Will marketing pass the net test? For those of you who are
blissfully unaware, it’s A-Level time again. Households all over the
country are full of tension as a generation of would-be undergraduates
try to get their required grades.
But will marketing pass the test? Here is the question that probably
won’t appear in the A-Level papers - ’Marketers fail to grasp the
potential impact of technology on consumers, discuss’.
Take the thing of the moment - the internet. Philip Crawford, of Oracle,
speaking at this year’s Institute of Directors convention, said: ’UK
businesses still don’t seem to have grasped the full role of the
internet in transforming business models, slashing costs and creating a
new global digital economy’.
Indeed Jan Leschly, in his excellent Marketing Society annual lecture a
few weeks ago, raised the issue of how companies could embrace the true
potential of the net when so many directors were distant from it and see
it as the preserve of a younger generation of managers.
The failure to grasp the potential of technology is not something new;
we have all heard the quotes about how IBM only saw computers as being
central mainframes and not on users’ desks, or the one about how the
telephone would not catch on as the Post Office had messenger boys.
I wonder if, even a few years ago, many people could have envisaged that
mobile phones would have lost their aspirational chic image and become
the ubiquitous ’must have’ functional item next to a car or credit
Herein lies the problem: is it of any use complaining about today’s
marketing departments not being visionary enough when history contains
so many previous generations of managers getting it so wrong?
If consumers are willing to embrace the new technology, where does it
leave boards of directors or their marketing departments?
For the Luddites who still believe that PCs are things that secretaries
type letters on, someone ought to tell them that they are living in some
dark age - and they probably belong there. On the other hand, for those
that believe that such a proliferation of technology and computing power
in homes can be harnessed, the world is their oyster.
Whereas e-commerce has been talked about for the past few years, we are
now starting to see the first real mass-market uses for it to start to
develop. Amazon.com is an obvious example but it is by no means the end
of the story. The more consumers have real purchasing experience of
buying via the net and the more that there is on offer, the more the
trend will accelerate.
Marketers need only to look back at the fundamental changes brought
about in the food distribution chain by the arrival of supermarkets to
start to even partly envisage the potential for change that will be
brought about by the development of e-commerce on some of the current
retail distribution models in existence.
So are all you marketing people out there ready for the test of how to
exploit the opportunities provided by the net - and how will you win
over your board?
Best of luck - let’s hope you get the desired grade.