OPINION: Marketing Society - Why marketing has to relaunch itself to survive

That it may be time to sound the death knell for marketing may seem an odd concept for someone who has dedicated most of his working life to marketing, but who received his training in the 60s and 70s.

That it may be time to sound the death knell for marketing may seem an odd concept for someone who has dedicated most of his working life to marketing, but who received his training in the 60s and 70s.

I remember TV campaigns that cost pounds 600,000 for 600 national TVRs on the only available commercial channel; sales teams across the country calling on individual stores, persuading store managers to give them an end gondola display for a pittance of an incentive; merchandising teams calling on accounts, bringing stock from the warehouse and placing it in prime on-shelf positions.

In the 70s and 80s the manufacturer was king. The retailer was simply a means to get the product to the consumer. Consumers were easily led - if the product appeared on television they would buy it. If it delivered and was reasonably priced they would return. If not, they would move on.

It was easy to grow brands and the mass of marketing directors at the time saw the next step on their career path as managing director.

Education centred on Kotler, the guru of marketing. His works, coupled with a basic knowledge of the product life cycle, Oxenfeldt's approach to pricing and Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and a university degree meant you were equipped for marketing.

Where is marketing today? We are confused as to whether we are marketers or marketeers. We see an increasing number of firms with no marketing representation on the main board, and the position of marketing director is no longer the fast track to managing director.

Why is this? Quite simply marketing has failed too many companies. The profession has not kept pace with changes within the marketplace. It has failed to deliver and take account of returns on the investment companies have put behind marketing.

The retailers are now brands in their own right. They have taken control, quite rightly, of their supply chain, their stocks, and their image with their customers.

The end consumers have changed. They are more educated and have more choice. They have countless specialised media open to them. They shop differently, they buy differently, and they become bored quickly.

Marketing as we have known it over the past 30 to 40 years is finished.

We are tarnished by the shortfalls of our predecessors who continued to apply in the 80s and 90s the formulas that worked in the 60s and 70s.

Look how our colleagues have relaunched themselves. Salesmen are now business managers. Dispatch and transport departments have now become logistics and distribution. The accounts department has become finance. And what of marketing? Nothing has changed.

We need to relaunch as a profession of the 21st century. We have to be up to date, not only with consumer shifts, but also with retail and channel shifts. And we need to be more accountable for the resources we utilise.

We need a term to take us forward, to relieve us of the baggage of the 80s and 90s, to give us the credence to rise from the ashes and become the driving force within business in the 21st century. The first step is to accept that we have to kill off marketing!

Steve Duncan is director of brand marketing at Fort James UK and a member of The Marketing Society.


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