People are always confused with the role of marketing. A recent article by Al Ries in Ad Age makes some very interesting points.
For example who decides?
1) What products and services to offer;
2) What to name those products and services; and
3) What distribution channels to use to sell those products and services?
Clearly this is the role of marketing but Ries points out that with companies large and small, he doesn’t see many marketing people calling the shots on 1) Products; 2) Names; and 3) Distribution.
Instead, Ries points out that unfortunately marketing people tend to focus on “communications” issues. They spend most of their time figuring out how to interest prospects in their organizations products and services.
The Mantra for our organization (i.e. Centre for Public Sector Marketing) is “Strategy before Tactics” and we clearly understand the need and importance of communications but they are only the tactics of a marketing program. The other half, the more important half, is strategy.
As Reis points out the two are related. In order to improve the communications, it often is necessary to make changes in strategy. In products, names, pricing, distribution, etc. And who is in a better position to suggest such changes than an experienced marketing person?
But as Reis point out it is top management people who are calling the shots on marketing strategy? And in most cases management people who are not trained or knowledgeable about marketing. Would top management without an engineering background make engineering decisions, probably not? But marketing … no problem.
Reis describes the most recent Presidential race for the GOP as an example of lack of marketing strategy.
“So far, there are eight Republican presidential candidates: Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman.
Do you know the verbal position of any of these eight?
I don’t think they have any.
Doesn’t anyone remember “Change we can believe in?” After Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, I would have thought that any future presidential candidate would summarize his or her campaign with a few memorable words. But so far, no one has.Apparently, nobody wants to be tied down to a single idea or concept. Everybody wants to be free to expand their campaigns in all directions, depending on which way the wind blows.
Take Jon Huntsman. “He resigned as the U.S. ambassador to China, but already Jon Huntsman has a logo, a musical theme, a small arsenal of promotional videos, a Hollywood narrator and a line of travel mugs, lapel pins, baseball caps and T-shirts emblazoned with the distinctive H of his infant presidential campaign. He even has a generation named after himself. Generation H, his campaign calls it.”
Jon Huntsman has everything except a marketing strategy. Source
What is strategy anyway?
According to Wikipedia Strategy, a word of military origin refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked. How a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: the terms and conditions that it is fought on and whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy, which is part of the four levels of warfare: political goals or grand strategy, strategy, operations, and tactics. Strategy has been extended beyond its traditional fields, military and grand strategy, to business, economics, game theory and other fields.
Ries discusses the Marketing Warfare material that came out of his book by the same name.
He quotes the famous Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz, the world’s most-famous military strategist, “Keep the forces concentrated in an overpowering mass. The fundamental idea always to be aimed at before all and as far as possible.”
He explains it this way “strategy is like a garden hose with an adjustable nozzle. Turn it one way to increase the concentration and out comes a powerful stream of water that could knock down a child. Turn it the other way and out comes a fine mist that wouldn’t harm a butterfly.He points out that almost every military strategist recommends “concentration of forces,” while almost every business strategist recommends “scatteration of forces.” Everything about marketing strategy parallels military strategy. The principle of force. The superiority of the defense. The advantage of flanking. And most importantly, the principle of focus.”
There is one difference. Marketing is about brands, not companies. Apple has become the world’s most-valuable company, not by expanding the Apple brand, but by launching new brands: Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
Is this what marketing has become? A discipline that execute strategies designed by somebody else?Source
Let me know what you think.