Well, this is it. After eight years as your humble columnist I have decided to resign the post and head off into the great blue marketing yonder.
I worked out over the weekend that I have written 250,000 words for this wonderful magazine over the years - that means I have matched James Joyce and his masterwork Ulysses. Well, quantitatively, at least.
There were some decent scoops across the years, too. I predicted the iPhone would triumph a full five years before it was launched. I was a big fan of AG Lafley, chief executive of Procter & Gamble, long before he started getting the plaudits as the world's greatest marketer. A year before the US auto manufacturers went to the wall, I confidently predicted they would all go bankrupt. And six months before Google threatened to pull out of China, I was telling you it was going to do exactly that.
It's too easy to be a columnist who explains everything after it happens, so I was determined to call it before it took place; and, by my reckoning, I was more right than wrong. Space constraints, alas, prevent me from exploring my rather less accurate predictions.
There were a few hairy moments along the way, several of which turned litigious. British Airways was deeply unhappy with my scathing reviews of its various marketing strategies and predictions of its imminent self-generated downfall. Exxon Mobil threatened court proceedings after I compared it to the Third Reich - absolutely without foundation of course.
TK Maxx was very upset with my depiction of its approach to brand distribution. Interbrand remained as sceptical and unhappy with me as I am with its approach to brand valuation. And let's not forget all those private emails from enraged marketers that must (alas) remain anonymous.
Yet there were some great outcomes, too. An early article about marketing God better became a huge talking point for liturgical experts and was even cited by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Another article ended up becoming a two-year consulting project for a global brand I had always wanted to work for. My column on fighter brands was picked up by the Harvard Business Review, which asked me to turn it into an article for it - a lifelong ambition achieved.
The column followed me from my professor's job at London Business School to Melbourne Business School and, finally, to MIT. My colleagues thought I was mad to devote so much time to writing something deemed so worthless in the academic world, yet these columns kept me straight. I stayed informed, learned from others, expressed an opinion, got involved - all the things that most marketing academics have singularly failed to do.
There was the chance to talk about things I felt passionately about within marketing. The importance of clearly distinguishing between sales and marketing; the need for all brand managers to be trained, not self-anointed; and the hallmarks of great markers - research, segmentation, positioning and brand tracking. I banged on about these topics month after month hoping that someone, anyone, was reading.
Many marketers will, no doubt, have never heard of me or recall reading any of my previous columns. But there is, I know, a smaller group that has read my stuff regularly over the years. It is to you that I dedicate this final paragraph. You were the person I was thinking about when I sat down each weekend to write, and you are the person I will miss most now that the experience is over.
Mark Ritson, PPA columnist of the year (business media), is an associate professor of marketing and consultant to some of the world's biggest brands.
30 SECONDS ON ... Classic Ritson
- 'It started three-and-a-half years ago when a woman called Eliza Jones sent me an email enquiring whether I was comfortable with the size of my penis' - on junk email in 2002.
- 'I acknowledge that any decent fashion brand should be doing everything it can to stop fat-arsed marketing professors like me wearing their clothes' - on the need for targeting in 2003.
- 'It is time for marketers to cast off the flowery shackles of likeability and embrace their dark side. Take inspiration from this column; while it is nice when someone agrees with it, I am only truly delighted when it attracts marketers' ire' - on the joy of unpopularity in 2006.
- 'My Christmas message to you, dear reader, is simple. 2009 is going to be shit. Really shit' - on the year ahead for marketers, 2008.
- 'These days I am older, fatter and a good deal wiser, and I say (in fewer than 140 characters): bollocks to Twitter. And bollocks to it being worth £1bn dollars' - on Twitter's valuation in 2009.