Marketers Need Communications and Communicators Need Marketing


From time to time, practitioners in the field of marketing and communications get into a debate about the differences between marketing and communications and more importantly, about which takes prominence in an organization. First, let’s look at terminology. In order to clarify things, the term communications is somewhat of a misnomer. The field of endeavour is actually called “public relations” but a number of years ago, public relations became somewhat pejorative and fell out of favour. As a result, public relations organizations, especially in government and the nonprofit sectors, started calling what they do “communications”. For the purposes of this article and because of this shift, the term communications will be used.

There’s always been some degree of tension and competition between communications and marketing practitioners, especially when it comes to questions about which discipline ought to be dominant or which contributed more to their organization’s well-being. They also compete for scarce internal resources and for public attention. Some organizations use only one of these disciplines. Others use both. The degree to which they use them, and the specific ways in which they use them varies from organization to organization based on their purpose, size, and history.

Introduction of Marketing into the Public and Nonprofit Sectors

The concept of marketing in the public and nonprofit sectors was a bit of a late-comer. Marketing, up until the early nineties, was mostly associated with business. However, public sector and nonprofit marketing has become, in recent years, a burgeoning field.

For more information, see Judith Madill’s article in OptimumMarketing in Government or Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) article in Optimum The Case for Marketing in the Public Sector. There are also textbooks on both nonprofit and public sector marketing e.g. Kotler and Lee’s book on Public Sector Marketing and Andreasen and Kotler‘s book on Strategic Nonprofit Marketing .

Marketing vs. Communications

If an organization is a public sector or nonprofit organization and sees its primary goal as serving the public, then communications tends to be the more dominant function because building relationships with its publics is its over-riding concern. Most public sector/nonprofit organizations have a communications group or team, involved in public information, community relations, media relations, issues management, community and public affairs and in recent years social media engagement.

On the other hand, if you are a for-profit organization and your focus is the generation of sales, communications tends to be of secondary importance and is normally conducted to support and enhance marketing efforts. In a small company, there might not be a separate and identifiable communications group at all. In a medium to large corporation, you definitely have a good size marketing group with a smaller communications function.

Marketing in a for-profit generates sales of goods and services and directly contributes to the company’s profitability while communications coordinates relationships with various publics in order to gain public acceptance and approval of the company’s activities, including its sales activities.

Many people – even marketing and communication pros – find it difficult to distinguish marketing from communications. Some actually think they’re basically the same thing. Others, especially in the public sector, think that marketing could be useful as an arm of government engaged in selling products and services or involved in social marketing for behaviour change, but do not see the value-added that marketing can bring to the strategic communications function.

Adding to the confusion is the emersion of social media. The revolutionary, user-generated content has softened the formerly strict boundaries between marketing and communications.

Despite the confusion, there are important differences between marketing and communications. The following is a helpful, albeit non-exhaustive, list.

  • Focus. In general, marketing focuses on selling products and services. In the public and nonprofit sectors, it is also used for revenue generation, behaviour change campaigns, selling ideas, programs, and policies, while communications tend to focus on building relationships with various publics.
  • Function. Both marketing and communications are management functions. The two serve different purposes; however, in the private sector, marketing is a line function that directly contributes to an organization’s bottom line. Communications, on the other hand, tends to be a staff function that indirectly supports an organization’s goals and objectives. While in the public and nonprofit sector, we have the exact opposite where marketing usually comes under the communications function, although not always.
  • Target. Marketing’s target tends to focus on the customer/client/end-user. Marketers strive to meet the needs of the customer demands while communications target a range of publics and goals that collectively support an organization’s objectives. Examples of these publics (or stakeholders) include customers/clients/members, the media, employees, suppliers, the community, political leaders and various associations/organizations depending on the topic area.
  • Carry-over benefits. Communications’ major focus is to contribute to organizational success by building and maintaining a positive social, and political environment. Studies show a target audiences’ favorable perception – shaped by positive, well-placed news coverage (likely generated by communications) – benefits and “lifts” an organization’s marketing strategy.

Both marketing and communications play substantive roles in accomplishing corporate goals and objectives. Savvy leaders should learn – and appropriately integrate – marketing and communications into their corporate strategies to better achieve organizational success.

The lines between marketing and communications blur through social media, it’s possible that the fields will continue to have more and more overlaps and similarities. Organizations are using their Twitter streams and Facebook pages to both market themselves and carefully craft consumer perceptions. While media releases and marketing campaigns still show the differences between the two subjects, the new shiny mediums are blending the two together, complementing each other and making organizations more efficient and effective.

 In a Forbes article practitioners were asked to distinguish marketing and communications. Here’s what some marketing and communications-area experts said

Marketing is more proactive while communications tends to be a bit more reactive. Communications kicks in if there is news to report, a public relations crisis, a community that needs outreach, or a new product/service/program to promote. Marketing can help create responses that communications can then respond to.

The purpose of communications is to build relationships with all stakeholders – not just current and potential customers.  Communications smoothes the way.  It creates a favorable operating climate in which it is easier to market, expand and be viable. As marketing guru Al Ries says, PR lights the fire, marketing fans the flames.

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. Communications is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics.

All forms of communication should be integrated together – and that includes how you answer the phone, sign off on your email, post to Twitter and Facebook, etc. Communication and marketing should involve all available tools. Service to the public should also be considered part of your overall communications and marketing because if it sucks, nothing else that you say matters.

Effective marketers constantly think from the customer’s / client’s viewpoint and constantly ask, ‘”What’s in it for them?” and then listen with respect to what they say. That’s especially true for public sector and nonprofit marketers i.e.why should someone support your government program or policy or your nonprofit with money or in-kind support or promote your message or buy your products and services?

The truth is, you can’t market without doing a little communication, and you can’t do communications without a little marketing. The end goals—selling products, services, programs, policies or ideas and making people love your organization—are too intertwined: If what you are marketing is poorly conceived, your organization probably won’t be viewed favorably by the public, and if people aren’t connecting with your overall brand, they’re probably not going to buy what you are selling.


Value of Marketing to the Communications Function

To be sure, marketing, when done properly, starts with the audience and works back to a message that will motivate action. The assumption is that if you want someone to take an action, like buying your product, service, idea, policy or program or changing behaviour you need to appeal to THEIR needs vs. your own. You’re trying to gain mind share with an audience absolutely overloaded with information. If you want to own real estate in their brain, you better make your message all about them.

Just as important, a good marketing campaign needs to incorporate messaging that deals with a competitive landscape, taking into consideration that your audience has choices. If you want to excel, differentiation – how you are different from the others – is critical and a key element of branding (for more information see my blog on branding).

One of the factors that leads to a disdain for the marketing function in a nonprofit or public sector organization is ignorance. “Our good work will sell itself” is one of the many delusional beliefs that inhibits nonprofit and public sector organizations from incorporating marketing into their communication function.

Public sector and nonprofit organizations can and should learn something from business. Many companies have started and failed because they believed their brilliance or product excellence would sell itself. It just isn’t true.

Every organization, no matter the sector, struggles with exactly the same things:

  • How to make people aware of their existence
  • How to make people aware of why they should care about their existence
  • How to get people to take action to achieve a goal or mission

In the nonprofit sector, these cannot be achieved by a communication strategy alone. You are competing for the attention of your audience amongst organizations with a similar cause or a different cause, and distractions caused by the challenges of every day life including but not limited to work, family, friends and hobbies.

Effective marketing principles will help you compete effectively for the attention you desire and deserve by helping you to:

  • Better understand the current position you hold within the minds of the audience(s) you want to reach
  • Craft a complete marketing communication strategy around the needs of those you want to pay attention and/or take action
  • Encourage sponsorship by appealing to the needs of those businesses that serve the same communities you do

There is a strong need to educate senior managers in the public and nonprofit sectors about the value and applicability of strategic marketing management principles. This requires recognition across all levels of management of the value of marketing, both in terms of the potential impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of programs, services and outreach campaigns, as well as the benefits to their audiences.

Within the public and nonprofit sectors, there is wide recognition of the role and value of the communications function and many organizations develop communications plans outside of a marketing framework. This can be explained by the lack of understanding by public sector and nonprofit organizations of the value marketing brings to the communications function. There is clearly an opportunity to broaden the communications function in these organizations to include a strategic marketing mandate thereby re-positioning it as an expanded role and stretching the impact of communications efforts.

Marketing can be used to achieve the vision of better informing and engaging audiences by viewing communications within a broader strategic marketing framework. It can help to drive results in program uptake, program impact and behavioural change. And it can save money by helping executives and program/service managers make informed decisions around investment in their communication resources.

Many in the public and nonprofit sectors identify marketing with selling products, programs or services, or promotion and advertising. Others see the value of social marketing to change attitudes and behaviours. It is true that marketing can assist in generating revenue within these sectors or succeed in changing behaviours, but it can also be a useful paradigm for improving relationships with clients and the publics with whom these sectors interact.

Marketing as a discipline can be beneficial to the public and nonprofit sectors for the following four reasons:

  1. Existing and potential clients are guaranteed to play a major role in developing and implementing a program/product/service;
  2. All program elements are focused on behaviour change instead of settling for awareness alone;
  3. Initiatives tailored to specific segments of the market as opposed to the general public ensure efficient use of limited resources; and,
  4. The application of 4 Ps (product, price, place & promotion) will always ensure that the campaign will move beyond just communications / promotion to being developed strategically for specific audiences.

As both the public and nonprofit sectors 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 both sectors deliver more quality, speed, efficiency, and convenience to their audiences. Marketing presents a comprehensive, integrated and innovative approach from which to manage communications resources. The time has come for leaders in both the public and nonprofit sectors to recognize and embrace the lexicon and practice of strategic marketing in their sectors.

Jim Mintz is the Managing Partner of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing where he presently works with a number of public sector and nonprofit clients.


Jim Mintz, Managing Partner / Senior Consultant

Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (

Tel: 343-291-1131  Direct: 613-291-1137 Mobile: 613-298-4549

Let’s connect on Twitter @jimmintz  Linkedin  Facebook 

Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM)

The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) offers strategic marketing and communications consulting services developed specifically for governments, non-profits, and associations. CEPSM has an exceptionally strong core senior consulting team that is complemented by a world class network of associates and partner organizations.

Marketing Workshops Spring 2017

Marketing 101 (for Marketers and Non-Marketers)

March 29, 2017

343 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON,

This workshop will provide participants with an overview of public sector and non-profit marketing. The workshop will teach participants how to develop a marketing  strategy and plan as well as how to transform a government/nonprofit organizations from using the traditional communications approach to an integrated, strategic marketing approach.

The workshop will focus on:

  • An overview of marketing;
  • Systematic processes and strategic elements for developing and implementing an action-oriented strategic marketing plan;
  • How to set realistic, practical marketing objectives and goals;
  • How to evaluate marketing efforts with practical ideas on how to improve execution;
  • How to develop a client-based mindset in a public sector or non-profit organization;
  • How to use market research to support a decision-making framework;
  • How to develop a system for measuring progress and monitoring performance.



Marketing workbooks for Public Sector & Non-Profit Marketers & Communicators


Social Marketing Planning to Change Attitudes and Behaviours Workbook

This workbook provides users with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for a successful social marketing program to change attitudes and behaviours. This content is the result of more than 30 years of direct experience in the social marketing arena.  It helps public sector, non-profit organizations and associations involved in marketing, communications, public awareness/education and outreach.

It will be very relevant to those responsible for influencing attitudes and behaviours to improve health, prevent injuries and diseases, protect the environment, prepare citizens for emergencies, convince youth to stay in school, and a multitude of today’s critical issues.

The workbook guides users through the process for creating a customized social marketing plan for their organization that will lead to successful implementation. It also features ideas on how to run a campaign on a very tight budget and the effective use of a logic model to monitor and evaluate your organization’s social marketing initiative. Conference site

To purchase workbook go to

Order Now and You’ll receive a PDF download immediately!


Alternatively, you can register on our MARCOM Conference site to attend an upcoming Introduction to Social Marketing Planning for Behaviour Change Workshop where we offer the workbook as part of the course

Marketing 101 for Marketers and Non-Marketers Workbook

The world of public sector and nonprofit marketing is rapidly changing. Increasing demands are being placed on managers to adapt to their new environments. The public and nonprofit sectors are adopting marketing approaches to help meet the challenges of complex and difficult mandates and satisfying client needs in the face of significantly diminishing resources.

The need for highly-skilled public sector and nonprofit marketing professionals continues to escalate. These are the people who must effectively bring their organization’s products, services and messages to the marketplace and bring efficiency, rigorous analysis and inspiration to the marketing process. Marketing is proving to be an effective management tool for guiding the evolutionary business processes for government departments, public sector agencies, nonprofit organizations and associations.

This workbook will provide you with an overview of public sector and nonprofit marketing and highlight the importance of market research to support a decision-making framework. Included will be the exploration of the strategic elements of a marketing plan and how to transform organizations from using the traditional communications approach to an integrated, strategic marketing approach. We will also look at branding which is an integral component in designing the marketing mix.

To purchase workbook, go to

How Will I Receive the Marketing 101 for Marketers and Non-Marketers Workbook?

Order Now and you will receive a PDF download immediately!

Alternatively, you can register on our Training Page to attend an upcoming Marketing  101 Workshop where we offer the workbook as part of the course.

About the Author: Jim Mintz a marketing veteran with over 30 years of experience is the Managing Partner of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing





“Strategy before Tactics” is key to Marketing Success

Strategy is doing the right things. Tactics is doing things right.” 

One of the most costly mistakes most organizations make is to start rolling out individual marketing tactics without a strong strategic foundation in place. Social media, blogging, website design, email marketing, advertising, proactive public relations … if you don’t combine these individual tactics into a cohesive strategy and develop the right marketing strategy, you won’t get the results that you hope to obtain.

The first step in realigning your marketing approach and establishing a strategic marketing plan for your business is taking the time to really understand your audience.

Once you have identified the audience you’re ready to start uncovering the key issues you face – the pains and problems your audience have when purchasing your products, programs or services. If you understand what “pains” people have and offer a “remarkable solution”, it becomes a lot easier to get them to do buy your products programs and services. They feel connected to you and trust that you understand their specific challenges.

Most organizations think marketing and immediately think web sites, email, advertising, social media and promotions – you know, tactics. Hate to say it but most marketers think that way too!

I’ve been working for and with organizations for many years and I can tell you that none of the tactics matter until you are crystal clear about which direction you are going. Strategy before tactics is the simple road to success.

This does not mean that I am opposed to systematically and consistently rolling out tactics, but only those that support a strategy that you can commit to. Once you nail the strategy part you can confidently go to work on a strategy with tactics, but no matter what you hear or think you can’t have one before the other.

Strategy and tactics are so intertwined; perhaps it is no wonder that people so often confuse them. Still, it drives marketing consultants like me “nuts” that strategies and tactics are too often interchangeably used.

Strategy and tactics are not one and the same. However, before a campaign can have either, you must first identify your overall goals and objectives.

“Great tactics will win you a battle, but great strategy is what wins you the war.”

Goals are the basis of any marketing initiative. An objective is exactly what you are seeking to accomplish. The more specific you define the goals, the better off you will be. This level of detail sets expectations and creates a commonality that everyone works towards. Establishing a goal sets expectations, and it enables you to begin working on a strategic plan. Only after a goal has been codified, does strategy enter the picture.

Strategy offers a high level plan to achieve an objective. The strategy springs from the very origins of the goal creation. The strategy offers an organizational approach on how to achieve a goal. Not only does the strategy reflect the broader goal, it outlines a scheme to achieve it. In this manner, strategy is a methodology, a train of thought that guides all future actions. The strategy is a platform upon which the tactics will rest or, to throw the analogy, the umbrella under which the tactics will lie.

strategies before tactics

A strategic marketing strategy sets up a framework to achieve a particular goal. Within this blueprint are key performance indicators. These indicators are yardsticks to measure progress. In most cases, however, they are not actually the goal. Rather, they tend to serve as proxies for behaviour. Next, the marketing communications strategy outlines what type of tactic to utilize and to what degree. It defines how much to invest in each tactic. The strategy further defines the markets. The strategy supports the goal, organizes the approach, and advances a plan to achieve those measures.

In essence, the strategy establishes the topological map. Once the topography has been defined, the tactics will create a more particular road map. Here is where some people begin to confuse strategy and tactics. The strategic point of view sets the campaign direction, the philosophical underpinnings. The tactics translate those ideas into reality. For this reason, strategy does not change very often, but tactics can (and do!). The strategy represents principles that will guide the tactical execution.

In a nutshell, strategy is about picking the right goals or objectives and tactics is about how you go about achieving those goals or objectives. The role of a tactician is much simpler once you have a strategy, because the objective and the direction are already defined. Strategy is as much about deciding what NOT to do as much as what to do.

The biggest way this applies to marketing is “segmentation” and “positioning’. While marketing tactics are focused on how to interact with your potential audience, marketing strategy is more about picking the right audience to go after. There may be many organizations out there doing what you do, and picking the right “niche” to call your own is the most important thing you can do to ensure success or guarantee failure.

When organizations contact our organization for marketing help, they are often looking for assistance with tactical projects. For instance, they want us to develop marketing communications tactics or help them get started with social media.

Although those tactics can be very beneficial to organizations, what most public sector and non-profit organizations really need is a marketing strategy. Strategy is not just a fancy word. It’s a process that defines your approach to reach your organizations goals. Without a strategy, it’s easy for organizations to get caught up in chasing the latest marketing trends or switching tactics every week or month. Not only is that an exhausting way to do things, it also means you could be wasting time and money on tactics that will produce little results.

What happens when tactics trump strategy?

  • Lack of clear and consistent messaging. For marketing to be effective, you must create a consistent brand message that communicates what makes you different and why someone should buy your products, programs and services. Without a strategy in place, it makes it much harder to determine compelling messages that will speak to your audience.
  • Difficulty achieving goals. Surprisingly, most organizations don’t have well defined goals. But, even if you DO have specific goals and objectives, it will be difficult to accomplish them without a strategy. What we find in our work is that organizations often see where they want to go, but have trouble connecting the dots on how to get there. It takes research, creativity and strategic thinking to build an effective strategy. But once you do your likelihood of success is that much greater.
  • Wasted budget. If you don’t take time to build a strategy, you could be wasting time and money on the wrong tactics because you’re just guessing about what will work. Taking the time to build a marketing strategy and tactical implementation plan on the front end will ensure your budget is being spent most effectively.
  • Unfocused efforts. All of your marketing tactics should flow out of a marketing strategy. It helps guide your decisions and makes it easier to determine where to spend your time. Without it, your efforts will be weak and unfocused. And, it’s a whole lot easier to get caught up in the marketing tactic du jour.

So, how do you formulate a strategy? Answer these three questions and get everyone on your team aligned around the answers. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re not ready to start implementing tactics. Doing so can cause all sorts of problems:

1) Why do we do what we do?

This is the age old mission question. Until you can get very clear about the one overarching purpose for your organization, things will always seem a bit muddy. When you can grab onto your “why” you have the basis for every decision you make and a thread that can define your branding and positioning and you will be successful in building a vibrant group of clients around your organization.

Ponder this question for a moment as it might help bring some clarity: What is joyful to you about the result your organization brings a client? There are many variations on this one, but it might help your get started. Perhaps the greatest challenge with purpose and mission is that it can’t be faked. You can’t copy it; it simply is what you stand for – so dig deep on this one!

2) Who do we do it for?

The tricky part about this one is that the answer should be as narrow as possible. If you nailed the first answer above, know that some percentage of the world out there won’t be attracted to your why – and that’s okay. Now your job as a marketer is to go even narrower and start really understanding who you can help and who gets the most value from your unique approach.

Look to your best clients. Find the commonality in this group and you should be able to develop a very narrow ideal client profile that entails both physical description and ideal behavior.

A secondary element of this answer applies to your team. Who fits your why, your culture? Who can come to your organization with the mindset to serve your mission?

3) What do we do that’s both unique and remarkable?

The last piece of the puzzle is about what you do. But, it’s not simply about defining what business you are in. That’s important to understand, but more important is to find and communicate how what you do is unique in a way that your ideal client finds remarkable. In a way, that allows you to stand apart from everyone else that say they do the same things as you do. i.e your unique selling proposition (USP)

This isn’t as simple as it might sound. Most organizations don’t fully understand what their audience truly value. It’s not necessarily a better product or good service. Those fall under the category of expectation and everyone can and usually claim them. The difference is in the details, the little things you do, the way you do it, how you treat your clients, how you make them feel. It’s in the surprises, the things that exceed their expectations.

Go talk to your clients, they know what you do that’s unique. Listen carefully and don’t be afraid to embrace the little things you do, that’s where you are different in a way that matters. Source


As you are reading this blog you may be asking why you would want to contract someone to help you with your marketing strategy. Good question! But I would ask why hire an architect or engineer to help design a building or bridge, why not just hire the construction crew and start building. You save a lot of money and you can get your building or bridge up quickly.

Now can you imagine anyone building a bridge or building without a plan? Of course not, but in our world of marketing and communications we see organizations spending thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars on marketing and communications without a proper marketing strategy or plan. Frankly the best investment a marketer or communicator can make is working with someone who understands the marketing and communications business and can craft a strategy so that your tactics fit into a plan with measurable objectives, segmentation plan, etc.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Most marketing firms are tactics-focused. They will sell you new tactics for attracting clients or “‘increasing conversions.” Those things are great, but only if you already feel like your marketing is in the right place, and just needs more fuel. If you experiencing that “sinking feeling,” and you know what I am talking about if you are, then you need something more than some new tactics. The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing is a strategy focused marketing firm who work with government, non-profit and member based organizations and we would love to help you with your marketing challenges.

One of the hardest things to do is pulling back to objectively look at your organization and build a strategy that will help you get results. If this is something you need help with contact us. This is what we do every day for organizations just like yours and we would be happy to help you.


Is Marketing Dead?

“Business has only two basic functions-marketing and innovation.”

Peter Drucker, management consultant and author


A recent controversial article by Bill Lee in the Harvard Business Review proposes that traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead. Yes dead as a doornail.

Lee states that many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm.

His evidence:

  • Buyers are no longer paying much attention. Several studies have confirmed that in the “buyer’s decision journey,” traditional marketing communications just aren’t relevant. Buyers are checking out product and service information in their own way, often through the Internet, and often from sources outside the firm such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews.
  • In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers 73% of them said that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.
  • In today’s increasingly social media-infused environment, traditional marketing and sales not only doesn’t work so well, but doesn’t make sense. An organization hires people — employees, agencies, consultants, partners — who don’t come from the buyer’s world and whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned with his, and expects them to persuade the buyer to spend his hard-earned money on something. When you try to extend traditional marketing logic into the world of social media, it simply doesn’t work according to Lee.  Source

There’s a lot of speculation about what will replace the “marketing” model. Here is Lee’s take:

1. Restore community marketing. Used properly, social media is accelerating a trend in which buyers can increasingly approximate the experience of buying in their local, physical communities. For instance, when you contemplate a major purchase, such as a flat screen TV, or a good surgeon, you’re not likely to go looking for a salesperson to talk to, or to read through a bunch of corporate website content. Instead, you’ll probably ask neighbors or friends — your peer networks — what or whom they’re using.

2. Companies should position their social media efforts to replicate as much as possible this community-oriented buying experience. For example, a new firm, Zuberance, makes it easy and enjoyable for a firm’s loyal customers to advocate for the firm on their social media platform of choice. At the moment one of these customers identifies himself as a “promoter” on a survey, they immediately see a form inviting them to write a review or recommendation on any of several social media sites. Once they do, the Zuberance platform populates it to the designated sites, and the promoter’s network instantly knows about his experience with the firm.

3. Find your customer influencers. Many firms spend lots of resources pursuing outside influencers who’ve gained a following on the Web and through social media. A better approach is to find and cultivate customer influencers and give them something great to talk about. This requires a new concept of customer value that goes way beyond customer lifetime value, which is based only on purchases.

4. Help them build social capital. Practitioners of this new, community-oriented marketing are also rethinking their customer value proposition for such MVP (“Customer Champion”) customer advocates and influencers. Traditional marketing often tries to encourage customer advocacy with cash rewards, discounts or other untoward inducements. The new marketing helps its advocates and influencers create social capital: it helps them build their affiliation networks, increase their reputation and gives them access to new knowledge.

5. Get your customer advocates involved in the solution you provide. Perhaps the most spectacular example of this comes from the non-profit world (i.e. social marketing). Some years ago, with the number of teen smokers nation-wide rising to alarming levels, the State of Florida thought anew about its decades-long effort to reduce the problem. Using the techniques for building a community of peer influence, Florida solved it. They sought influential teen “customers” such as student leaders, athletes, and “cool kids,” who weren’t smoking or who wanted to quit — and instead of pushing a message at them, they asked for the students’ help and input.

Approached in this new way, some 600 teens attended a summit on teen smoking, where they told officials why anti-smoking efforts in the past hadn’t worked — dire warnings about the health consequences of smoking, or describing the habit as “being gross,” left them unimpressed. On the spot, the teens brainstormed a new approach: they were outraged by documents showing that tobacco company executives were specifically targeting teens to replace older customers who’d died (often from lung cancer).

And so the teens formed a group called SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) who organized train tours and workshops, sold T-shirts and other appealing activities to take their message into local communities. The result: despite a vicious counterattack by Big Tobacco lobbying firms, teen smoking in Florida dropped by nearly half between 1998 and 2007 — by far the biggest success in anti-teen-smoking in history. Put another way, Florida won half of the “non-buyers” of its anti-teen-smoking “product” away from its much bigger, much better funded competitor. They did so by tapping the best source of buyer motivation: peer influence. Source

For more information on the Florida Truth campaign go to link.

Lee concludes that traditional marketing may be dead, but the new possibilities of peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing, hold much greater promise for creating sustained growth through authentic customer relationships.

Mitch Joel, President of Twist Image.  responded to the article by arguing; that marketing isn’t dead. Marketing (which encompasses everything from product, price, place and promotion) is not only alive and well… its core to a business’ success. In short marketing isn’t dead. Marketing is everything.

Joel states “In fact, I would tell Mr. Lee, the Harvard Business Review, and anyone else who asks that advertising (as we have known it to date) is not dying. In fact, it’s not on life-support, it’s not sick, and it probably doesn’t even have the sniffles. Does that mean that social media and digital media has not disrupted the model or added new layers and opportunities? Of course it has. Does it mean that newer components like community management, engaging influencers, building social capital with customers, and engaging with consumers in more collaborative ways (the four core pillars that Lee argues have put the death knell on traditional marketing) hasn’t changed the game? Of course it has.” Source

Maggie Fox points out in her blog that Marketing isn’t dead – the big disruption is simply that it’s now everywhere, and everything, that a company does.

Here are some of the other comments on Lee`s article. Note there were close to hundred comments but here are a few I think are relevant from my perspective.

“Traditional” marketing may not have the stand alone effectiveness, and some forms of media may not have the pull or glamour they once did, but many of the “traditional” methods still work as essential elements to creating effective campaigns/brands/plans. Social media is only one part of the puzzle and social media needs good marketing behind it to be at all successful. “

“Marketing as it has been practiced is evolving owing to the changes we witness around us. Some of the tenets of marketing will get questioned, some of them will come to the forefront and assume greater importance, some will become short term fads and dissipate in a few years as the societal evolution will confine them in a dustbin and some of them will pass the test of time with flying colors. Let’s not start writing premature obituaries”.

“Social media and peer-to-peer marketing have a vital place; at the same time, there’s much data to show increased sales, revenue, market share etc. from the use of traditional marketing.

“Technology is a game changer and today a greater percentage of investigation is done online before a prospect ever talks to a sales person. However, saying marketing is dead is just foolish. Marketing and sales both are evolving and the Internet and technology growth on the Internet is having a substantial effect. Marketing will evolve to incorporate new technology and the way buyer research purchases before they move to a purchase mode. “

“Marketing is not dead; it’s just changed to be in the hands of the consumer and businesses, brands, whatever need to get on board with that. The dinosaurs of ‘traditional’ marketing are struggling to grasp that and hence this type of article rears its ugly head. It’s a shame, as this article has some great insight and advice mixed in, especially around advocates.”


Here is my take:

Marketing is clearly not dead, like many disciplines it’s constantly evolving. Is there a lot of money wasted on marketing? Yes there is. Are there people in marketing resistant to change? Of course there is and that is true of every field.

Lee is not telling us anything we don`t know.  Of course you need to use a variety of integrated marketing approaches to reach audience these days. Yes the idea by some marketing practitioners thinking that using one approach to market is “dead” but frankly since the introduction of integrated marketing communications (see my blog ) I would argue it has been dead for at least three decades.  As I have pointed out in over 150 blogs there is good marketing and bad marketing. I have been very critical of the bad marketing observed in my career as a practitioner, academic and consultant.  The secret to successful marketing is to be open to new ideas,  be strategic i.e. develop a marketing strategy before going headlong into tactics and most important  listen to the people you are trying to reach and influence .

Is marketing dead? Hardly!

Let me know what you think.