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National voices need strong regional perspectives

If a tree falls in Toronto, does the rest of the country hear it? And other thoughts on the new CMA chartered marketer designation

This month, the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) rolled out their Chartered Marketer designation program in response to a professional shift that’s seen the industry become more strategic and data-driven. Presumably, a chartered designation will better position the marketing agenda at the C-Suite.

There’s been a lot of online buzz celebrating the launch, with many commenters calling the move a game changer for the industry.

I’m not so sure.

There are a number of critiques that could be made about the new designation; but in fairness, we need to give the program time to find its legs, work out the kinks that are bound to show up in Beta and at the very least, band together to provide our support to a plan that has so much possibility for our profession. After all, more than 80 per cent of us expressed support for the concept.

Where I worry the new designation will fall flat is with the CMA’s ability to position itself as the national voice of the marketing profession; an imperative for the designation.

West of Toronto… thar be dragons

Some time ago, the CMA made the decision to move away from regional chapters and individual memberships. A quick glance at the online member registry shows just a handful of companies from the prairie provinces (most with an national, or international presence and offices in the GTA).

Admittedly, I’m a flag waiving, kool-aid drinking member of the made-in-Manitoba club; but I think we can universally accept that there is an amazingly talented pool of business and creative minds here in the keystone province. I’d even go as far to argue that per capita, our creative talent pool keeps pace, or even surpasses our peers in T.O.

But a quick look at the CMA events page for June through December shows just how little attention those of us outside Toronto are getting. Out of the 21 items on the books, all 17 of the in-person events take place in Toronto. The remaining five are online.

It’s almost as if our peers in Ontario took a look at a map of Canada and declared west of Sault Ste Marie, ‘thar be dragons’. Venture any further and you’re likely to fall off the edge of the earth.

For an industry that sets a high value on building networks and peer-facilitated learning, I can’t wrap my head around the CMA’s decision to do away with regional chapters. How can an association claim to speak in a national voice when the bulk of its membership is concentrated in fewer than a dozen postal codes?

A national voice needs strong regional perspectives

It’s more than a cliché to say that in recent years, budgets are becoming leaner and leaner. Even great companies face uphill battles to secure professional development funds for employees. And from my personal experience, it’s pretty hard to make a business case to support the CMA – an organization I do believe provides outstanding content and great value for the marketing profession – when the regional presence is hit-or-miss, at best. I’ve attended co-presented sessions with the CMA and Ad Winnipeg, and the quality is top notch. But one-off events do not a business case make.

Canada is an amazing place to be a marketer in the 21st century. We have some of the best creative minds working in the business and our ability to work in friendly competition is creating world-class work. We have a regulatory framework that despite some road bumps (looking at you, CASL) balances the interests of consumers and the needs of business. And the future is looking bright. CMA’s Chartered Marketer designation holds a ton of potential, and I hope the organization hears the message that the prairie provinces, and others, have a unique voice that can strengthen the conversation – if only we had a better seat at the table.

Jill KnaggsComment