Marketing and Business. There’s a history here…


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Virtually everyone agrees that marketing is important for business. Even people who don’t understand marketing give at least lip service to the concept.

Marketers, of course, are very clear on its importance – although they are less clear about how to express and quantify its results. One of the reasons for this, I think, is how corporations have traditionally been organized and functions assigned.

Modern corporations grew out of late 19th and early 20th century capitalism’s expansion. Modern organization charts developed as previously small enterprises – which could be overseen by one or two entrepreneurial businessmen – became increasingly complex and diverse. Enterprises once held in those one or two hands became too large to be managed that way. And the age of trusts and unfettered capitalism ushered in the age of “professional manager” (and, by the way, the emerging American middle class).

This would be an interesting historical footnote where it not for the fact that we are still living and trying to operate within the boundaries and constraints developed then – in a different age, with different demands.

For business in general, and marketing in particular, the world has changed dramatically. The Internet has all but eliminated geographic boundaries (or, at least, reduced them to the level of nuisance rather than impediment). Social media have eliminated the ability of advertising, PR, and marketing to control a company’s message or image (or, at least, made the task infinitely more difficult). Marketing analytics have given companies the ability to discern nuances where once there were undifferentiated masses (or gross sub-groupings).

Business must be, at once, both faster in understanding and meeting marketplace changes and more integrated and efficient in doing so.

Yet business is still organized as it was in the late 1800s and early 1900s – when “management” itself first became a recognized job function.

Does this make sense?

Does it makes sense that corporate accounting is still based on a “cost of manufacturing” model, with changes at the margin to try to accommodate modern economic reality? In a largely service economy, we still expense the costs for intellectual capital rather than seeing it as an investment. Sure, this is logical from a tax standpoint. But how does that position intellectual capital within the organization?

And make no mistake about it. Marketing is an intellectual exercise – an evolving intellectual exercise trying to fit into a 19th century manufacturing model of corporate efficiency.

For marketing to be fully integrated into, and used most effectively by, a dynamic 21st century organization, it must step out of its early 20th century corset. We have to be clear that:

– The development of marketing strategy and strategic messaging is as much an R&D investment as product development. And the ROI can be measured over time in exactly the same way.

– The traditional position of marketing in the organization chart is useful for HR purposes – but not for business purposes. Marketing needs to be assertive in being seen as an organic part of product development, product pricing, determining an acceptable cost of manufacturing, and employee relations (seeing employees as an internal constituency and – given social media – a marketing outreach tool, as I have discussed elsewhere) in addition to its more obvious and accepted functions.

– Marketing has to stop burrowing further and further into arcane jargon and newly found or redefined mechanisms and tools. It needs to be the voice of reason about what can – and cannot – be expected of the latest fads and fashions for speaking to prospects and customers.

– Marketing must stop adhering to old (and out-dated) definitions of its responsibilities.

The more marketing subscribes to conventions about what is and what isn’t a marketing function, the more self-involved it becomes as a “profession,” the less integrated and useful it will be to the business it serves.

And the harder it will be for marketing to be effective as that business’s voice to the world, or the world’s voice to the business.

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


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