Accounting For Marketing Activities - Columbia

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Accounting for Marketing Activities:Implications for Marketing Research and PracticeNatalie MizikGantcher Associate Professor of BusinessColumbia Business School3022 BroadwayUris Hall, Room 513New York, NY [email protected] NissimErnst & Young Professor of Accounting and FinanceColumbia Business School3022 BroadwayUris Hall, Room 604New York, NY [email protected] 5, 2011AbstractWe review accounting principles related to the reporting of marketing activities and evaluatetheir implications for marketing research and practice. Based on our review, we argue thatcurrent accounting practices contribute significantly to the declining influence of marketingwithin organizations and the rise of myopic management. Financial reports misrepresentmarketing contribution and impede its fair assessment. Changes to current marketing accountingpractices are needed. Balance sheet recognition of all marketing-related intangibles emerged asthe prevailing proposed solution. We, however, argue that balance sheet recognition ofmarketing intangibles will not remedy the situation. Instead, we advocate expanded mandatorydisclosure of marketing-related activities and performance drivers. We advance specificpropositions intended to enhance the quality of financial reporting and improve marketingmanagement practice. We further call for specific research to help facilitate improvements in thefinancial reporting model as it pertains to marketing-related activities.Keywords: Internally Developed Intangible Assets, Acquired Intangible Assets, MarketingAccounting, Marketing Practice

Table of Contents1. INTRODUCTION. 12. OVERVIEW OF THE FINANCIAL REPORTING MODEL . 42.1 THE BALANCE SHEET . 42.2 THE INCOME STATEMENT . 82.3 THE CASH FLOW STATEMENT . 102.4 THE STATEMENT OF SHAREHOLDERS’ EQUITY . 122.5 ARTICULATION OF THE FINANCIAL STATEMENTS . 132.6 OTHER FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES . 153. ACCOUNTING TREATMENT OF MARKETING ACTIVITIES AND ASSETS. 153.1 INTERNALLY DEVELOPED MARKETING INTANGIBLES . 163.1.1 Treatment in the Financial Statements . 163.1.2 Accounting Distortions: Simulation Analyses . 173.1.3 Implications . 193.1.4 Disclosure Notes: A Mitigating Effect?. 203.2 ACQUIRED MARKETING INTANGIBLES . 213.2.1 Initial Recognition . 213.2.2 Accounting Treatment Subsequent to the Initial Recognition. 223.2.3 Implications . 234. MARKETING-ACCOUNTING INTERFACE: IMPLICATIONS FOR MARKETING RESEARCH ANDPRACTICE. 244.1 MYOPIC MANAGEMENT TO MEET FINANCIAL OBJECTIVES . 254.2 GAMING OF BUDGETS BY MARKETING DEPARTMENTS . 274.2.1 Marketing Budget Padding . 284.2.2 Blow‐It‐All Spending of Marketing Budgets . 295. PROPOSITIONS AND A CALL FOR MARKETERS TO ENGAGE IN THE DIALOGUE ONIMPROVING FINANCIAL REPORTING . 305.1 BALANCE SHEET RECOGNITION IS NOT A FEASIBLE SOLUTION. 305.2 EXPANDED DISCLOSURES ARE A FEASIBLE SOLUTION . 325.2.1 Segregating Marketing Spending Categories and Revenue Sources. 325.2.2 Reporting Non‐Financial Performance Drivers. 345.2.3 The Role of Marketing Metrics. 355.3 THE ROLE OF MARKETING MANAGERS AND MARKETING RESEARCHERS . 366. CONCLUSION . 37REFERENCES . 39

1. IntroductionSeveral authors have recently noted the declining role and decreasing influence of marketingwithin organizations (e.g., O’Sullivan and Abela 2007, Nath and Mahajan 2008, Verhoef andLeeflang 2009). These studies seek to identify the causes for this trend and suggest remedies. Theyargue that marketers’ inability to quantify and communicate their contribution to value creation isa primary cause for the declining influence of marketing. Rust et al. (2004), for example, commentthat marketers have not been held accountable for showing how marketing expenditures add toshareholder value, and point to this lack of accountability as the root cause of the decline in thestatus of the marketing function within the firm. In response to these troubling trends, researchefforts in marketing have centered on developing (i) diagnostic and predictive marketing metricsand tracking systems (i.e., dashboards) to improve internal decision-making processes andcommunications within the firm (Reibstein et al. 2005, Pauwels et al. 2008); and (ii) models forassessing the impact of marketing initiatives on long-term financial performance and stock marketvaluation (Srinivasan and Hanssens 2009).One factor that has significantly contributed to the decline of marketing’s influence, andhas yet been largely ignored by the literature, is financial reporting. Under the current accountingmodel, financial reports fail to correctly reflect marketing contribution and thus impede the abilityto assess the value and long-term impact of marketing activities. Accounting practices affect theperceptions of marketing contribution both within and outside the organization, and theseperceptions in turn affect marketing budgets, resources, influence, and practice. Indeed, outside ofmarketing departments, marketing is often mistakenly viewed as a cost line item rather than avalue-generating activity. This view is particularly manifest in the accounting for internallygenerated (i.e., organically developed) intangible marketing assets. Yet, the accounting treatment1

of marketing activities and intangible marketing assets is not well understood by marketers, and isgenerally viewed as outside the scope of marketing. This unfortunate attitude and neglect havecontributed to the difficulty marketers experience in assessing and communicating theircontribution to financial performance and firm value.We contend that it is imperative for marketers to recognize the importance of financialreporting as it pertains to marketing activities and the distortions introduced by the currentaccounting system. Such an understanding is important for both marketing researchers andmarketing practitioners. Marketing researchers investigating the financial implications ofmarketing activities need to appreciate the data quality issues involved and their impact onappropriate measurement, modeling, and interpretation of empirical findings. Better understandingof the financial reporting model and its effects on marketing practice can help marketers betterarticulate the contribution of marketing activities, advocate for stable funding, and improvemarketing management practice. It is important for marketers to get involved in the ongoingdiscussion aimed at improving financial reporting practices.Indeed, coinciding with the growing concerns over the declining role of marketing anddifficulties in evaluating the contribution of marketing to the bottom line, accounting research hasdocumented a decline in the usefulness of financial reports (Brown et al. 1999, Core et al. 2003).This finding led to discussions and proposals aimed at improving financial reporting (e.g., Francisand Schipper 1999, Skinner 2008). Some academics and practitioners point to the balance sheetomission of internally generated intangibles such as brands, Research and Development (R&D)capital, and customer base as one reason for the growing disparity between the market and bookvalues of equity and the low diagnostic and predictive quality of financial reports (Lev 2001).They argue that if firms were required to report all marketing-related intangibles on the balancesheet, the quality of financial information and its usefulness for firm valuation would have been2

improved (e.g., “Creation, Recognition and Valuation of Intellectual Assets,” IA/Report). Wedisagree.We argue that blanket recognition of marketing assets on the balance sheet is not thepreferred solution. Our reasoning is based on the conceptual analysis of the policy, practices, andconsequences of balance sheet recognition of acquired intangibles. US Generally AcceptedAccounting Principles (GAAP) require balance sheet recognition of acquired intangible assets andthus provide a domain to explore the potential benefits of recognizing internally generatedintangibles. Our analysis suggests that balance sheet recognition does not resolve the problemsmarketers face.Instead, we advocate expanding and formalizing disclosures of marketing-related activitiesand performance drivers. We argue that expanded mandatory disclosure is a feasible first steptoward improving financial reporting. Detailed and consistent disclosures about marketingexpenditures and related revenues, and diagnostic and predictive performance drivers, canfacilitate better performance evaluation, forecasting, valuation, and internal marketing processes.The objectives of this paper are four-fold: (1) explicate the links between accountingpractices, the noted decline in the influence of marketing within the firm, and the rise of myopicmanagement with respect to marketing activities; (2) explain why balance sheet recognition ofmarketing assets is generally not the preferred solution for these problems; (3) advance expandeddisclosures as a feasible remedy; and (4) call for a dialogue and specific research to help facilitateimprovements in the financial reporting model as it pertains to marketing-related activities.The manuscript is organized as follows. We begin with an overview of the currentfinancial accounting system. Then, we review and evaluate GAAP for marketing activities andidentify key reporting problems, both for acquired and internally-developed marketing intangibles.We discuss the two sides of the organizational conflict generated by the marketing-accounting3

interface and the role the current accounting system plays in facilitating myopic behavior bymanagement. We conclude with a call for marketers to get involved in the financial reportingdebate, and delineate our propositions for improving the financial reporting system. We advocateexpanded disclosure and argue that it can mitigate organizational conflict, improve the quality ofinformation for research and evaluation, and benefit both the internal and external constituenciesof the firm.2. Overview of the Financial Reporting ModelFinancial reports include three primary statements: the balance sheet, the income statement, andthe cash flow statement. The balance sheet reports the resources that the entity owns or controls(assets) and the clams against those resources (liabilities and equity) as of the balance sheet date.The income statement provides accrual-based measures of performance for the period that endedon the balance sheet date. The cash flow statement provides cash flow measures of operatingperformance as well as information on investing and financing cash flows for the period thatended on the balance sheet date. Published financial reports also include a statement ofshareholders’ equity, which explains changes in shareholders’ equity accounts during the periodthat ended on the balance sheet date. The statement of shareholders’ equity is consideredsomewhat of secondary importance. We next elaborate on each of these statements and therelationships among them.2.1 The Balance SheetThe balance sheet presents the financial position of the firm, that is, the cumulative effect of alloperating, investing and financing activities since the formation of the company until the balancesheet date. Indeed, the balance sheet is often referred to as the statement of financial position. Theterm “balance sheet” is used since this statement reflects the following equation or balance:4

(1) Assetst Liabilitiest Equityt.In fact, as we show below, all four statements are related to this equation.Assets are economic resources, but not all resources are recognized on the balance sheet.To be recognized, an economic resource has to (1) represent probable future economic benefitswhich are measurable with reasonable precision, and (2) be owned or controlled by the entity as aresult of past transaction. The second criterion means that the entity is entitled to receive thebenefits from the asset because it has already performed (i.e., paid cash to acquire the asset orprovided other goods or services) or incurred a liability.Economic resources that do not satisfy the above criteria are not recognized on the balancesheet. In particular, economic benefits resulting from executory contracts (e.g., employmentcontracts, operating leases) and most internally developed intangibles (e.g., R&D benefits, brands,human capital, information technology, intellectual property) remain off balance sheet. 1 Resourcesresulting from executory contracts are not recognized because the firm has not performed yet, sothe “past transaction” criterion is not satisfied. Investments in internally developed intangiblessuch as R&D expenditures are not recognized on the balance sheet because the related benefitsinvolve high uncertainty and are not considered “probable” or “measurable.” As we discuss in thenext section, this omission has important implications for marketing.A nice example of the economic significance of unrecognized marketing-relatedintangibles is Coca-Cola. On December 31, 2010, Coca-Cola’s market value of equity was 151billion, while the book value of equity (i.e., the amount reported on the balance sheet) was a mere 31 billion. This gap is attributed primarily to the omission of Coca-Cola’s brand—its mostimportant economic resource—from the balance sheet. This resource, which has been developed1An executory contract is an agreement providing for payment by a payer to a payee on the performance of an act ora service rendered by the payee, such as a labor contract.5

over many years of advertising and other marketing activities, is omitted from the balance sheetbecause advertising costs and most other expenditures to develop and maintain the brand areexpensed as incurred rather than being capitalized and reported as an asset on the balance sheet.Similarly, while liabilities are obligations of the reporting entity, not all obligations arereported on the balance sheet. To be reported as liabilities, obligations must (1) represent probablefuture sacrifice of economic benefits which can be measured with reasonable precision and (2) bea result of past transaction. The second criterion means that the other party has performed.Obligations that do not satisfy both criteria remain off balance sheet. These include obligationsarising from executory contracts (e.g., purchase obligations, operating leases, employmentcontracts), where the other party has not performed yet, and loss contingencies (e.g., pending lawsuits, unsettled tax positions), where there is significant uncertainty regarding the existence andamount of related obligations. For example, in its 2010 Form 10-K, Coca-Cola reports that it hasmarketing obligations of 4.6 billion (e.g., contracts for future media buys), which are omittedfrom the balance sheet.Equity is the residual value of the assets of an entity that remains after the liabilities arededucted. For corporate entities, owner’s equity is called stockholder’s equity or shareholders’equity and has the following components: contributed capital accounts (common stock, preferredstock, additional paid in capital), treasury stock, retained earnings, accumulated othercomprehensive income, and noncontrolling interests. 2 Contributed capital accounts report theamount invested by shareholders. Treasury stock measures the reduction in equity due torepurchase of shares back from investors. Retained earnings represent the excess of cumulative netincome over cumulative dividends since the formation of the company. That is, retained earnings2Prior to 2009, noncontrolling interest was either included in liabilities or reported separately between liabilities andequity.6

measure the increase in net assets (assets minus liabilities) due to earning activities since theformation of the company, minus assets that have been paid out as dividends. Accumulated othercomprehensive income represents the net effect of revaluations of assets, liabilities and derivativesthat did not pass through the income statement, that is, changes in net assets that were notbalanced by a change in retained earnings (since the revaluations bypassed the income statement).Noncontrolling interests are equity claims of outside shareholders in the net assets of consolidatedsubsidiaries. 3The omission of some economic assets and liabilities from the balance sheet is not theonly reason for the large difference between the market and book values of equity observed formost companies (e.g., the Coca-Cola example discussed above). Most recognized assets andliabilities, and consequently equity, are measured using historical (i.e., original) transactionamounts, which can deviate significantly from their current values. In many cases, historical costaccounting results in significant understatement of assets due to inflation. 4 Moreover, while assetsare generally not marked up for increases in fair value, they are often marked down as accountingconservatism requires that assets should not be overstated. Thus, for example, inventory isreported at the lower of cost or market, and fixed and intangible assets are written down to fairvalue when impaired.In recent years both the FASB (in the US) and the IASB (internationally) have requiredthat some assets and liabilities be reported at fair value (i.e., the amount at which an item could beexchanged in a current transaction between willing parties). However, even if this trend toward3For example, a company that owns 80% of a subsidiary reports 100% of the net assets of that subsidiary on itsbalance sheet but also recognizes that 20% of the net assets are owned by outsiders – the noncontrolling interests. Thisaccounting treatment is predicated on the view that a company should report all assets that it controls, even if they arenot fully owned.4Examples of assets that are often significantly understated due to historical cost reporting include fixed assets,recognized intangible assets, investments in equity securities accounted for using the cost or equity methods, andinventories measured under the LIFO cost flow assumption.7

fair value reporting continues, it is not likely to affect the reporting of most operating assets,particularly intangible assets.2.2 The Income StatementWhile the balance sheet reports the financial position as of a given day, the income statementreports the results of business activities—primarily operating activities—during the period thatended on that day. Specifically, the income statement lists the resources earned (revenues andgains), the related resources used up (expenses and losses), and ends with net income.(2) Net Incomet Revenuest – Expensest Gainst – Lossest.Revenues and expenses relate to recurring activities, while gains and losses measure the net effectof non-recurring activities such as a gain or loss from disposal of fixed assets or investments.The amounts reported in the income statement are based on three basic accountingprinciples: realization, matching, and historical cost. The realization principle states that revenueshould be recognized and reported in the income statement when: (1) the amount and timing of netcash flows from the revenue are reasonably determinable, and (2) the earnings process withrespect to the revenue is complete or virtually complete. The first criterion requires that revenue berecognized in the income statement only if cash has already been collected or the amount andtiming of cash to be collected can be estimated with reasonable precision. The second criterionmeans that the entity has substantially accomplished what it must do to be entitled to the benefitsrepresented by the revenue. For most transactions this criterion is satisfied at the time of delivery;by providing the merchandise or service, the firm has performed at least most of what it issupposed to do to be entitled to the revenue. Because companies deliver products or renderservices to customers who are expected to pay, the first criterion is usually not binding. Incontrast, it is common for companies to receive advance payments from customers (so the first8

criterion is satisfied) but delay the recognition of revenue until the delivery of the product orservice, as required by the second criterion.Companies incur costs in generating revenues. The matching principle requires that eachcost be expensed in the same period in which the revenues that the cost helped generate arerecognized (e.g., the cost of inventory sold is matched against the related sales revenue in the sameincome statement). Similar to the realization principle, the matching principle can be satisfiedbefore, at the time of, or after the cash payment, with the expense recognized accordingly. Toimplement the matching principle, companies first apply the realization principle and decidewhich revenues to recognize. Then, they identify the costs that helped generate those revenues andexpense them in the same income statement to measure net income for the period.Applying the matching principle with respect to costs that are directly related to specificrevenues—such as cost of inventory sold or sales commissions—is straightforward. However,most costs are not directly related to specific revenues but rather provide the capacity to generaterevenue during the period (e.g., administrative salaries, headquarter rent, interest). Consistent withthe matching principle, these costs are recognized as expense when they provide operatingcapacity, which is typically when they are incurred. Some costs, such as capital expenditures,jointly benefit several periods and thus require a systematic allocation to the periods that benefit(e.g., through a depreciation schedule).While most costs are reported in the income statement based on the matching principle,two types of costs are expensed in a way that violates matching. The first type relates to costs thatare expected to benefit future periods, but the amount and timing of future benefits are highlyuncertain. Since the future benefits are too uncertain to be recognized as an asset on the balancesheet, these costs are expensed when incurred. Examples include R&D expenditures, advertising,start up costs, investments in human capital, and some organizational restructuring charges. The9

second type of costs that are recognized in violation of matching are those that relate to pastperiods. For example, new information may indicate that past depreciation was insufficient andthus trigger a write down of fixed assets. Other examples include resolution of law suits and othercontingent obligations, and most restructuring charges.The realization and matching principles deal primarily with the timing of revenue andexpense recognition. In contrast, the historical cost principle governs the measurement of mostassets and liabilities; it requires that assets and liabilities be measured based on the amounts paidor received when the asset or liability was originally recognized. Because revenues are inflow ofassets (cash, receivables) or settlement of liabilities (unearned / deferred revenues), and expensesare reduction in assets (inventory, fixed assets, prepaid expenses) or incurrence of liabilities(accrued expenses), the historical cost principle also affects the reported amounts of revenues,expenses and income.2.3 The Cash Flow StatementThe cash flow statement explains how cash has been provided and used during the period thatended on the balance sheet date. The sources and uses of cash are classified into three categories:operating, investing, and financing.The operating section includes all cash flows used for or provided by purchasingmerchandise (raw materials in manufacturing firms), producing the products (in manufacturingfirms), marketing the products, and administrating the operations. In addition, several items thatrelate to investing or financing activities are reported as operating. These include income taxesrelated to investing and financing activities (e.g., gains from disposal of fixed assets), interestincome and expense, and dividends received (but not dividend paid out to the shareholders). Ingeneral, cash flows from operations include the cash counterparts of all revenues and expenses10

reported in the income statement. The operating activities section of the cash flow statement istypically presented using the so-called indirect approach, which starts with net income andreconciles it to cash provided by (or used for) operating activities. The adjustments effectively“undo” the effects of the realization and matching principles. For example, depreciation—anoncash expense which is deduced from revenues in calculating income—is added back to netincome, and the change in accounts receivables—credit sales which are included in revenue andincome—is deducted from income.The investing section of the cash flow statement reports cash flows used for acquiring orprovided by selling (1) tangible long-lived assets (e.g., land, buildings, and equipment), (2)intangible assets (e.g., patents, franchises, computer software, copyrights, permits, licenses andother contractual rights), (3) existing businesses, and (4) investment assets (assets that are not usedin operations such as securities issued by other firms and loans receivable). Unlike cash fromoperations, this section is always presented directly, that is, each type of cash inflow and outflowis reported explicitly.The financing section reports cash obtained from owners (stock issuance) and lenders(bonds or notes issuance, other borrowings), cash provided to owners (cash dividends, sharerepurchases), and principal repaid to lenders. Similar to the investing section, this section isalways presented directly, that is, each type of cash inflow and outflow is reported explicitly.The cash flow statement is relevant for assessing liquidity, understanding changes in thefinancial position, and evaluating earnings quality. Cash flow information is useful for evaluatingliquidity because the different sources and uses of cash vary in persistence and other liquidityrelated implications. For example, a company that generates a strong cash flow from recurringoperating activities is likely to have better liquidity than a company that borrows the same amount11

of cash or that increases its cash position by selling a business unit or by cutting capitalexpenditures.While the original motivation for requiring companies to disclose cash flow informationwas to inform about liquidity, the cash flow statement also facilitates a better understanding ofchanges in the financial position. Because assets equal liabilities plus equity, an increase in cash(an asset) must be accompanied by either a decrease in another asset or an increase in a liability orequity account.

May 05, 2011 · 3022 Broadway . Uris Hall, Room 604 . New York, NY 10027 . [email protected] . May 5, 2011 . Abstract . We review accounting principles related to the reporting of marketing activities and evaluate their implications for marketing research and practice. Based on our review, we argue thatFile Size: 393KBPage Count: 50Explore further(PDF) Strategic Marketing and Marketing Strategy: Domain .www.researchgate.net(PDF) Marketing Management - ResearchGatewww.researchgate.net5 Marketing Management Orientationscommercemates.com5 Marketing Concepts: Marketing Management Philosophieswww.iedunote.comBasic Marketing Principles - Mercer Universityfaculty.mercer.eduRecommended to you b

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