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Book Review: The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader by Patrick Barwise and Thomas Barta

By Fran Brosan, Chairman

I have had the pleasure of listening to Thomas Barta and Paddy Barwise talk about their excellent book a couple of times before I actually read it (long distance flights being one of the few times I get to put my head into a book at any length). They’d already given me some excellent headlines, and some actions to take so I was surprised on reading the book that there was so much more to be gleaned.

“At the heart of good marketing lies a great product. Simply that.”

This was Paddy Barwise’s provocative statement back in November at The Marketing Society event to launch the book. It’s a subject he’s expounded in a previous book, ‘Simply Better; Winning and Keeping Customers by Delivery What Matters Most’. Critically in this book he enjoins us to consider the all important Value Creation Zone (or V-zone); the overlap between what your company needs to do to be successful and profitable and what customers need.

The premise for this book is Barta and Barwise’s belief that modern marketing leaders need to become a ‘leader of leaders’.

They can no longer know everything or do everything themselves, they need to build a team that can deliver in that V-zone. Managing up, down and sideways is at the heart of what successful marketers do and, importantly, how the deliver meaningful growth for their companies.

Above all, we need to avoid being distracted. Barta and Barwise enjoin us to focus on 3 big things that matter, give them a timescale and get on with them. Harder than a hard thing in many of our experiences, pressurised as we are – and this book testifies – by our bosses, our peers, our teams and our non work lives.

The book is full of interactive exercises that you can conduct on yourself and online. One action they asked everyone to undertake was to ask 10 people in the organisation to say what inspires them about you. I duly did it and was surprised by the results. Of course the stuff I expected was in there, but the other stuff was genuinely useful as it allowed me to see where my input was most valued.

Another test they give you is to establish whether you are most orientated towards your boss, your colleagues or your team. You can take the test yourself at but I warn you the results may not be what you think!

There is a lot to feast on in this book, beyond the headlines. At its heart are really good, really simply summaries of what can sometimes be overwhelmingly complex issues. Barwise and Barta break up the herculean task of leading marketing into 3 bite size chunks, and help you at every stage to hone how you might improve.

Their excursion on Leading on the Big Digital Issues (p.35 – 39) would help every marketer on the planet for example. It’s comforting to know too that this is based not on their opinions (expert as they may be) but on the practice of over 8,600 leaders in 170 countries.
What’s also good to know from a business comms perspective is that nearly half the senior marketers they interviewed are from B2B.

Highly recommended. I wrote copious notes, rethought some of our approaches and identified some big issues I want to tackle. My only problem is getting them down to the recommended 3.

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