By Lewie Diasz*
Marketing’s forefathers Theodore Levitt and Phillip Kotler defined marketing in an era where baby boomers and generation X prevailed and marketing has evolved ever since and the evolution can be classified into different eras.
The evolution begins from a hunter-gatherer orientation to agriculture orientation and then the early 1900s where demand exceeded supply leading into the production era or industrialization which is a term coined by economists. History then records the product era-until the 1960s, Sales era in the-1970s, Marketing era-1970s and beyond, Societal marketing era-1980s, to a value based marketing era in the 1990s. Although marketing has evolved to what it is today, it is evident that many organizations are still engrossed in an earlier orientation and often strategically drift away from business reality.
Many texts books and practitioners still widely use the age old marketing definition put forward by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, borrowed from Phillip Kotler, and crafted 30 years ago. They define marketing as a Management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements at a profit and later added “in a socially responsible manner.” The American Marketing Association defines marketing as the activity, institutions and processes set for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for its customers, clients, partners and society at large. Does the above definition encompass and reflect strategic marketing in the 21st century? Should it be an academic definition or a practitioners guide? The CIM definition coins “satisfying” a customer; however, will satisfying a customer be sufficient today or should the post purchase experience “delight” the customer than the pre purchase expectation? How can the marketer attempt to reduce any consumer cognitive dissonance by augmenting products and services with tangible, explicit value that would delight rather than satisfy? Let us reflect for a moment on the numerous ways in which the world has changed in the past 30 years. If Facebook were a country, it would have been the 3rd largest in the world with over 500 million active users (which may end up being the largest eventually), an era of space tourism, globalization, cloning, to shorter industry life cycles and faster adaptation and technology diffusion. The internet (ecommerce/e mail) did not exist when the definition was proposed and there were no mobiles phones around when the definition was introduced. Digital/satellite TV was unheard of and we lived in a world without Starbucks, Google, Body shop and Blackberry was just a fruit. The current definition may also need to classify customer requirements into customer needs, wants and demands. As articulated by Abraham Maslow, needs are a generic condition which pre exist and wants are what marketers create through brands, advertising messages, sales promotions, etc. Demands are wants backed by the purchase ability. You may want many brands but may only be able to afford a few.
What should be marketing’s role? Can marketing professionals unlearn, converge, challenge or reinvent what we have learnt thus far and craft a new definition which is right for the times? Marketing is an evolving management discipline and the definition must evolve taking in to account the strategic role it needs to play in business in fuelling the corporate strategy. I recall as the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing Vice President, we approached the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) a few years ago and made a request to the association to include marketing as a profession. The reaction amazed me and the response explained that Marketing could not be recognized as a profession in Sri Lanka especially to be on par with other professions which had obtained membership already. When we examined this further there were professions such as engineers, lawyers, gemmologists, doctors, accountants, architects, secretaries, economists, quantity surveyors, bankers and nurses.. If marketing needs to obtain recognition, the profession must be highlighted as a core business function and should be relevant taking into account how marketing is expected to change in the next 5 years. Marketer may need to reevaluate themselves and look at the skill and competency gaps and learn the art of playing a strategic role to fuel corporate strategy rather than focusing on marketing as a tactical function (marketing execution). Do marketers understand business? Marketers need to earn their respect in the boardroom and soul search to identify any boardroom skills and competencies gaps. The modern marketer may need to master the skill of measuring marketing more effectively and be metric, dashboard or ratio oriented in an attempt to move away from being a mere creative genius and progress to being accountable, responsible marketers. “Marketing finance” is a new term coined to bridge this divide. A handful of marketers gauge the financial impact of their marketing strategies and are not familiar with analytics, predictive and measurement tools such as the balance score card, decision trees, predictive modelling (multiple regression analysis), time series analysis, scenario planning, hypothesis testing and marketing ratios such as ROMI (the return on Marketing Investment). They prefer to choose power point rather than excel to present a business case and fail to project their creative ideas into commercial business opportunities. The chief financial officer feels investor pulse whilst chief marketing officer dwells in the comfort of customer proximity. Marketers need to move out of this silo and unleash their creative instincts and learn investor lingo that fuels corporate strategy without floundering when questioned on the financial impact of their strategies. Importantly marketers are perceived by the finance department as unaccountable and irrational, claiming the focus is on expenditure instead of revenue and sustainable profitability. Some other departments claim that marketers promise too much and deliver too little internally and externally where as accountants are perceived to be less novel, routine and mundane with their ideas. The 21st century marketer needs to be a lateral thinker, visionary and be unconventional in approach whilst being insight driven as apposed to mere information driven. What is an insight? Its something that’s “in sight” and under your nose but you don’t see it. (To be continued)
*The writer is a Chartered Marketer and holds an MBA. He is also a senior tutor at Strategy business school.