THE ROLE OF MARKETING IN TODAY’S ENTERPRISES
Jochen Wirtz1, Sven Tuzovic2, and Volker Kuppelwieser3
Jochen Wirtz, Sven Tuzovic and Volker G. Kuppelwieser (2014), “The Role of Marketing
in Today's Enterprises,” Journal of Service Management, Vol. 25, No. 2, 171 - 194
10 June 2013
Note: All authors contributed equally to this article.
1 NUS Business School, National University of Singapore, Singapore
2 School Business, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, USA
3 Rouen Business School, Mont Saint Aignan, France
THE ROLE OF MARKETING IN TODAY’S ENTERPRISES
Purpose –This paper explores the role of marketing in today’s enterprises and examines the
antecedents of the marketing department’s influence and its relationship with market
orientation and firm performance.
Design/Methodology/Approach – Data was collected from the West (i.e., USA and Europe)
and the East (i.e., Asia). Partial least squares (PLS) was used to estimate structural models.
Findings – The findings support the idea that a strong and influential marketing department
contributes positively to firm performance. This finding holds for Western and Asian, and for
small/medium and large firms alike.
Second, the marketing department’s influence in a firm depends more on its
responsibilities and resources, and less on internal contingency factors (i.e., a firm’s
competitive strategy or institutional attributes).
Third, a marketing department’s influence in the West affects firm performance both
directly and indirectly (via market orientation). In contrast, this relationship is fully mediated
among Eastern firms. Fourth, low-cost strategies enhance the influence of a firm’s marketing
department in the East, but not in the West.
Finally, the influence of a marketing department is more resource-driven in large
firms, but more responsibilities-driven in small firms.
Research Limitations and Implications – We assume explicitly that a marketing
department’s influence is an antecedent of its market orientation. While we find support for
this link, we did not test for dual causality between the constructs.
Originality/Value – Countering the frequent claim in anecdotal and journalistic work that the
role of the marketing department diminishes, our findings show that across different
geographic regions and firm sizes, strong marketing departments improve firm performance
(especially in the marketing-savvy West), and that they should continue to play an important
role in firms.
Keywords: Marketing department, marketing function, importance of marketing, resources,
responsibilities, market orientation, firm performance, East and West.
The role and influence of marketing departments has received much attention in both the
popular press and academic literature in recent years (Gummesson et al., 2013). These
articles commonly assert that the marketing function has been diminished (Verhoef and
Leeflang, 2009; Webster et al., 2005), that marketing has lost its strategic role (Murphy,
2005; Groenross et al., 2013), and that marketing departments are now engaged in tactical
rather than strategic decision making (Sheth and Sisodia, 2005; Klaus et al., 2013). Fournaise
Marketing Group, a London-based global marketing performance measurement and
management firm, surveyed the chief executive officers (CEOs) of 1,200 large corporations
and small and medium-sized firms in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. Their
findings clearly demonstrated the bleak status of marketing in today’s enterprises: 80 percent
of the CEOs surveyed either ranked marketers lowly in the hierarchy of their organizations’
executive committees, or did not include them at all (Lukovitz, 2012). Further, 64 percent of
the “marketer-unhappy” CEOs reported that they have removed critical responsibilities from
marketing’s traditional core functions, including product development, pricing and channel
management (Lukovitz, 2012).
However, as Verhoef et al. (2011, p. 59) note, “… the discussion remains mainly
qualitative, without strong empirical evidence in multiple countries.” Studies have
empirically demonstrated that strong marketing departments lead to superior business
performance, regardless of a firm’s general market orientation (Moorman and Rust, 1999).
Götz et al. (2009, p. 29) further argue that “marketing plays a crucial role in implementing
and successfully managing market orientation.” That is, market-oriented behavior in a firm
can be enhanced because the marketing function champions the customer’s voice internally,
and is often also responsible for gathering, analyzing and communicating internally relevant
market, customer and competitor insights (Lovelock and Wirtz, 2011, p. 393-394).
The contribution of this study is twofold. First, we investigate the role of marketing
departments of firms headquartered in the United States, Europe and Asia. Although several
empirical studies have already been conducted within this domain, a common weakness of
such studies is their lack of cross-cultural comparison. Most are based on single-country data
(e.g., Götz et al., 2009; Merlo, 2011; Wu, 2004), with the notable exceptions of Verhoef et al.
(2011) study which tested Verhoef and Leeflang’s (2009) model across seven industrialized
Western nations. Engelen and Brettel (2011) compare data from six Western and Asian
countries and explore the moderating effects of three cultural dimensions (i.e., individualism,
power distance and uncertainty avoidance) of a marketing department’s capabilities on its
influence in the organization. The former study does not cover Asia, and the latter study does
not investigate the effects of a marketing department’s influence on firm performance. This
gap of cross-cultural research motivates us to contrast the antecedents and consequences (i.e.,
firm performance) of a marketing department’s influence in the West (i.e., North America
and Western Europe) to that in the East (i.e., Asia). This comparison could provide
interesting insights, because most Eastern companies, except for a few such as Singapore
Airlines (c.f., Heracleous and Wirtz, 2010), have been less advanced in their marketing
efforts. Second, we contribute to the growing body of literature examining the diminution of
the role of marketing departments because of their perceived lack of added value over and
above a firm’s overall market orientation.
LITERATURE REVIEW AND MODEL DEVELOPMENT
Consistent with prior conceptualizations, we define marketing’s role within a firm as the
impact of the marketing department, relative to that of other departmental functions, on
strategic decisions important to the success of the business unit and/or organization
(Homburg et al., 1999; Merlo, 2011). Over the last two decades, several conceptual and
empirical studies (see Table 1) have explored the role of the marketing department in firms.
While the terminology in the literature varies (e.g., marketing power, marketing emphasis,
marketing influence), we use these terms interchangeably and define them as the influence of
the marketing department on a firm’s strategic decision making.
We next advance our hypotheses which are summarized in Figure 1. Our model
suggests several antecedents of the influence of the marketing department in a firm, and
predicts that this influence affects firm performance directly and indirectly.
Insert Table 1 and Figure 1 about here
Determinants of a Marketing Department’s Influence
Marketing department characteristics. Previous research has demonstrated that the
characteristics of a marketing department (e.g., accountability, creativity, customer-
connecting capabilities) are key determinants of its influence (e.g., Verhoef and Leeflang,
2009; Verhoef et al., 2011). More recently, scholars have argued that marketers are facing a
“widening gap between the accelerating complexity of markets and the capacity of most
marketing organizations to comprehend and cope with this complexity” (Day, 2011, p. 183).
This is supported by the findings of the 2011 IBM Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
Study which demonstrates that marketing departments are challenged by complexities related
to changing consumer demographics, new technologies, and growing quantities of data (e.g.,
Bolton et al., 2013; Kumar et al., 2013; Wirtz et al, 2013). However, without market-sensing
capabilities, marketing departments are less likely to develop marketing strategies and
activities that generate profitable growth. This ultimately contributes to a lack of trust in
marketing departments among CEOs, and a loss of marketing departments’ responsibilities
Following the results of Fournaise’s CMO study, we propose that the greater a
marketing department’s responsibilities within a firm, the greater its internal influence. In
order to identify possible responsibilities, we follow Moorman’s (2011 and 2012) CMO
surveys. Results from her surveys indicate that marketers judge several responsibilities as
being highly relevant, including market positioning, promotion, marketing research, social
media, competitive intelligence, and public relations.
We propose further that a marketing department’s influence depends both on its
market-sensing resources and capabilities, which we collectively label “resources”. Previous
research has adopted the resource-based or capabilities theory (Day, 1994, 2011) to
investigate how resources and capabilities relate to the marketing function (e.g., Lee et al.,
2011; Sarkees et al., 2011). To investigate the relationship between a marketing department’s
responsibilities and resources, and its influence within the firm, we propose that:
H1: The greater the marketing department’s responsibilities in a firm, the greater the
department’s influence in the firm.
H2: The greater the marketing department’s level of resources in a firm, the greater
the department’s influence in the firm.
Competitive strategy. Prior research suggests that the choice of a firm’s competitive
strategy is related to the influence of its marketing department. Some scholars have found
that a differentiation strategy is related positively to marketing’s influence, whereas a low-
cost strategy, similar to a ‘defender strategy’ (Miles and Snow, 1978), is related negatively
(Homburg et al., 1999; Wu, 2004). However, recent cross-country results by Verhoef et al.
(2011) indicate non-conclusive effects. In order to compare these relationships in Western
firms with rapidly developing Eastern firms, we propose:
H3: A differentiation strategy is related positively to a marketing department’s
influence within a firm.
H4: A low-cost strategy is related negatively to a marketing department’s influence
within a firm.
Background of the CEO. Previous research has argued that the influence of
functional groups is related to the organizational culture (Deshpandé and Webster, 1989) and
guidance by top management (Hambrick and Mason, 1984). There is empirical support that if
a firm’s CEO has a background in marketing, the marketing function has a higher level of
influence (Homburg et al., 1999; Verhoef et al. 2011). This is because the background of the
CEO serves “as a manifestation of the bureaucratic power of marketing” (Merlo, 2011, p.
1,156), leading to greater legitimacy compared to other functions. Thus, we propose:
H5: The marketing department has a stronger influence in firms in which the CEO has
a marketing background compared to firms in which the CEO does not have a
Marketing Department’s Influence, Market Orientation and Firm Performance
Several scholars support the idea that marketing departments are important for a company’s
performance (Day, 1994; Webster, 1997), affecting it directly and positively (Moorman and
Rust, 1999; Wu, 2004). Their rationale is that marketing departments develop vital
knowledge and skills that allow firms to connect customers to their products.
At the same time, numerous studies and several meta-analyses provide ample
evidence that firm performance is positively influenced by a firm’s market orientation,
independent of the marketing department’s role (e.g., Cano et al., 2004; Kirca et al., 2005).
Market orientation is a crucial construct in the marketing literature (e.g., Kohli and Jaworski,
1990), and such an orientation has been conceptualized from both behavioral and cultural
perspectives (Homburg and Pflesser, 2000).
Only few studies have investigated the simultaneous relationship between a marketing
department’s influence and market orientation on firm performance. Moorman and Rust
(1999) showed empirically that strong marketing departments provide value over and above a
firm’s market orientation and have a direct positive effect on firm performance. The authors
argue that, through its skill set, the marketing department contributes to new product
performance, customer relationship performance and to the financial performance of a firm
beyond the variance explained by a firm’s market orientation, and that “the marketing
function can and should coexist with a market orientation” (Moorman and Rust, 1999, p.
Two recent studies suggests that market orientation mediates the relationship between
a marketing department’s influence and firm performance (Verhoef and Leeflang, 2009;
Verhoef et al., 2011). In fact, in Verhoef and Leeflang’s (2009) study, market orientation
fully mediated the effects of the marketing department’s influence on firm performance. One
explanation the authors offer for their finding is that since Moorman and Rust’s (1999) study,
“firms have become more market-oriented, creating a less strong need for an influential
marketing department” (Verhoef and Leeflang, 2009, p. 28). Verhoef et al. (2011) conclude
that top management respect and decision influence of the marketing department are directly
and indirectly related to firm performance. In order to explore these relationships in
potentially more market-oriented Western firms, and firms in rapidly developing Asia, we
H6: The greater the marketing department’s influence in a firm, the better the firm’s
H7: The greater the marketing department’s influence in a firm, the higher its market
orientation, which in turn improves firm performance.
Sample and Data Collection
In order to test our hypotheses, we conducted a large-scale cross-sectional survey across three
continents: North America, Europe, and Asia. Utilizing the student directories of the authors’
and affiliated universities, we sent emails to approximately 2,930 MBA and EMBA alumni.
In total, 580 individuals participated, yielding an overall response rate of 19.8%, which is
comparable with that of prior research in which data was obtained from commercial list
providers (e.g., Sarkees et al., 2010). The response rate was also at the top end of the average
response rates among managers, which according to Menon et al. (1996), is between 15%
and 20%. We excluded all respondents who did not complete the entire survey, and a few
respondents from Africa and Australia, leaving a final sample of 312 responses for analysis.
Table 2 shows the composition of the sample with regards to geography, industry, firm
revenue, the number of employees, as well as the respondents’ background.
Insert Table 2 about here
All measures are shown in Tables 3 and 4.
Insert Tables 3 and 4 about here
Reflective construct measures. Competitive strategy, market orientation, marketing
department’s influence and firm performance were adapted from past studies (see Table 3).
We used managers’ subjective firm performance assessment as a convenient proxy for
objective firm performance as past research has shown that it is generally consistent with
objective firm performance (e.g., Hart and Banbury, 1994).
Marketing’s resources and responsibilities. In order to identify what the marketing
department is primarily responsible for, we developed a formative scale based on Moorman’s
annual CMO Survey (2012). Although Moorman asked CMOs about 19 different
responsibilities, her 2011 and 2012 results indicate that marketers judge several of these
responsibilities to be less or not at all relevant. We dropped items which had less than 50
percent agreement, and used the remaining 12 items to measure a marketing department’s
responsibilities. The scale for resources available to the marketing department was adapted
from IBM’s 2012 Global Chief Marketing Officer Study. The final formative scales are
shown in Table 4.
Control variable. Firm age was incorporated into the study to control for possible
nuisance effects (Sarkees et al., 2010) and measured by the number of years the firm had
been in business. Five categories were created for firm age: (1) less than three years; (2) four
to six years; (3) seven to 11 years; (4) 12 to 20 years; and (5) more than 20 years.
Contextual moderators. We included several contextual variables (geographical
region, firm size, and organization of the marketing function) to test for potential moderating
effects. We included these contextual moderators to potentially account for observed effects
(Spector and Brannick, 2011), but did not formulate explicit hypotheses linking these
moderators to our focal constructs (c.f., Verhoef and Leeflang, 2009). Following the
distinction between the West and the East in the literature (e.g., Crittenden et al., 2008; Ellis,
2006; Engelen and Brettel 2011), we compared results from participants in the West (i.e.,
North America and Western Europe) to those from the East (i.e., Asia) to explore for possible
ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
Measures and Correlations
All measures of the reflective constructs were submitted to a confirmatory factor analysis
(CFA). As formative items do not necessarily correlate among themselves, conventional
procedures for assessing the validity and reliability are not appropriate for such items
(Diamantopoulos and Winklhofer, 2001). Thus, we excluded the two formative scales from
the CFA (Briggs and Grisaffe 2010; Lam et al. 2004).
The model (χ²/df = 2.10, IFI = .94, TLI = .92, CFI = .94, RMSEA = .04) fits the data
well. All factor loadings for the model are highly significant (p < .001), and the construct
reliability exceeds the common threshold of .70 for each construct (see Table 5). The average
variance extracted (AVE) of all factors is above the critical value of .50, thus providing
support for the measures’ convergent validity (Hair et al., 2012). To assess the discriminant
validity of the constructs, two approaches were applied. First, the indicators’ cross loadings
revealed that no indicator loads more highly on an opposing construct (Hair et al., 2012).
Second, each construct’s AVE was larger than the squared interconstruct correlation for each
pair of variables (Fornell and Larcker, 1981). Both analyses suggest that the measured items
have more in common with the construct they are associated with than they do with other
Insert Table 5 about here
Because multicollinearity represents a potential threat to formative constructs (Grewal et al.,
2004), we tested for it using the Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) method. Regression analyses
were performed for each item as a dependent variable, with the remaining items serving as
independent variables. The maximum VIF calculated for the marketing’s responsibilities
construct was 4.38, and for the marketing’s resources construct, it was 2.73. Both were well
below the common threshold of five (Hair et al., 2011). This means that multicollinearity
problems were not encountered in relation to any of the items.
To assess the quality of the scales, the weights of the indicators’ were tested (see
Table 4). The bootstrapping method was used to calculate item weights (or PLS scores or
outer weights), and the t-values of each formative indicator (Chin 1998, Diamantopoulos and
Winklhofer, 2001). The results suggest the elimination of some items because of their
insignificance (Petter et al., 2007). However, the elimination of formative indicators brings
with it the risk of changing the nature of the constructs (Diamantopoulos and Winklhofer,
2001). All items were therefore retained for further analysis.
Descriptives and Initial Analysis
As a first step, we examined the data for possible differences between the USA and European
responses. Except for the item “market entry strategies” (p = .03) in the responsibilities scale,
and the item “blogs” item in the resources scale (p = .02), no significant differences were
found between the regions (p > .05). Given the similarities, they were combined to form a
single category for further analysis, subsequently referred to as “the West” and compared
against “the East” (i.e., Asia).
Next, we tested mean differences by geographic region and by firm size. Interestingly,
we found a number of significant differences as shown in Table 6. The results indicate that
marketing departments’ in the West tend to have more resources than those in the East. One
interesting difference in the area of responsibilities relates to social media, which tends to be
more the responsibility of the marketing department in Asia than of those in the West. An
explanation might be that social media has progressed further in the West than in the East,
leading to the establishment of independent units that are responsible for social media
The results show a few significant differences across company size. As would be
expected, the significant differences suggest that marketing departments in large firms have
more responsibilities and more resources than those of small and medium-sized firms.
Insert Table 6 about here
Antecedents of a Marketing Department’s Influence
We next assessed the relations in our model using structural equation modeling
(SEM) with the SmartPLS 2.0 (M3) software (Ringle et al., 2005). We chose a nested model
approach (c.f., Baron and Kenny 1986) and tested (1) a direct effects model and (2) a
mediated model (see Table 7). The results show that as a firm’s marketing department grows
in its level of responsibilities and resources, it becomes more important within the
organization, providing support for H1 and H2. However, a differentiation strategy was not
found to significantly affect or strengthen the influence of the marketing department (β = -
.05, p > .05), thus rejecting H3. Further, although a low-cost strategy was found to have a
significant impact on the influence of the marketing department (β = .10, p < .05), the
coefficient was in the opposite direction of what had been hypothesized. Therefore, H4 was
also rejected. Finally, we found that the marketing function has a significantly higher level of
influence if the firm’s CEO has a background is in marketing (β = .12, p < .01), supporting
Insert Table 7 about here
Effects of a Marketing Department’s Influence on Firm Performance
The direct relationship model shows that a strong marketing department has a direct
and positive effect on firm performance (β = .25, p < .001). In the mediated relationship
model, market orientation partially mediates the direct link between the marketing
department’s influence and firm performance. Specifically, the direct link remains significant
(β = .15, p < .05), showing that a strong marketing department contributes to firm
performance over and above its marketing orientation. This finding supports H6.
In addition and consistent with H7a, an influential marketing department is positively
related to a firm’s market orientation (β = .31, p < .001). Market orientation in turn, as
hypothesized in H7b, has a positive impact on firm performance (β = .30, p < .001). The
Sobel’s z-test statistic (Sobel, 1982) indicates a significant mediation at the .001 level (z-
value: 3.68, p < .001). The ratio of the indirect to the total effect (i.e., variance accounted for
or VAF) was 26.9%. Finally, the direct path between the influence of the marketing
department and firm performance is reduced, but remains significant (β = .15, p < .05),
suggesting partial mediation. Together, these findings provide support to the assertion that a
marketing department contributes positively to firm performance over and above a strong
We conducted multi-group analyses as proposed by Henseler (2012) to test for the possible
moderating influence of geographical region and firm size. Significances were estimated
using 5,000 bootstraps in all calculations.
West versus East. The marketing literature has addressed the issue of how culture and
values associated with Western and Eastern societies affect the adoption of the marketing
concepts (Ellis, 2006; Nakata and Sivakumar, 2001). We split the data set into two groups,
one with respondents from USA/Europe (n = 163), and the other from Asia (n = 149). We
then calculated the direct and mediated relationship models as shown in Figure 2a.
Insert Figure 2 here
Significant differences were found between the West and the East in the coefficients
pertaining to the impact of adopting a low-cost strategy on a marketing department’s
influence (∆ = .22, p < .001). While the path coefficient is insignificant in the USA/Europe
dataset (β = .01, p > .05), the coefficient is strong in the Asian dataset (β = .23, p < .01). This
result suggests that compared to Western companies, Asian firms that follow a low-cost
strategy ask their marketing departments to help in selling this cost-effectiveness to their
The Western dataset shows a strong and positive direct relationship between the
marketing department’s influence and firm performance (β = .26, p < .01), whereas this
relationship is insignificant in the Asian dataset (β = .03, p > .05). Interestingly, a significant
direct path coefficient was found in the unmediated model for the influence of the marketing
department on firm performance (β = .14, p > .05). This finding shows that the influence of
the marketing department on firm performance is fully mediated by market orientation in the
Asian dataset, suggesting that Asian respondents perceive marketing departments to have a
weaker influence on firm performance compared to respondents in the West. These findings
suggest that Asia trails the USA and Europe in its adoption of the marketing concept.
Firm size. To test for the influence of firm size, we divided the data set into small and
medium sized firms (< 10,000 employees, n = 178) and large companies (≥ 10,000
employees, n = 134). See Figure 2b for the results of the mediated model. Significant
differences between these two groups were found in the relationship between marketing
resources and the marketing department’s influence (∆ = .33, p < .001), and between
responsibilities and the department’s influence (∆ = .19, p < .05). The coefficients show that
the influence of the marketing department in large firms is shaped more strongly by resources
and less by responsibilities than is the case in small and medium-sized firms.
SUMMARY, IMPLICATIONS AND FURTHER RESEARCH
In response to the ongoing discussion in the popular press and the assertion that the
importance and role of marketing departments is diminishing, the first objective of this study
was to examine the status and role of marketing in today’s firms. The second objective was to
understand the determinants and consequences of a marketing department’s influence by
surveying a global cross-industry sample of firms. Prior empirical research has investigated
both the antecedents of the marketing department’s influence as well as the marketing
department’s relationship with market orientation and firm performance. However, a
limitation of these studies is their use of country-level data. Our study is the first to compare
both antecedents and consequences of the marketing department’s influence across the West
(USA and Europe) and the East (Asia).
Theoretical and Managerial Implications
We contribute to the limited number of studies that have simultaneously investigated
the relationship between the influence of marketing departments, market orientation and firm
performance (Moorman and Rust, 1999; Verhoef and Leeflang, 2009; Verhoef et al., 2011).
Our findings support the contention that a strong and influential marketing department
enhances a firm’s performance, and that the department’s influence is related primarily to its
levels of responsibilities and resources. Both of these findings hold for Western and Eastern
firms, and for small/medium and large firms alike.
However, our findings challenge current thinking in two ways. First, our results
contrast with prior studies that found market orientation to be a full mediator of the influence
of a marketing department on firm performance (e.g., Verhoef and Leeflang, 2009). Instead,
we identify a strong direct between the influence of the marketing department and firm
performance (Moorman and Rust, 1999). This has important implications. As organizations
face a marketplace that is becoming more complex, their ability to successfully meet the
needs of customers lies in the hands of their marketing departments. Market-sensing and
customer-connecting capabilities become the cornerstone of an “outside-in approach” that
“opens up a richer set of opportunities for competitive advantage and growth” (Day, 2011,
187). In other words, firm performance can be amplified by the marketing department’s
ability to sense and cope with the complexities of market.
Second, there are important differences between Western and Eastern firms. In the
West, the influence of a marketing department has a significant direct and indirect impact
(via market orientation) on firm performance, whereas this effect is fully mediated in the
East. One possible explanation for this difference is that Asia trails the USA and Europe in
the adoption of the marketing concept. For example, in Homburg et al. found a difference
between USA and Germany, and they concluded that “the lag may be even greater in less
developed countries” (Homburg et al., 1999, p. 13). Another reason might be that certain
cultural dimensions may have moderating influences (Engelen and Brettel, 2011).
Our study makes some important contributions to the current understanding of the
antecedents of a marketing department’s influence. Recent studies by IBM (2011) and
Fournaise (Lukovitz 2012) suggest that marketing professionals are challenged by increasing
levels of complexity in the marketplace, and as a result have not been able to deliver value to
customers and their own organizations (i.e., by building customer connections, capturing
value and showing accountability). The better marketing departments have the capability to
dynamically sense and cope with environmental changes, and they retain responsibility over
all four Ps (promotion, product, place, and price). As a result, they gain higher influence
within their firms (Day, 2011). Consistent with this assessment, our findings show that a
marketing department’s influence is primarily associated with its responsibilities and
Further, we found differences between large and small/medium-sized firms.
Specifically, the influence of a marketing department is significantly more resources-driven
in large firms, whereas it is more responsibilities-driven in small firms. It is possible that the
marketing departments in large firms are more dependent on resources to gain influence, and
that once these resources are given to them, they are more professional in utilizing them.
Small/medium-sized firms, on the other hand, may be more stretched for resources, but they
can still gain significant influence by taking on additional responsibilities.
Previous research has been contradictory on the effect of a firm’s competitive strategy
on the influence of its marketing department. While some scholars advance that the influence
of marketing is higher for a business with a differentiation strategy (e.g., Götz et al., 2009;
Homburg et al., 1999), Verhoef and Leeflang’s (2009) recent study does not support this
perspective. Our findings similarly do not support the idea that a differentiation strategy is
associated with greater influence of the marketing department. In addition, on an aggregate
level, our results are consistent with literature that indicates that a low-cost strategy is not
associated with the influence of marketing departments. However, the Asian dataset differs
significantly from the USA/European dataset in this regard. Although following a low-cost
strategy is important for marketing departments in the East, the adoption of such a strategy is
insignificant in the West. One explanation for this disparity may be that consumers in the
East are more price conscious than consumers in the West, such that Asian firms are more
likely to follow low-cost strategies. Ackerman and Tellis (2001) investigated differences in
the shopping behavior of Chinese and American consumers across a number of grocery
stores. Among other observations, they found that Chinese supermarkets had substantially
lower prices, leading them to assert that “[Asians], raised in a collectivist society that values
price consciousness and sophistication in money-handling, differ from Americans [and
Western Europeans] raised in an individualistic society that traditionally does not have the
same values” (p. 58). Our findings are consistent with this reasoning.
Our study also presents a number of important implications for practitioners. Most
importantly perhaps, it reinforces the view that marketing departments have a problem.
According to a recent study of 1,200 CEOs by the Fournaise Marketing Group, marketing’s
role within firms has been weakened (Lukovitz, 2012). Nonetheless, our study provides
empirical evidence that a strong marketing department has a positive influence on firm
performance both directly and indirectly via market orientation. Therefore, a strong
marketing department is still beneficial (c.f., Verhoef et al., 2011). Given their clear value,
how can marketing departments gain more trust amongst members of their organizations’
executive committees? One suggestion commonly made by scholars (e.g., Klaus et al., 2013)
and CEOs (according to Fournaise) is to be more accountable for their marketing programs’
financial results. As Fournaise’s study indicates, “ROI marketers” are highly valued
Limitations and Future Research
As with any study, this study has a number of limitations that provide directions for future
research. First, as typical of studies in this genre (e.g., Lee et al., 2011; Verhoef and Leeflang,
2009), this study relies on the self-report of respondents. More objective performance data
(e.g., changes in sales, profits and market share) should be employed in future research as this
will provide hard and quantitative data on how the marketing function affects a firm’s
Second, the operationalization of firm performance could be extended to include
customer satisfaction as a leading indicator of a firm’s financial performance. As such, future
research efforts may consider the incorporation of customer satisfaction scores from J.D.
Power & Associates or the American Customer Satisfaction Index to enhance the
understanding of firm performance.
Third, although we explicitly assumed that marketing’s role is an antecedent of
market orientation (see Moorman and Rust, 1999) and found support for this link, we did not
test for dual causality between these constructs. Future research is needed to advance our
understanding of the interrelationships between the marketing department’s role and a firm’s
general market orientation (Verhoef and Leeflang, 2009).
Fourth, we did not examine whether sales was combined with the marketing
department in our sample. It is conceivable that combining the sales function with the
marketing department might influence the extent of a marketing department’s influence.
Further research is needed on this issue.
Finally, the generalizability of our findings across contexts needs to be examined
further. We did not examine potential moderating effects of cultural dimensions (Engelen and
Brettel, 2011). We also did not explore the whether the increase in skill sets required to
navigate the marketing applications of latest technology (ranging from big data and location
based services to mobile marketing and social media) has on a marketing department’s
influence. Furthermore, it is conceivable that make-or-buy decisions of marketing activities
and functions (e.g., sophisticated marketing skills can be readily bought from external
providers in the West, but less so in the East) affect the influence of the marketing
department (c.f., Ehret and Wirtz 2010; Wirtz and Ehret 2013). Finally, the functional
background and seniority of respondents, and the fact that all our respondents have MBA
degrees, and that we only surveyed one manager in each company may have influenced the
results. Nevertheless, we believe that our findings are robust as we tested for possible
boundary conditions as far as possible (i.e., examining potential interaction effects with our
independent variables). But future research is needed as the small cell sizes in our study make
the fact that we did not find interaction effects non-conclusive.
In sum, our findings support the idea that a strong and influential marketing
department contributes positively to a firm’s performance. This finding holds for Western
and Asian and for small/medium and large firms alike.
Note: The path coefficient pairs in italics and underlined font are significantly different at p ≤
within the firm
.44*** | .34***
.42*** | .27**
-.08 | -.03
.01 | .23**
.10* | .10
.26** | .03
.34*** | .27** .23** | .38**
Multi-group analysis by region (Figure 2a)
within the firm
.46*** | .27**
.19* | .52***
-.05 | -.02
.09 | .08
.14* | .08*
.16* | .14
.29*** | .34*** .28** | .33***
Multi-group analysis by company size (Figure 2b)
Note: Coefficient 1 = USA/Europe
Coefficient 2 = Asia
Note: Coefficient 1 = Small companies
Coefficient 2 = Large companies
Review of empirical studies in the literature
Research Focus Theory and
Unit of Analysis,
Sample Size and
Sectors Key Findings
Influence of the
USA and Germany
External contingency factors (i.e., competitive strategies)
and institutional variables (i.e., marketing background of
the CEO and the type of industry) are positively related to
marketing department’s influence.
Role and value of the
B2B vs. B2C
The marketing function contributes to firm performance
beyond the variance explained by a firm’s market
Wu (2004) Marketing department’s
influence and cross-
functional interactions in
Contingency theory Firm level;
online retailing and
Marketing’s influence mediates the relationships between
market orientation and performance and between
differentiation/low-cost strategy and performance.
Götz et al.
Role of marketing and
Contingency theory SBU level;
cosmetics, food and
Marketing department’s power amplifies (i.e., moderates)
the relationship between market orientation and firm
and impact on firm
on literature review
B2B vs. B2C;
services vs. goods
Market orientation mediates the link between a marketing
department’s influence and firm performance.
Accountability and innovation are key antecedents of a
marketing department’s influence.
Actual decisional influence of the marketing department is
limited to segmentation, targeting and positioning,
advertising, and customer relationship management.
Role of marketing
activities in a transitional
Literature review 4 studies (2 pre-
recession and 2 during
The overall importance of the marketing function was
higher during the recession.
(2009) economy a recession);
Large firms rated the importance of the marketing function
more highly than small firms.
Sales growth is positively correlated with ratings of the
importance of marketing activities.
Moderating effects of
three national cultural
dimensions on relation-
ship between marketing
and its influence
on Verhoef and
3 Western (Austria,
Germany, USA), 3
Asian (Hong Kong,
Accountability has no impact on the marketing
department’s influence in Asian countries, contradicting
previous findings for Western countries.
Innovativeness and customer connecting are positively
related to the influence of the marketing department
across cultural contexts.
Lee et al.
Marketing program implementation has a positive direct
effect on firm performance.
influence from a power
Power theory SBU level;
Marketing subunits can strengthen their role by employing
different types of power.
Market turbulence can lead to greater influence of the
department within the firm.
Sarkees (2011) Marketing emphasis as
opportunism and firm
A firm’s marketing emphasis mediates the relationship
between technological opportunism and firm performance.
Verhoef et al.
Replication of Verhoef
and Leeflang (2009)
on Verhoef and
nations (USA, 5
As in Verhoef
and Leeflang (2009)
Firms in industrialized countries should have strong
The presence of a CEO with a marketing background is
positively related to a marketing department’s influence.
Competitive strategies are not consistently related to a
marketing department’s influence.
Position of respondent Percent
Automotive 2.5 Other C-level (e.g., CFO,
CMO, CTO) 7.2
Consumer packaged goods 4.3 Director 17.2
Financial services 9.9 Head of Department 11.3
Healthcare/Pharmaceutical/Life Science 7.7 Senior Manager 12.2
Marine & Shipping 0.9 Years of service in firm
Oil & Gas 1.5 0-3 21.9
Public Service 2.8 4-6 21.9
Real Estate/Property 1.5 7-11 21.6
More than 20 11.0
Annual revenue Location of firm’s headquarters
< $25 million 22.9 Africa/Middle East 1.9
$25 million-$49 million 5.7 Asia 45.9
$50 million-$99 million 4.5 Australia/Oceania 1.9
$100 million-$199 million 5.1 Europe 26.1
$200 million-$499 million 11.1 North America 24.2
$500 million-$999 million 9.2 South America 0.0
> $1 billion 41.4 Organization marketing function
Number of employees Corporate function 43.6
Business unit level 31.0
500- 999 6.5 Brand/product level 16.0
1,000 – 9,999 19.8 Field offices 9.3
10,000 – 49,999 19.2
50,000 – 99,999 11.8
> 100,000 13.3
Reflective construct measurement items
(Adapted from Homburg et al. 1999; Götz et al. 2009)
Building a competitive advantage through superior products .79
Building up a premium product or brand image .69
Obtaining high prices from the market .77
(Adapted from Homburg et al. 1999; Götz et al. 2009)
Pursuing operating efficiencies .81
Pursuing cost advantages in raw material procurement .62
All in all, our business unit pursues a low-cost strategy .56
(Adapted from Deshpandé et al. 1993; Götz et al. 2009; Verhoef and Leeflang 2009)
Our objectives are driven by our commitment to serving customers. .78
Our strategy is based on our understanding of customer needs. .85
Our strategies are driven by our beliefs about how we can create greater value for
Our organization has routine or regular measures of customer service. .62
Our organization has a good sense of how our customers value out products and
Our organization is more customer-focused than our competitors. .63
Marketing department’s influence
(Adapted from Götz et al. 2009)
The implementation of our customer relationship management is coordinated by
the marketing department.
The marketing department serves on our strategic steering committees. .78
The marketing department has access to information that is crucial to the executive
board’s strategic decisions.
The executive board confers with the marketing department concerning long-term
All in all, the marketing department has strong influence within our organization. .88
(Adapted from Sarkees et al. 2010)
Revenue: My organization’s revenue growth last year greatly exceeded industry
Profit: My organization’s profit margin is much higher than industry average. .73
Note: All items use a seven-point Likert-type scale anchored in “1” = strongly disagree, and “7” = strongly agree.
Instructions: Please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statements. (The
question for differentiation and low-cost strategy was worded differently: To what extent does your organization
emphasize the following activities?).
Measurement model fit: χ2/df =2.104, CFI = .937, RMSEA = .044, all items are significant at p<.001
Formative construct measurement items
Construct Mean Outer weights t p
To what extent do you agree that marketing is responsible for the
following in your organization? Anchors: 1 = strongly disagree and
7 = strongly agree (Adapted from Moorman, CMO Survey 2012)
New products 5.02 .44 15.5 .000
Positioning 5.79 -.36 4.5 .000
Distribution 4.14 -.09 3.3 .001
Market entry strategies 5.25 .42 9.6 .000
Advertising 6.09 -.09 1.5 .144
Brand 6.06 .38 5.2 .000
Promotion 5.90 -.24 4.3 .000
Competitive intelligence 5.09 -.35 6.0 .000
Marketing research 5.56 .22 3.0 .003
Public relations 4.57 .04 1.4 .177
Lead generation 5.38 .10 1.8 .072
Social media 4.93 .27 8.3 .000
How important are the following resources in influencing marketing
decisions in your organization? Anchors: 1 = unimportant and 7 =
extremely important (Adapted from IBM’s Global CMO Study 2012)
Market research 5.13 -.01 0.1 .902
Corporate strategy 5.61 .26 4.6 .000
5.20 -.69 14.2 .000
Customer analysis 5.41 .08 1.7 .098
Marketing team analysis 4.77 .13 4.5 .000
Customer service feedback 5.04 .34 1.3 .000
Financial metrics 4.98 .09 1.4 .152
sis 4.60 .30 4.2 .000
Brand performance analysis 4.82 .05 1.7 .081
Sales/sell-through numbers 4.85 .37 6.7 .000
Test panels/focus groups 4.09 -.20 4.3 .000
R&D insights 4.21 .42 6.9 .000
Consumer-generated reviews 4.56 -.17 5.2 .000
reviews and rankin
s 4.26 .11 4.6 .000
Retail and shopper analysis 3.85 .10 2.4 .015
Online communications 4.48 -.41 16.9 .000
Professional journals 4.12 -.13 3.4 .001
Blogs 3.65 .48 11.4 .000
Supply-chain performance 3.78 -.35 11.7 .000
Mean, standard deviation, correlation matrix, reliability, and AVE
M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 CR AVE
1 Responsibilities n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
2 Resources n.a. n.a. .57*** n.a. n.a. n.a.
3 Differentiation 5.19 1.54 .30*** .46*** (.78) .88 70.08%
4 Low-cost 5.84 1.22 .34*** .48*** .38*** (.66) .81 59.30%
5 Background of CEO n.a. n.a. .08 .11 .08 .06 n.a. n.a. n.a.
6 Marketing influence 4.79 1.61 .54*** .51*** .23*** .34*** .18*** (.88) .92 70.98%
7 Market orientation 5.67 1.23 .31*** .43*** .38*** .51*** .07 .33*** (.84) .89 58.80%
8 Firm performance 4.57 1.54 .23*** .25*** .25*** .24*** .02 .24*** .33*** (.70) .87 77.77%
9 Firm age n.a. n.a. -.12 -.14* .06 -.10 -.19** -.19** -.11 .02 n.a. n.a.
Notes: Cronbach’s alphas are shown in parentheses on the correlation matrix diagonal; M = Mean, SD = standard deviation,
CR = construct reliability, AVE = average variance extracted; n = 312, *** p ≤ .001, ** p ≤ .01, * p ≤ .05
Construct Overall Western
New products 5.02 5.25* 4.81 5.02 5.01
5.60 5.96* 5.72 5.87
4.38* 3.92 4.08 4.21
Market entry strategies 5.25 5.31 5.19 5.27 5.22
6.09 5.98 6.19 5.99 6.21
Brand 6.06 6.07 6.06
Promotion 5.90 5.83 5.96 5.81 6.00
Competitive intelligence 5.09 5.23 4.96 4.91 5.32*
Marketing research 5.56 5.58 5.54 5.54 5.59
Public relations 4.57 4.67 4.47 4.59 4.53
eneration 5.38 5.39 5.36 5.40 5.35
Social media 4.93 4.39 5.65** 4.80 5.13
Market research 5.13 5.26 5.02 5.03 5.27
Corporate strategy 5.61 5.58 5.64 5.60 5.63
Competitive benchmarking 5.20 5.36* 5.06 5.12 5.31
Customer analysis 5.41 5.52 5.31 5.39 5.44
Marketing team analysis 4.77 4.96* 4.6 4.64 4.95
Customer service feedback 5.04 5.12 4.96 5.14 4.90
Financial metrics 4.98 5.03 4.94 4.76 5.28**
Campaign analysis 4.60 4.69 4.53 4.54 4.69
Brand performance analysis 4.82 4.93 4.72 4.73 4.93
Sales/sell-through numbers 4.85 5.07* 4.66 4.73 5.02
Test panels/focus groups 4.09 4.39** 3.81 3.90 4.33*
R&D insights 4.21 4.36 4.07 4.05 4.42*
Consumer-generated reviews 4.56 4.83** 4.31 4.59 4.52
Third-party reviews and rankings 4.26 4.60*** 3.96 4.33 4.17
Retail and shopper analysis 3.85 4.11* 3.62 3.76 3.98
Online communications 4.48 4.55 4.42 4.53 4.41
Professional journals 4.12 4.24 4.01 4.22 3.99
Blogs 3.65 3.90* 3.42 3.72 3.56
Supply-chain performance 3.78 3.99* 3.58 3.69 3.90
Notes: n = 312, *** p ≤ .001, ** p ≤ .01, * p ≤ .05, two-tailed significances, significances are shown at the
Results of the structural models
Path Standardized loadings
Marketing responsibilities → Marketing
√ .39*** .39***
Marketing resources → Marketing
√ .31*** .31***
Differentiation strategy → Marketing
H3(+) ⁄ -.05 -.05
Low-cost strategy → Marketing
⁄ .10* .10*
Marketing background of CEO →
Marketing department’s influence
√ .12** .12**
Marketing department’s influence → Firm
H6(+) √ .25*** .15*
Marketing department’s influence →
H7a(+) √ .31***
Market orientation → Firm performance H7b(+) √ .30***
Firm age -.04 -.05
Notes: n = 312, *** p ≤ .001, ** p ≤ .01, * p ≤ .05, two-tailed significances estimated by
5,000 bootstraps; the signs in parentheses show the hypothesized relationships; ‘√’ –
hypothesis is supported; ‘⁄’ hypothesis is rejected.
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About the authors
Jochen Wirtz is Professor of Marketing at the National University of Singapore and
the founding director of the UCLA - NUS Executive MBA (ranked number 5 globally in the
Financial Times 2012 EMBA rankings). Dr Wirtz has published some 200 academic articles,
book chapters and industry reports. His over 10 books include Services Marketing: People,
Technology, Strategy (Prentice Hall, 7th edition, 2011, co-authored with Christopher
Lovelock), Essentials of Services Marketing (Prentice Hall, 2nd edition, 2012), and Flying
High in a Competitive Industry: Secrets of the World’s Leading Airline (McGraw Hill, 2009).
For free downloads of his work and selected book chapters see www.JochenWirtz.com.
Sven Tuzovic is Assistant Professor of Marketing at Pacific Lutheran University,
School of Business, Tacoma, WA, USA. Previously, he was Visiting Professor at Murray
State University and at the University of New Orleans. He holds a Doctoral Degree in
Marketing from the University of Basel in Switzerland, a Diploma in Business Administration
(“Diplom-Kaufmann”) from the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in Germany, and a
BBA from Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA. He has published in several services
journals, including the Journal of Services Marketing, Journal of Relationship Marketing, and
Managing Service Quality.
Volker G. Kuppelwieser is Associate Professor in Marketing at the Rouen Business
School, France. He earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in Service Management
from the University of Leipzig, Germany, and holds a Diploma in Business Administration
from the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany. Before his career in research
he held several positions in the service industry and looks back on a 12 year industry
experience. He has published in Human Relations, Journal of Strategic Marketing, Managing
Service Quality, Journal of Customer Behavior and Journal of Retailing and Consumer
Services, amongst others.