LONDON: Marketing is under-represented at board level in a majority of leading companies in the UK, and this trend risks damaging future growth prospects, a new report has argued.

The study by executive headhunter Norman Broadbent, entitled Bringing the Consumer Voice Back to the Boardroom, found only 50 non-executive directors with "any substantive background" in marketing on the boards of FTSE 350 firms. This group includes the 350 largest publicly-listed companies in the UK.

"In a world characterised by lightning-fast technological change, where relationships with the consumer have undergone a seismic shift almost unimaginable only five years ago and that might have been considered completely fantastical fifteen years ago, the absence of a function that is almost defined by its knowledge of, and relationship with, the consumer seems at best irrational," the report claimed. "At its worst, it seems irresponsible."

Broadbent reasoned that "Up-to-date marketing experience can provide insight on consumer patterns and contribute to innovation, whether that is the latest ground breaking technological development – touchscreens, 3D photocopier – or the newest means of communicating and engaging with the consumer through e.g. Pinterest and personalisation".

The report praised brand owners Diageo and Unilever for their efforts in this regard, noting that these are companies "where everyone speaks the language of brand and marketing is seen as central to the business". 

Among the report's recommendations are that marketers should look to "strengthen their relationships across functions, bring science to their art and gain as much commercial experience as is possible".

Ultimately, marketing directors need to ensure that their board understands what falls under the remit of modern marketing, positioning themselves as "a business person who works in marketing rather than a marketer who works in business," Broadbent argued.

Data sourced from Norman Broadbent; additional content by Warc staff