Marketers Get No RESPECT

Aretha Franklin sang about it and Rodney Dangerfield made a comedy career on joking about it  …  RESPECT.

One of my major rants over the years is that folks in the public and nonprofit sector don’t get marketing and think it is advertising or something to do with distribution. As I have mentioned in other blogs marketing seldom plays a major role in these domains or has the cachet that people in say the Communications field play . However, the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing is working very hard to convince public sector and non profit organizations to adopt marketing into their organization.

To see articles written on public sector/non profit marketing go to:

I recently read an article in Advertising Age, GM’s Appointment of Lutz Shows No Respect for Marketing

by Al Ries,  which suggests that even in the world of business where you would think marketing would have stature and relevance that this may not be true. According to Ries, “Most companies do not assign much value to the marketing function. Nor do they compensate marketing people at the same level as they do financial, legal and other functional occupations. A recent survey of Fortune 1000 companies conducted by Ernst & Young found that only about 15% employ some sort of marketing person with a chief- or senior-level title such as chief marketing officer.

“It gets worse as far as money is concerned. According to SEC regulations, a company has to list the total compensation of its CEO and its CFO in addition to its three highest-paid executive officers. According to the Ernst & Young survey, only 7% of Fortune 1000 companies included a marketing executive on their lists. Reis points out that management guru Peter Drucker made the following declaration:

“The purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two — and only two –basic functions: marketing and innovation.” “Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs,”. “Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of business.”

“Marketing, Reis states, is worshiped in the abstract but not in the specific. There’s no need to hire a chief marketing officer, goes the thinking, because marketing is just common sense, everyone can do it.  Let’s just assign the function to one of our senior officers. Left-brain management types often confuse marketing with advertising. But the two are totally different. Advertising is focused externally and attempts to set up a dialog with customers and prospects. Marketing is focused internally and attempts to set up a dialog with top management in order to develop a product or a service “with a story.”

Reis gives the example of General Motors who has recently emerged from bankruptcy .  So what do they do? Do they hire a marketing guy to run their marketing group? No that would make too much sense!!! They hired an executive to run their marketing who has virtually no background in marketing and does not know the difference between a marketing and advertising strategy. Reis points out that  “Marketing comes first, advertising comes second. That’s why Bob Lutz seems to be on the wrong tack when he immediately focuses on fixing the advertising at GM . “I think you will very quickly see a drastic change in the tone and content of our advertising,” said Mr. Lutz. “And if you don’t, it will mean that I have failed.”

This sounded very familiar to me as a marketing consultant . How many times have I heard someone tell me that our problem is with the message or advertising/communications and if we can only get the message right with the right vehicles and tactics we will be in good shape. Often the problem is not with the message or the communications tactics but with their marketing strategy , if they have one. (Note the biggest problem in my view with most organizations in government and non profits is that they have loads of tactics but no strategy) . And when they are reminded that they have no strategy the usual response is that they have no time to do a strategy . Imagine putting up a building or a bridge without an engineering  plan . Seldom happens but in the world of marketing plans don’t seem to matter much.

As Reis points out “Marketing’s job is to coordinate all the various disciplines inside a corporation in order to develop the right product, the right price, the right position, the right distribution strategy and the right brand name. Advertising’s job on the other hand is to position that brand name in the minds of consumers. Good marketing makes advertising relatively easy. Bad marketing makes advertising difficult, if not impossible. Marketing is a discipline that can take years of study and work. A discipline that’s just as complicated and as hard to learn as medicine or accounting or automobile repair. Furthermore, the principles of marketing are counterintuitive. Invariably they are the opposite of what most people would call “common sense.”

Getting back to GM Reis asks: ‘What is GM’s marketing problem? One complaint of commentators in the media is that “General Motors doesn’t build cars that people want to buy.” This is true. People want to buy Toyotas, Hondas, BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus and other brands. People want to buy brands, not just vehicles. What you park in your garage is your family’s most visible status symbol. Few people want to buy a Buick (average age of buyer: 62) even though Buick (along with Jaguar) was rated as the most dependable vehicle in J.D. Power’s 2009 vehicle dependability study.” “For similar reasons, Rolex continues to make mechanical watches even though quartz watches would be cheaper and more accurate. Brand is more important than product. Many left-brain management types are also confused about the role and function of advertising itself. Their assumption is that advertising is communications. Advertising is not communications. Advertising is positioning. An effective marketing program isolates a singular position and then tries to occupy that position in the prospect’s mind with advertising that reinforces its singular position. “

Reis maintains that it’s time for a new era in marketing  .

I certainly agree. Amateur hour is over. In this difficult economic period it is time to get serious about marketing, not only in the business world but in the public and non profit sectors. In an era when governments need to be more responsive and accountable to the needs of the public, marketing can help governments accomplish this goal. With governments, public sector agencies and other public institutions spending significant dollars delivering programs and services, there is a need for increased efficiency, accountability and transparency in the processes used to deliver these initiatives.

As well, with the shift of the public and non profit sector sector to a more of a managerial, business-like approach, the adoption of marketing and related managerial practices can serve as a key component in strengthening accountability in operations in the public and non profit sectors. As governments and other public organizations continue to try to meet the challenges associated with demands for better and improved service delivery as well as new services and programs with budgetary constraints, new and different models of management and their associated tools and tactics need to be considered to help deliver more quality, speed, efficiency, convenience to its clients. Marketing presents a comprehensive, integrated and innovative approach from which to manage public sector resources. The time has come for leaders in government and the non profit sector to recognize and embrace the  practice of strategic marketing .

It is time for marketing to get RESPECT.

2 Replies to “Marketers Get No RESPECT”

  1. Jim,
    We can always count on you to promote the importance of marketing in not for profits and the public sector. I also believe that corporations must look at not for profits as brand allies and use social responsibility as a brand building tool. See my latest entry at which suggests brands and giving are as much marketing as they are philanthropy.

    1. Strongly support your views . No question Company’s action on supporting relevant social causes is extremely important to building a brand.

      By the way for any of your readers who are in the government or non profit sectors, The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing launched a
      Guide to Branding in the Public and Not-for-Profit Sectors. Go to my blog at and you can download it.

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