We Need to go Back to a 1950s Definition of Marketing

We need to go back to an OLD definition of Marketing to succeed in the future. Studies by the Association of National Advertisers among others have found that the Chief Marketing Officer of most companies is really only responsible for the “back end” of Marketing: the promotion and communications pieces. We have felt that calling such a position Chief Marketing Officer was a misnomer and fundamentally diminished the true role of Marketing in a company. We have espoused for 14 years that true Marketing is the leverage point in a business; and the only piece that can’t be sourced.

Turns out we are 60 years late to the party.

The November 2 edition of Advertising Age had a very, very interesting article by positioning and brand guru Al Ries. Take a look at this excerpt (and ignore the sexist language):

When I started to work at General Electric…marketing was an omnibus concept that gathered all of a company’s exterior activities under one umbrella. As General Electric’s 1952 annual report put it, “The marketing department will establish for the engineer, the designer, and the manufacturing man what the consumer wants in a given product, what price he is willing to pay, and where and when it will be wanted. Marketing will have the authority in product planning, product scheduling, and inventory control, as well as sales, distribution and servicing the products.”

What the heck has happened to Marketing over the last 60 years to go from that correct definition to the limited one most companies use today, by virtue of the role they give their Chief Marketing Officer? For those of us who’ve been advocating this very same concept of marketing as the fundamental function of the corporation, this is interesting, indeed.  It turns out that we’re not rebels or pioneers, but keepers of the flame!

We have long distinguished between the “front end” of marketing, A.K.A. strategic marketing, that encompasses research, product planning, market selection, and product development, from the “back end” of marketing, A.K.A. tactical marketing, which encompasses the traditional promotional activities of advertising, promotion, sales support, and branding…which unfortunately is what the term “marketing” has come to mean almost exclusively today (our book, Value Acceleration, explains this division of marketing in much more detail).

Every serious person who has looked at how to improve corporate success has arrived at the conclusion that all the leverage is in doing a better job at the marketing “front end” (for example, the Product Development Management Association has conducted too many studies to list that have arrived at this conclusion).  In our practice we propose a process-centric approach to marketing’s front end, to its integration with marketing’s back end, and to its integration with other corporate functions.  This is a way of achieving the vision articulated in GE’s 1953 annual report with tools validated by the undeniable success that business process management has achieved since that report was published.

Some truths never change!

Ralph and Mitch

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1 Response to We Need to go Back to a 1950s Definition of Marketing

  1. Pingback: Now P&G Reorganizes … Back to the 1950s | Value Acceleration

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