Today, I spoke with Laura Ries, who is an expert on marketing and building brand strategy, and is the best-selling author of some of the nation’s most respected branding books, including her latest called War In The Boardroom.  In this interview, Laura talks to us about how there is a struggle between marketing and management, how that affects business and some insight into how we can become better marketers.

What is the struggle between marketing and management?  Why is this happening now?

The struggle between marketing and management had been going on forever. The reason for the struggle is not something new; everybody who has ever worked at a big company knows about it. What is new is figuring out the reason marketing and management don’t understand each other. The reason they don’t understand each other is that they think differently.  Management people tend to be left-brain thinkers.

  • Left brainers are verbal, logical and analytical. Marketing people tend to be right-brain thinkers.  Right brainers are visual, intuitive and holistic.
  • Right brainers and left brainers are both important influences in a company’s organization. But to be truly successful, each side must understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

What is the difference between a good CEO and a good CMO?

“A good CEO is a good “people” person who can manage and oversee many different areas.”

CEOs usually trust their financial people for finance, their lawyers for legal, their engineers for technology but a good CEO will also trust his/her right-brain marketing people for marketing. Too often marketing is underappreciated and believed to just be common sense. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best marketing ideas usually defy common sense entirely.

“A good CMO is a strong right-brainer who excels in the principals of marketing but also understand how to sell his/her ideas to left-brain management.”

A CMO will never sell management with big picture ideas expressed with visuals. A good CMO knows how to sell ideas to management with lots of talking and the facts and figures to support the ideas.

Can you talk about the different mindsets that conflict in companies and yield poor marketing/advertising programs?

The worst campaigns come from companies where left-brain thinking wins the battle in the boardroom. Where the emphasis is on abstractions and cleverness especially the ideas that the better product wins.

Why is it that powerful new brands like Red Bull, Google, BlackBerry, Starbucks and Under Armour have not come from big companies, but from entrepreneurs? Big companies run by left-brain managers tend to ignore the advice of their right-brain marketing people. Entrepreneurs, of course, tend to be right brainers with marketing instincts and the intuition to follow it through.

Before Dietrich Mateschitz introduced Red Bull, he tested the name and the concept. “People didn’t believe the taste, the logo, the brand name. I’ve never before experienced such a disaster.”  But Mr. Mateschitz introduced Red Bull anyway, something that a right-brain entrepreneur would do, but not something that most big companies would do.

In 2009, how can we become better marketers, both for our companies and as personal brands?

The recent financial meltdown has gotten everyone worried. When people worry, they tend to tinker. Tinkering is harmful for brands. Changing the message, the package and/or the price is often the worst thing you can do. The best strategy for any brand, no matter what the economy, is to stay consistent.  When you change, your strategy, you lose some of the power of your brand. Brands that are successful in the long run need to be authentic. And change undermines a brand’s authenticity.

As for your personal brand, find your word and get focused. Over time we all tend to get unfocused. It is like your clothes closet. One day you clean it all out and make it nice and neat; then you promise to keep it just like that. After 3 months, it is a mess again. It is a law of life; as time goes on, things get messy. So what you need to do every six months is step back and take a good look. Make sure you are focused. Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t make sense. And reinforce what your brand stands for.

How is social media impacting the “War in the Boardroom”?

Social media is great for sharing information, experiences and observations. Here at Ries & Ries we have our website, my blog, our video reports, Al’s articles, LinkedIn and Facebook all fired up and getting our message out. We have a great quiz with 12 questions to quickly let you know if you are a right brainer or a left brainer. Many people have no idea which side of their brains they favor.

We hope to get people interested in the left brain/right brain concept and especially how it affects the battle between marketing vs. management. Are you on the left side or the right side? Which side is winning at your company? What are you doing to win your marketing battles with management?

Laura Ries, an expert on marketing and building brand strategy, is the best-selling author of some of the nation’s most respected branding books. Her books include The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding, The Fall of Advertising and The Rise of PR, and The Origin of Brands.  Her latest book is called War In The Boardroom. In 2002, Business 2.0 named Ries a “management guru” and issued trading cards with her photo and business statistics. Laura Ries has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNBC, ABC World News Tonight, and makes regular appearances as a branding expert on CNN. Laura Ries is a frequently quoted marketing expert in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, Advertising Age, and many more publications.