Returning to Marketing’s Roots


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AJ made an interesting comment in response to my post on Three Different Flavours of Customer Centricity. He laments the lack of customer-centricity of many marketers and of how this can lead to abusing the customer’s intelligence and trust.

AJ is right that marketers are having an increasingly difficult time promoting their wares. This stems from a number of factors including: a proliferation of me-too products that leads to commoditisation and falling margins, media fragmentation that makes it harder to reach customers and increases costs, product and information overload that make it harder to get the message across, all leading to the tragedy of the advertising commons and declining marketing effectiveness.

Paradoxically, research by Donald Lehmann clearly shows that marketers who really get into the hearts & minds of their customers are more successful than those who just continue pushing their products harder. By that I mean marketers who really understand the jobs and outcomes customers are seeking through using their products, who develop products, services and experiences that really deliver those outcomes over the entire ownership lifecycle and who pull all the integrated-marketing levers to bring prospective customers to the company and to build a mutual value exchange-based relationship.

These marketers wouldn’t abuse customers’ intelligence and trust anymore than they would their dog. They don’t need to.

Much of the abusing of customers that goes on comes from marketers who focus just on short-term goals at the expense of all else. Most of these fall into a category of marketers who do not think about customers at all, except as distant targets at the receiving end of their marketing howitzer. It is almost as though they had never heard of Ted Levitt’s famous book The Marketing Imagination, that sets out a framework for customer-centric marketing. The book isn’t new though, it was written in 1983!

What do you think? Are marketers doing a fine job in the face of difficult market conditions? Or is it time for a return to marketing’s roots?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. As always, Graham raises an interesting point.

    Whilst I am not a marketeer by training, as a business owner, I do have a very real and practical interest.

    I was always taught that marketing was about a dialogue with the market place – the prospects and customers that buy and may buy. (Remember, markets don’t buy anything, people do.) I sense that the problem is that too much of what is called marketing is dominated by the outbound element of the dialogue. If you don’t believe me, just look at marketing budgets and see how much is spent on telling versus listening.

    I once had a debate with the Marketing Director of a major UK financial services company who was berating his industry’s lack of measurable return. I suggested that if he spent more on understanding and improving the customer experience, he would get a better and measurable return. He wouldn’t take up the bet, arguing that that wasn’t marketing it was operations and he didn’t want to waste his budget on stuff that was outside his remit.

    Is that customer centric marketing? Is that doing the right the thing for the business? Or is it empire building?

    I think outbound marketing is crucial but if you don’t know enough about who you are talking to, any amount of shouting won’t help – no matter how big the marketing budget.


    Dave J

    PS Like Graham, this conversation so set me thinking that I wrote about it in an article called Introducing the Chief Listening Officer.

  2. Dave

    Thank you for you comment. It is much appreciated.

    The situation you describe with the MD of a UK Financial Service firm is all too common. Executives in the C-suite are generally rewarded for achieving specific targets, often closely related with financial value creation and backed up by budgets for specific activities. Too few of them are willing (or able) to look a little outside their immediate remit, to the origins of the value that they are hoping to harvest.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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