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The Marketing Implications of Financial Accounting

Marketing Accountability for Marketing and Non-marketing Outcomes

ISBN: 978-1-83867-564-6, eISBN: 978-1-83867-563-9

Publication date: 27 September 2021


Marketers frequently lament the lack of representation of marketing in the boardroom and the short tenure of CMOs. The most common explanations offered are that marketing is not perceived as a strategic discipline and that marketers do not demonstrate a strong enough understanding of how the business makes money.

Financial accounting is how “score is kept” in terms of business performance. It is, therefore, in the self-interest of marketers to become familiar with financial reporting. Doing so will allow them to understand how marketing activities are recorded. In addition, academic researchers need to understand the meaning of the financial measures that they often use as the metrics of success when researching marketing strategy questions.

This is especially important since financial reporting generally does not recognize assets created by marketing investments. In order to substantiate a claim that “brands are assets”, marketers must be able to explain how the financial accounting rules misrepresent economic reality and why managers might use a different set of principles for management reporting.

We argue that the misrepresentation of market-based assets has two forms of negative impact for marketers: external and internal. The external problems are that financial statements are not especially informative about the value of marketing for the providers of capital and do not provide a true portrait of the economic resource base of the company. The internal problems are that marketers cannot point to valuable assets that they are creating, nor can they be effectively held accountable for the way that these assets are managed given that the assets are not recorded.

We do not expect immediate radical changes in financial reporting because financial accounting rules are designed with the specific interests of the suppliers of capital (debt and equity) in mind. To influence financial accounting developments, such as encouraging greater disclosure of marketing activity in the notes to the published accounts, marketers must be able to communicate in language understood by accountants and the current users of financial accounts. To aid this we provide guidance for marketers on the purpose and practices of accounting. We also discuss how academic marketing researchers might wish to adjust financial accounting data to capitalize a proportion of marketing expenses for companies where marketing is a primary driver of business performance.



Bendle, N.T., Knowles, J. and Butt, M.N. (2021), "The Marketing Implications of Financial Accounting", Kumar, V. and Stewart, D.W. (Ed.) Marketing Accountability for Marketing and Non-marketing Outcomes (Review of Marketing Research, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 15-47.



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