Improbable Romance Blossoms Between Marketing And The Supply Chain


Paul Talbot, Contributor

August 24, 2015

The supply chain has rarely caught an admiring glance from marketers.

Underappreciated, underestimated, and overlooked, the organization’s supply chain has historically ranked low on the CMO’s lineup of essential sources of information.

Marketers have typically paid the supply chain begrudging lip service. It has a legacy of being bypassed during the process of developing strategy.

But as consumers and competitors strengthen the ties that bind marketing and the supply chain, a growing number of CMOs are increasingly smitten with the supply chain’s allure.

They are looking for ways to secure a competitive advantage through a better understanding of their organization’s supply chain.

“CMOs have always been intellectually curious as to how products and services are delivered to consumers,” says John Impellizzeri, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Co-Director of the Center for Supply Chain Management at Rutgers Business School.

“Over the past decade both consumer and supply demands have become increasingly volatile and complex, making the CMO’s awareness and understanding of the supply chain a necessity to survive.”

When Marketing Strategy Sails Off The Rails

Marketing strategy developed in a vacuum, cobbled together without the benefit of an understanding of supply chain capabilities, can either be doomed to failure, or shackled with artificial limits.

“As supply chain becomes more integral to competitive advantage, profitable growth, and sustainable practices, marketing is discovering that supply chains can be a key differentiator, “ says Jennifer Daniels, Vice President, Marketing, APICS Supply Chain Council.

“They are incorporating supply chain capabilities into messaging, campaigns, loyalty programs and events.”

CMOs are also weaving these capabilities into the increasingly complex world of packaging.

Competing In A World Of Growing Product Customization

As CMOs tap into the consumer’s thirst for packaging that connects with lifestyle themes, such as sports loyalties, a growing number of strategic conversations are taking place between marketers and their supply chain counterparts.

The product itself may be simple, but the packaging can be unexpectedly complicated. And executing on packaging isn’t always a given.

“You can only do this if you have an effective supply chain,” says Dr. David Closs, Professor of Business Administration in the Department of Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University.

“Conversations should begin sooner rather than later. Coordination and communication become critical. You can’t throw up a promotion and not invite supply chain.”

Keeping A Watchful Eye On The Customer

From the vantage point of John Impellizzeri at Rutgers, the shifting expectations of the consumer make this kind of coordination and communication between the CMO and the Chief Supply Chain Officer de riguer.

Impellizzeri casts the Chief Marketing Officer in the role of the promise maker and the Chief Supply Chain Officer as the promise keeper.

“Marketers make brand promises that supply chain needs to fulfill.”

Broken Promises, Broken Strategy

Promises made to frame the expectation of the customer experience can be difficult, if not impossible to make, without a grasp of the supply chain.

One reason why is the ascendancy of the role of the distributor and the eroding impact of the manufacturer. The role of the data manager in contributing to the elements of the customer experience is expanding as well.

These three shifts come to life in the supply chain.

The supply chain has evolved to provide a discerning CMO with both the raw materials of strategy, and a tool for managing consumer expectations.

But it also offers something potentially more valuable. It can serve as a source of ideas for product and service differentiation.

Are There Ideas Waiting For Marketers To Discover Hidden Inside The Supply Chain?

Quite possibly.

When the alignment of supply chain strategy with marketing strategy takes place in the product development stage, a more cost competitive product can often be produced. New customer solutions can be designed and delivered.

A price advantage, or a margin advantage, can then be amplified and supported through product differentiation.

Meaningful differentiation in a commoditized category can be elusive.

But for the CMO who believes that everything can be differentiated, the spark that illuminates this opportunity and ignites the creative process can often be found in the shadowy corners of the supply chain.

A product’s story can be better understood and better told. Attributes easily overlooked can be identified. New features can be turned into new benefits.

Positioning can be strengthened, and supply chain capabilities can be more effectively leveraged to enhance the customer experience.

And it all begins when the CMO and the Chief Supply Chain Officer start to compare notes.

This article was written by Paul Talbot from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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