Jim Meier, (an executive at MillerCoors), is an expert on getting marketing and finance to work together. He has written a fascinating chapter on the problems of doing this. The portrayal of marketers through the eyes of finance people is amusing, if sadly true. Marketing is seen as being “..fraught with subjectivity, murkiness, and fluffiness” (Meier, 2016, page 152). Meier worries that what marketers measure is often quite divorced from financial outcomes. Even if the measures used are useful, “the trail goes cold before it reaches a true financial destination” (Meier, 2016, page 154). In return finance people are seen as having a “lack of understanding of what truly matters” (Meier, 2016, page 153).
After outlining the problems Meier explains what actions were taken at MillerCoors. One idea was seeding finance people throughout the organization. Allowing these distributed finance staff, “mini-CFOs”, a chance to better understand what will help other disciplines perform their roles. MillerCoors is even examining the possibility of valuing brands periodically to better highlight the effect of decisions on these hard to measure intangible assets. These assets are crucial to the success of a firm like MillerCoors but can be missed if one concentrates only on numbers that get reported in company financial accounts.
To be clear it isn’t just finance people that need to change. For marketers understand and influence finance decisions “does necessitate that the organization take steps to “financialize the marketers” but not to an extreme in which they are converted into de facto accountants.” (Meier, 2016, pager 163). The point is a good one, to influence finance decisions it is not enough to plead for finance people to understand marketing, marketers need to try to understand finance. It is a tough challenge for the discipline but one that I think/hope will be very worthwhile.
Read: James Meier, 2016, Creating a Partnership Between Marketing and Finance, In Accountable Marketing: Linking Marketing Actions to Financial Performance, Edited by David W. Stewart and Craig T. Gugel, Routledge, MASB