Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Marketing Leader?

I recently listened to an amazing podcast from Sam Harris featuring Jocko Willink, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL officer, leadership instructor, speaker, and executive coach. Though this podcast doesn’t have to do with marketing specifically, I highly recommend you take the time to listen to this very important discussion between two extremely fascinating people!

Willink recently co-authored a book with fellow Navy Seal Leif Babin about leadership entitled Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, sharing lessons learned from their personal experiences out on the battlefield. Below follows a short video where Willink and Babin discuss how taking ownership of everything in your “world” applies to successful leadership in any industry (note: while listening, please just replace any references to the auto industry with your own):


Willink states: “When we talk about leadership we’re not just talking about the senior leadership or the executive leadership … we’re talking about leadership throughout the chain of the command.” He goes on to share what this concept of extreme ownership means in the next video:

Taking responsibility, owning a process or mission, understanding the “why,” caring about it, inspiring others, making things happen – these are skills that set leaders apart from followers in any field. And marketing is no exception. Too often marketers get caught up in the details of the execution and don’t keep their eye on the overall strategy or big picture. Or perhaps they don’t understand the “why” behind what they’re doing; they’re not sold on the story and they don’t engage in the steps to make necessary adjustments.

Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Marketing Leader?

A marketing leader is someone who takes ownership and responsibility for the function of marketing from start to finish. A marketing leader:

  1. Takes ownership of the marketing function for a given client, product, service or company
  2. Works individually or with a team to set goals that marketing is responsible for achieving
  3. Sets up the structure and processes to achieve stated goals
  4. Follows up on progress to see whether or not the approach is working
  5. Adjusts strategy to fit the goals as needed

This leads me directly to two awesome articles I came across recently, and why, if you consider yourself to be a marketing leader, you absolutely need to read them! The first deals with getting your story straight (marketing is after all about storytelling); and the second provides a wealth of tips for how to execute marketing from the ground up.

Step 1: Uncover the “Why” Behind Your Marketing Story


As hokey as it may sound, understanding the “why” or the story behind your marketing strategy is the critical first step to formulating any meaningful approach to marketing. And contrary to popular belief, getting the story right is really first and foremost the job of the CEO.

According to Andy Raskin’s piece, “Why the Story is the CEO’s Job,” conversations about messaging are really conversations about strategy … “the mistake people make is thinking the story is just about marketing. No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better, you make the strategy better.”

In this great article Raskin talks about the importance of the CEO getting the story straight up front: what questions to ask, how to craft strategic messaging, and how the story informs everything that the company does. Point #6  in the article actually refers back to the importance of the CEO taking ownership of the story, which states:

As the company’s primary spokesperson, marketer, and salesperson, a CEO has to be fluent in the story, and the best way to achieve that is by owning its creation.

With that being said, without having a CEO that takes part in this phase of the initial marketing process, you won’t have a structure to attach your entire marketing approach to, which will ultimately thwart the marketing function’s ability to be successful. So focus first on getting this piece right and working with the powers that be to get the narrative straight.

Step 2: How to Build and Market Brands from the Ground Up


Now that you’ve got your story straight, your leadership on board, and the strategic messaging in place, it’s time to get to work. I’ve seen no better article in recent years for how to accomplish that than in this interview featuring Ed Leake from Midas Media entitled “How to Build and Market Brands from the Ground Up.” Some of the key excerpts I found helpful follow below:

  • “Marketing doesn’t fit if the product doesn’t have what it takes to succeed.”
  • “When it comes to competitors, I wouldn’t pay too much attention.”
  • “Notice how I haven’t really talked about social media branding? That’s because I’m a firm believer you get the house in order before you blow money on marketing.”
  • “The product has to be right. The pricing has to be right. The website must be a breeze to use. The branding must have continuity … the culture and the mission have to be about people. Specifically, pleasing customers more than profiting from them.”
  • “The (audience members) that click it, remarket to them. All the others, goodbye.”
  • “It’s ‘how much have I spent so far and how much have I gotten back?’ … those two figures are quite difficult to cheat your way out of, and that’s why they’re good.”
  • “It’s simple, but it’s hard work. And that’s the thing in marketing and business. Normally, once you grind all the noise out, the simple stuff that requires a lot of work is the best.”

Now that I’ve caught your attention, here’s where you need to go to keep up with these great thinkers referenced above:

I hope you enjoy learning more from these three as much as I have! Would love to hear your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s