Growth Insights for CEOs

What happens if the dog doesn't like the dog food?

Posted by The Chief Outsider

“If the dog doesn't like the dog food, everyone can go home.”


This rather provocative statement came from my supervisor many years ago. Like most truths, I still remember it. It stuck. Even now, I know he was right. Dogs know!

In fact, I would expand on his point-of-view and suggest that not only does the dog have to like the food, the dog needs to like it a whole lot better than the competitive alternatives. So much so that the company gets its desired ROI in the process.

No “news” here. Pretty basic stuff, right? But what still remains a mystery to many is “Who is responsible for this critical outcome…the “dog” liking the dog food?” The very life (and possible death) of the whole enterprise hangs in the balance.

Ultimately, the answer is the CEO - because the “buck stops here”. But we all know CEOs have a couple of other “things” on their plate. So what function is going to be the primary owner of this daunting responsibility? (The one the CEO can point to if the “dog” spits out the food.) My research suggests the answer varies from company to company.

In some companies, the answer is Sales. After all, they are the function that is closest to the “dog”. Or are they? They might be closest to the retailer, but I am not sure about the “dog”.

In other companies, it’s R&D. They all seem to own dogs and they know what their loveable pooch likes to eat. The conclusion: if their dogs like their creation, won’t all dogs?

I personally have been on the receiving end of product that R&D pushed more than a few times. As a sales person, I was successful in getting retailers to put it on the shelf, but not for long. It turned out that most “dogs” were not like the ones owned by the folks in R&D. Not enough “dogs” liked the dog food.

My research also found many companies think both functions (Sales and R&D) “own” the responsibility. This belief usually gives rise to a very uncomfortable situation. What typically happens is a “war” breaks out, pitting the “anecdotal” sales-types against the “nerdy”, data-driven technologists from R&D. It was always a memorable experience facilitating those spirited discussions!

So, who then can ensure that the “dog” likes the dog food? Who can possibly resolve this conundrum? Enter Marketing. In many companies, the collective Marketing disciplines offer a not-so-obvious solution to this external (marketplace) vs. internal (technology) “divide”.

Marketing can serve as the nexus point between the outside world (“the marketplace”) and many of the internal functions (“the company”) that have very little direct contact with the world of the customer.

Marketing possesses a unique ability for “connecting all the dots”. Data, information and insights emerge from cross-functional team discussions, along with internal and external stakeholders. Marketing has a knack for seeing the big picture and can tell the story necessary to achieve “buy in” at all levels.

But even more importantly, Marketing can generate an ownership mindset. And, this ownership by all stakeholders (starting with the “dog”) is the key to success.

This way, everyone gets to keep their job as opposed to the alternative...going home.

What are your thoughts?

marketing for the savvy ceo b2b and b2c



Topics: Marketing Strategy, CEO Strategies, CEO Business Strategy, Market Research

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