Editorial: Stop work, engage brain

As a younger man with the time to ponder on such things, one statement guaranteed to make me see red was 'It's a nice idea in theory, but doesn't work in practice'.

Not because it was invariably said as someone's crude attempt to escape from whatever incisive, two-hour political discourse I had been subjecting them to, but because of the realisation that I had been wasting time on some bumbling idiot with no grasp of the reasoning process. Patently, if it didn't work in practice then the theory was no good either, and if they thought that, why didn't they just say so? ... by which time their back could be seen rapidly disappearing through the door.

There is an even greater disrespect for theory these days than back then.

While I have met a handful of marketers who have to Boston Matrix their way through a lunch menu, and a few who know that PIMS isn't something that comes in a jug with mint and cucumber, on the whole the topic of marketing academia simply doesn't come up.

I blame Sir Alan Sugar for this. Well, not Sir Alan himself, perhaps, but certainly his type of 'I'm a straight-talking kind of guy' chief executive who calls a spade an overhead and who is often found at the head of corporations today. These leaders foster a business environment in which it is impossible for business theory, however pertinent, to find traction. What marketer hoping to make it to the boardroom, let alone survive there, would show the slightest admiration for academia?

It goes some way to explaining why those who earn their salary in the real, messy world of brands and competition are so dismissive of those who study its theory from the perspective of risk-free academic tenure - 'If you haven't been threatened with delisting by Tesco, you haven't lived, my son.'

Academics are an alien species, too. Who else, with the possible exception of a market research company, would call their output 'Implementing a pre-launch diffusion model: measurement and management challenges of the Telstra switching study', while a marketer would call their own, say, 'Doritos'? Such jargon is a significant barrier between academics and practitioners: long snaking sentences innocent of verbal vigour, weighed down by words such as 'hermeneutics', 'epistemology' and 'ontological'.

What good is a tool if you can't understand the instructions? It's like buying a high-tech drill with the instruction manual written in Ancient Greek.

And yet, could you be bothered to but turn the pages of the odd academic journal, you might happen across the type of breakthrough thinking that would at once free you from the traditional hindrances to growth in your sector and lead to a demonstrable improvement in return on your marketing investment. Do you think your finance director would turn up his nose at that particular theory?

Time is, of course, short and the demands on it are many. There are plenty of models, frameworks and methodologies that are neither simple in application nor profound in effect. On the other hand, there are some that are both - ideas that may well have bedazzled you already during the hundreds of your consultants' chargeable hours, and which you could have had for next to nothing. Now there's a thought.

- Ten ideas from academia, page 32.

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer