Quite a few years ago we had an intense debate over my insistence on capitalizing the word 'Marketing', you’re probably laughing right now thinking what a waste of energy and effort.
Maybe you’re thinking what’s in the water in Texas? In looking back however, this turned out to be an extremely important conversation for us. I hope it will spark a similar conversation around your table. Let me share a bit more about our discussion.
As part of the debate, one of our team members with a strong journalistic background pointed out that capitalization is only for proper nouns. She brought up the example “We are marketing our new product,” and I conceded using the word “marketing” as a verb shouldn’t be capitalized. Ah, the team thought they had me and got on a roll. Another person popped up with this phrase, “We are going to finance our new car.” True, in this example finance is used as a verb, and it does not need to be capitalized.
You might be thinking, end of discussion – what more is there to talk about? Turns out that these examples, inadvertently, began to help crystalize our thinking about when to capitalize Marketing. As the conversation ensued, we easily agreed that the when we designate a particular place or thing, we have a proper noun. When we reference Marketing as a function it is a particular thing. Therefore, in these instances it makes sense to capitalize it.
With this in mind, we began capitalizing Marketing when used as a reference to the Marketing department, the Marketing function, the Marketing organization, etc. or it is assumed that this is the reference. Also, we agreed this would hold true for any function within a company, and so we began to apply the capitalization rule there as well (Finance goals, etc.).
Marketing with a Capital “M” is Strategic
As we began to explore the nuances of the distinction between function and activity, we realized that the work of the Marketing function should be far too important to the success of your company to relegate it to something perceived as inconsequential. When Marketing is playing a pivotal and strategic role, it deserves to be capitalized. When it isn’t, well, it isn’t. Day-to-day marketing doesn’t merit capitalization. Deliberate value-creating growth-accelerating Marketing action does.
Your Marketing organization earns the capital when it deliver on BOTH the upstream and downstream. In his book “Profitable Growth is Everyone’s Business,” Dr. Ram Chara, who has taught at Boston University, Northwestern University and Harvard’s Business School, posits that the focus of upstream Marketing is developing clear customer segments along with analyzing how the customer uses the product or service and what competitive advantage will be required to acquire the customer. Downstream is defined as marketing efforts designed to motivate customers to adopt existing products and services, such as advertising, promotion, brand building, and other forms of communication and engagement such as PR, events, and content. Clearly every organization needs a Marketing function who effectively performs both.
We don’t always get the capitalization right. However, we’d rather err on the side of capitalizing what we believe is one of the most important functions within any organization then subjugate it to a subordinate role. If we want the Marketing discipline to lead the organization to success, it cannot be in a subordinate position. This idea has significant implications to the discipline. It means that we must take responsibility for more than generating leads/contacts, implementing campaigns, and supporting the Sales function. It means we must guide the organization’s market, customer, and product decisions.
It is our point of view that Marketing must bring strategy or strategies to the table based on data-derived insights that help the organization navigate and realize the desired future-state. When Marketing performs this role, and fulfills its fundamental mission, we believe it is worthy of capitalization. That’s why we care, and we hope you do too. If you find this resonates with the way you treat Marketing in your organization, check out our blog for similar discussion and analysis.
Laura Patterson is president and co-founder of VisionEdge Marketing, Inc., a recognized leader in enabling organizations to leverage data and analytics to facilitate marketing accountability.
Laura’s newest book, Marketing Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization (Racom: www.racombooks.com ), is a useful primer for improving marketing measurement and performance. Visit: www.visionedgemarketing.com
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