The Marketing Director’s Handbook : Book Review by Sharon Wolf

Arnold and Tomlinson’s book, The Marketing Director’s Handbook, fully delivers on its subtitle’s promise: “The definitive guide to superior marketing for business and boardroom success.”  Comprehensive, yet written in a lively, jargon-free style, the Handbook offers sensible guidance on topics ranging from setting objectives, planning for the year ahead, measuring marketing performance, managing teams to building brands and succeeding at new product and service development.

Who should have this book on hand?

  • Sharon Wolf, MD, QualiData Research Inc., USA
    Sharon Wolf reviews The Marketing Director’s Handbook

    Aspiring and practicing marketing directors and CMOs

  • Account planners
  • Brand, product and marketing managers
  • Marketing research agency executives
  • CEOs and CMOs of tech, biotech, not-for-profits or any industry sector where the marketing discipline is new to your organization


In writing a reader-friendly book, Arnold and Tomlinson practice what they preach.  Chapters are amply illustrated with useful charts and tables that succinctly highlight key points made earlier in the chapter or that explain ideas visually. These tables and charts relieve the reader of having to wade through lengthy explanatory text. Page graphics are used to help make this book truly function as a handbook. Icons appear in front of topics through out the text – for example, an auto key symbolises “Where to start” topics, a wrench appears whenever a chapter discusses “Tools and techniques,” and a star graphic always accompanies “Best practices” advice or case examples.

Experience-based advice

I recall a feeling of total paralysis during my first week on the job as an MD for an international accountancy firm. The marketing discipline was new to the organization and I was the firm’s first MD. There was so much to be done and I didn’t know quite where to start. The authors acknowledge this paralytic feeling in Chapter 1, “Starting Out.” Their experience-driven advice and counsel will help newly appointed MDs start out on the right foot. This first chapter defines the MD’s role and offers concrete advice about what to do first, whom you should be getting to know in the organization and how to build the right team to help you get the work done.

Chapter 10, “Structuring the Function” builds on this advice and further
defines key marketing roles and relationships. Another chapter, “Day to Day Management” offers insights based on organizational dynamics and describes best practice processes and protocols. For new marketing  directors, these chapters are among the most valuable in the book, and could well justify the book’s purchase price.

The authors have both client-side MD experience and marketing agency experience in brand planning and services marketing, in particular. This know-how is apparent when they discuss the essentials and nuances of brand management and positioning as well as when they address the marketing and organizational issues related to new product and service development.

When it comes to corporate branding or repositioning, Arnold and Tomlinson offer up a nugget of advice that sounds a bit simplistic and a
bit hackneyed, yet, nevertheless, represents a key challenge for MDs, “Ensure top-team management and buy-in so that brand strategy can be interwoven into organizational strategy.” Although it is left unsaid, without this buy-in, even the most talented MD will be hitting his or her head against a brick wall when trying to implement marketing initiatives. The authors have taken care that readers will learn both strategies and tactics for achieving top management buy-in for their plans. These chapters are also useful for seasoned marketers and researchers who wish to quickly refresh their knowledge about the fundamentals of branding and product innovation. Overall, the authors are detailed and exhaustive in their treatment of branding and product and service development.

The MD and Marketing Research

The discussion of marketing research focuses, as it should, on such issues as selecting and managing marketing research agencies and how to prepare proper briefs so that everyone involved in the project understands the study’s objectives and research questions.

As a qualie, I was particularly interested in how the authors address and explain various qualitative methods. I was happy to see a useful chart that provides an overview of the pros and cons of the full range of the qualitative methods for marketing. They include a similar, handy chart for quantitative methods. Ethnography, pre-task diary homework assignments and semiotics are absent from the pro’s and con’s chart and, instead, are highlighted on a different chart called “Qualitative research strategies and methods.”

Recessionary Realities

For better or worse, Chapter 26, “Rationalisation or Downsizing” will be useful to MDs charged with the unpleasant task of laying employees due to downsizing. This chapter outlines pitfalls to avoid and stresses the importance of being compassionate to both survivors and leavers. This chapter also discusses downsizing strategies in depth as well as morale-
building approaches for employees who survive staff cutbacks.  The massive layoffs associated with today’s global economic recession make this chapter required reading for both practicing and aspiring MDs – and for anyone else in the organization who is involved in staff lay-off decisions such as HR and operations executives.

The Marketing Director’s Handbook is a “must have” for those who care about best practices and who want to learn how to succeed as managers
and change-makers in their organizations.

The Marketing Director’s Handbook is available in hardback and ebook formats from Amazon worldwide, Foyles, Waterstones, good local book stores and The Marketing Directors’ website (click the book link).

About the author

Sharon Wolf is Managing Director at QualiData Research Inc., of New York and San Francisco. An expert ethnographer, moderator and workshop  leader, Sharon translates research-based insights into powerful marketing,  branding and product innovation strategies for QualiData’s global clients. Her  sector specialties include personal care, fragrances, food, cosmetics,  electronic media and mobility. Previously she was a Marketing Director in professional services.

Sharon launched and served for three years as voluntary Editor-in-Chief for QRCA Views magazine, an award-winning quarterly publication for the marketing research community.  She also served as Program Co-Chair for ESOMAR’s 2002 Global Qualitative Conference.

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