Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Marketing's Identity Crisis.

Listening to the podcast insights of three advertising luminaries, I pricked up my ears at the assertion that "marketing has come adrift from business." It's confirmation of something I've felt for a long time.

In addition to the machinations of careerist marketers that I talked about here, I am convinced that marketing - when it insists on seeing itself as a department - is focussed too narrowly on promotion. This is what leads to it being viewed as peripheral when it should be central to all businesses.

My argument has always been that marketing and business strategy are intimately related since both involve the assessment of how a company meets customers' needs in light of the state of the competitive landscape. Indeed, this is borne out by Michael Porter's 1987 Economist article "The state of strategic thinking" in which he asserted that the sources of sustainable competitive advantage are reducible to technological barriers to entry (in the form of low cost production or patent protection) and/or product differentiation.

So strategically, marketing belongs at the heart of any business. Yet, all too often, it sees marketing goals where it should be looking at business aims and many marketing departments spend their time outsourcing tasks and administering the processes, rather than connecting their role into the business as a whole. Consequently, businesses disintegrate into a series of fiefdoms and underperform; the quality of the marketing suffers; and the reputation of the discipline is mocked internally by other departments and externally by pretty much everyone.

This has become all the more evident now the rules are changing. If the effectiveness of those marketing elements on which you've chosen to major is now under question, then what is your role? In the face of criticism of the number crunchers who run businesses by dint of being a real discipline (notwithstanding the fallibility of accounting practices and M&A outcomes) and who traditionally view marketing as an as ephemeral and ill-disciplined island state, the response has been to hurtle down the blind alleys of brand valuation and CRM in futile attempts to enumerate marketing's effectiveness.

Marketing should remember that it is an internal as much as an external discipline so as to integrate itself into the organisation; it should focus its measuring activities on the effectiveness of tactics so as to become more effective in its use of resources rather than as a justification to the rest of the business; and it should unquestionably demonstrate its understanding of and contribution to the whole business so as to justify a seat at the top table.

If it did so, it would have more gravitas internally and externally, it would operate much more effectively and the marketing methods it created would resonate better with its potential customers.

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