriving insights about your (internal) target audiences and delivering a strong and relevant, yet simple message continuously are fundamental to the task. A strong message communicated simply and with passion goes a long way to strengthen the corporate culture that supports current and future business performance. Simple messages can easily be translated into marketing programs and brand initiatives that can be measured against the overall vision.

One description of a strong brand is one who’s essence can be described more accurately and passionately by its consumer than by its marketing manager, and when this happens then the work of the marketing team is done!

A sense of ownership

Finally, induce a sense of ownership of the vision within your staff. If your team members are involved in the development of the goals, they can be part of the success, driving commitment, dedication and loyalty. The Japanese have an effective way of doing this. They involve every member of the team in relevant tasks that are broken down into manageable sizes based on their skills. The team members participate from planning to implementation and thus they take ownership of their assignment and the overall success of the project.

Recently we were conducting research on a local retail chain and in the course of our work we observed that stores run by owners elicit more loyalty from customers than the stores run by employees. The difference between a shop owner implementing a vision that he understands intimately and a shop attendant who doesn’t is evident in the varied levels of customer experiences; separating the good from the mediocre. Companies that desire high performance in marketing and customer experiences, need to learn from the shop owner.

Passion, simplifying the vision, and ownership are critical to narrowing the gap between the boards vision and the company’s marketing programmes, thereby improving the return-on-investment. Remember, a vision without action is a daydream and action without a vision is a nightmare.


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