With more big brands moving their marketing and sales departments closer together in a bid to become more agile, marketers will need to talk the talk as well as walk the walk if they want to take on the commercial side of the business.

Last week, Mars revealed an internal shake-up in its management team. Andrew Clarke, the company’s chief customer officer since 2015, has been promoted to the newly created role of chief marketing and customer officer. He will oversee the teams looking after media, consumer marketing, customer and sales. Meanwhile, the brand’s CMO Bruce McColl will retire in June.

The decision to bring its sales and marketing department closer together has been done in response to shifts in retail, ecommerce and consumer shopping behaviours, leading Mars to take a “fresh approach to stewarding”.

Mars CEO Grant F. Reid says: “Marketplace dynamics are blurring the lines between sales and marketing. Retail and shopper trends are moving at a remarkable pace and digital is providing new routes to reach consumers that blend advertising and selling. We’re evolving our approach to advance the way our marketing and customer strategies work together to address these trends.”

While a Mars spokesperson told Marketing Week that it is not “merging” its sales and marketing teams, the two will now work more closely together.

“Marketing and customer are two distinct and different teams that will now be led at the corporate level by a single individual—Andrew Clarke—and thereby benefit from increased connectivity. The objective here is to encourage integrated strategic planning and execution in the service of both customers and consumers,” he said.

Mars is not the only brand to bring its marketing and sales teams closer together. In March last year, Heineken combined its marketing and sales roles to “streamline the business”.

READ MORE: Why marketers are increasingly taking on chief commercial officer roles

Closely linked to these structural changes are brands’ plans to forego appointing a chief marketing officer in favour of a chief commercial officer (CCO). For example, Mondelez appointed Mark Clouse to the newly created the role in autumn last year. At the time of the announcement, the company’s chief executive Irene Rosenfeld said the brand was creating the role to simplify the company’s operations.

“As CCO, Clouse will oversee our growth plan, be in charge of all five regions as well as the global sales function. This new structure should simplify day-to-day decision-making,” she said.

A tipping point in marketing

Business jargon aside, this strategic move by big brands represents a significant shift in their marketing models. Richard Robinson, managing partner at Oystercatchers, believes marketing has now reached a “tipping point” in terms of how it is positioned within a business.

“The traditional marketing department was created and structured by our analogue ancestors around 20 to 25 years ago. They put in place some pretty solid rules, where they argued that marketing is not the same as sales and procurement is not marketing,” he says.

“Too many marketing departments still believe those models are appropriate for today’s world of modern marketing. It no longer relates to how consumers engage with brands and buy products – the gap between marketing and sales, especially in ecommerce, is paper thin and almost invisible.”

Marketers up their game

In 2011, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) published a report, which argued that brands need to merge their marketing and sales departments to safeguard marketing’s future.

Five years on, CIM’s chief executive Chris Daly believes this is still “as true as ever” as businesses have to reflect the changing needs of customers. But it is also in marketers’ own interests to work more closely with the sales team.

“This move reflects the blend of channels customers use to make a purchase, presenting a need to integrate more than ever before,” he says. 

“By integrating, there is a greater chance of delivering a consistent message at the right place and time. With clear communication between the two areas, the results will speak for themselves. While each area has its own specialism, aligning them more closely under one brand will undoubtedly lead to more sales and greater revenue for the organisation.”

Besides adapting to consumer needs and proving sales, marketers are also becoming more commercially responsible for the money they spend to get people buying.

“Five years ago, there was a big debate around why marketers weren’t making it into the boardroom. The only reason there has been a hold up is because they have not taken commercial fiscal responsibility for their actions. By putting sales as the number one benefit, marketers are forced to become more commercially responsible,” Robinson says.

Changing the industry’s image

It is not all plain sailing, however. CIM’s Daly believes that for more marketers to be given commercial responsibilities, marketing’s image needs to shift on an industry level.

READ MORE: How to market marketing

“Some people don’t understand what marketing is about. It has moved on from being the pins and t-shirts department. As an industry we need to act as a champion and be the voice of customer, and do this in a clear, consistent and ethical way,” he argues.

On a day-to-day basis, marketers will also increasingly have to forge closer relationships with the commercial side of the business. As a result, it will be important for brands to upskill their staff so their marketing teams can talk the talk as well as walk the walk.

While big brands shift their internal departments to make their business more agile, Fujitsu’s marketing director for the UK and Ireland Simon Carter believes that the marketing and sales department ultimately cannot exist without one another, and that marketers are “wasting their time” unless they’re able to prove what impact their division has on sales.

“I see most business as a ‘supply chain’. You have the manufacturing part on the left that creates the ultimate product and the sales engine on the right that ultimately gets the customer to part with their cash. The bit in the middle is marketing, and if you cannot draw a correlation between a marketing campaign and an ultimate sale, then you are wasting your time,” he says.

“It doesn’t matter where you draw the line where the marketing team ends and the sales team starts – what matters is that the two are inextricably linked. Salesmen cannot sell without marketing activity and marketers have no purpose if there is no ultimate sale.”

Read the article in full here in Marketing Week