Do UK universities provide value for money?

Addressing a fundamental question about customer value

Are universities value for money? is the question that Sir Keith Burnett the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield has recently discussed in his Times Higher article Do UK universities provide value for money?

The question is driven by impact of increases in student fees, the debates about vice chancellor pay and the method of funding of higher education in general.  The explicit defense of university value in the face of challenge and criticism is evidently new territory for many senior university management teams. The high risk move in this area is delegating the responsibility for creating the university value proposition(s) to university marketing communication departments in isolation .

Why is this risky? It is risky because when ‘marketing’ is seen as just the awareness making and customer communication role (attention interest decision action) alone rather than anything to do with the origination and delivery of student value (the domain of researchers, tutors and student support staff) a critical disconnect occurs between the essence and expression of value. If the expression of a university value proposition is left to the university marketing communication department alone it is prone to ‘facelift marketing’ couched in generic consumer values and generic consumer experiential terms rather than anything to do with educational value creation and educational delivery essence of the higher education offer. This can end up being the world of superficially differentiated promises that can be disconnected from the service reality of learning in a higher education institution. The sort of thing whereby ‘our university is near the seaside or a national park, or our university has great accommodation and a vibrant night life’.

Value is a hard thing to pin down

Trying to understand, deliver and communicate value is not new territory for anybody who has worked in the commercial sector. Nor is it  new territory for a significant number of business and management academics who could knowledgeably advise their university management teams on the ambiguous nature of value.

 ‘Value may be one of the most overused and misused terms in marketing and pricing’  Leszinski and Marn (1997:99)

Just as an example of the extent of research into this deceptively simple and perennially contentious notion here are some relevant articles:

Leszinski, R. and Marn, M.V. (1997) Setting value, not price. The McKinsey Quarterly, No. 1, pp. 99-115.

Woodruff R.B. (1997) Customer value: The next source for competitive advantage: Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 139-153

Payne A., Holt S. (2001) Diagnosing Customer Value: Integrating the Value Process and Relationship Marketing.  British Journal of Management. Vol 12 159-182.

Khalifa A.S. (2004) Customer value: a review of recent literature and an integrative configuration. Management Decision Vol. 42 No. 5, 2004 pp. 645-666

Gallarza M.G. Gil-Saura I. Holbrook, M.B. (2014) The value of value: Further excursions on the meaning and role of customer value. Journal of Consumer 10: 179–191

Understanding value is vital for all that follows. If you want to achieve competitive advantage you need to understand value, if you want happy customers you need to understand value, if you want a successful business you need to understand value. Value is a multifaceted moving target. Sir Keith points out that value is more than just the price or as Michael Porter claimed ‘the price someone is willing to pay’. I totally concur with Sir Keith and I believe that there is one very important thing about understanding value that gets lost in the wash and there is a good explanation for this which is…

Marketing courses are typically built on a particular and implicit management philosophy.

The majority of business management courses in business schools around the world are built on the assumption of management as a hard science (This is the hidden agenda of the lauded MBA for example).  Hard science is not just any old science but a particular form of objective, value free, deal with the facts you can see and measure sort of science that goes by the name of Positivism . Now this sort of ‘science’ is great for things like physics and chemistry and the other natural sciences and in the early days management researchers (social scientists) in business schools tried really hard to get academic ‘street cred’ by copying the assumptions and methods of positivism to study their subject. Doing this meant and only accepting empirical (based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience) evidence and it has had a powerful influence of management thinking since the early days. It comes with a problem though when trying to understand social things like people and their beliefs. Can you really understand something by just looking at the surface or do you look at what is going on beneath for your assessment of value? There is more to value than meets the eyeball to paraphrase Hanson in Hanson, N. R. “From Patterns of Discovery,” in Perception, R. Schwartz, ed. pp. 292- 305, 1988.

So the assumptions you hold (if you are even aware of them) have a huge influence on what you believe the issues are and what actions should be taken to address them. Often we are lead to believe that there are only two games in town.

1) The hard science positivist/ hard empiricist approach described above OR

2) The so called fluffy ‘its all relative/anything goes’ Post Modernist way of understanding the world in which language and discourse create (construct) social reality.

A third way to think about customer value creation

There is a third game though! In academic parlance this third way navigates a path between:

Positivism or Naive Empiricsm  and Relativism and is called Critical Realism

The CR approach stands on the idea that Reality is stratified, the empirical (surface) and beneath that like an iceberg the actual (stuff that exists but you can’t see it) and beneath that the so called real (the mechanisms and conditions that generate impacts at the empirical level.) Technically speaking CR is an ontology and positivism and relativism are epistemologies . 

Much of today’s management education is based on assumptions of positivism or its softer cousin (perceptions. attitudes and preferences exist but they still need to be measured) called neo-positivism rather than Critical Realism. Neo-Positivism is the driver of the ‘satisfaction’ agenda. This means that most university managers who have their MBA’s or Masters in HR or Marketing etc  operate from a very particular (often philosophically naive) set of assumptions about reality and value which generates a view of Value that is restricted to something immediately observed and experienced. The trouble with that nice neat convenient view is that most of us sense there is something more going on. So when Sir Keith remarks:

“…when a parent asks, “How many contact hours does my kid get at university?” or “How much money will they earn afterwards?”, they are really making sure that they are not being ripped off. They are trying to get at the value for money from their child’s point of view. And given that they and their children are now bearing the costs directly, who can blame them?”

This value/reality assumption set he is acknowledging here is a positivist view of value BUT  when he observes:

“If a parent wants “better value for money” in the sense that they long for their child to be taught by truly great thinkers then they need to think of education in its fullest sense. Perhaps they should be concerned at the erosion of resource for the kind of work which won their child’s university and department international respect. What academics do when they are not teaching matters for our students because their futures will depend on our reputation many years ahead.”

This is value/reality set of a more critical realist perspective. This view is about an invisible, deeper, generative subtler and longer term idea of value. It is also not just about the money and surface interactions in isolation.

The irony of defining delivering and communicating university value

There is a real irony in the definition, delivery and communication of university value.   At the heart of this conundrum lies a concern with the value and purpose of higher education overall.

Talk to most academics, look at their degree design documents and sitting there bold and proud is the aim that students by the end of their degree will move towards being independent self directed learnersThe purpose and value of a university education is therefore so much more than the collection of stuff delivered by a ‘ didactic teaching’ approach that says just fill my head with ‘knowledge of principles, tools and techniques’. Adult Educationalist Malcom Knowles observed:

““a basic human competence…is the ability to learn on one’s own” Knowles (1975) Self Directed Learning.

This is highly relevant because this competence underpins all entrepreneurial and value creating marketing management activities – the marketing executive is expected to have insight, foresight and lead the way. Learning how to become self-directed is often an unsatisfactory, risky and disconcerting developmental experience at the time. Full of what Jack Mezirow calls ‘disorientating dilemmas’. As a student you might feel you need to be told how to respond to an assignment, told which articles to read, told how to get a first and when you don’t get direct answers feel unsatisfied.  However if you are ‘told’ everything you might feel satisfied and it won’t provide any educational value at all. It wont help you develop the that capability to identify things such as channels to market in new market sectors, interpret market research, or imagine new business models.

Being concerned with value of this deeper and longer term nature is the basis of a rebuttal to questions such as ‘so how many contact hours will by son/daughter get?’. Surely the issue is will my son/daughter be able to seek guidance when appropriate not some facile metric of time spent in front of a tutor?

Zoning in on satisfaction focuses students on what they WANT rather than what they NEED. Value lies in what is needed and that need may well be invisible and unrecognised in the present moment. In that sense a concern with satisfaction undercuts the very essence of the purpose of marketing which concerns itself with the definition, delivery and communication of value (Bower M., Garda R. A. (1985) The role of marketing in management. The McKinsey Quarterly, 3, 34−46.) The mantra of satisfaction predisposes universities towards a reactive customer worship image of service delivery than meaningfully different value creation image.

So what does the future hold? What sort of value do universities provide? What sort of value will they provide? It will be interesting to see what happens if the obsession with surface interpretations of value dominate because students, employers and the country will be the losers. And all because some managerialist university manager thinks they know what they are talking about when it comes to value.

The-value-of-something-is-seldom-known-until-it-is

A critical realist take on value might just stop university value being diminished

 

 

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Does Purpose Marketing Have A Marketing Purpose?

 

 

 

Alex Smith has written a neat article in Campaign about the trendy idea of

Marketing Purpose.

The thing I like about what Alex has to say is how a new generation of marketing professionals  have narrowed purpose to mean:

‘the “social good” that a brand provides’

rather than clarifying the whole point of why the business exists and as Justin Basini in his 2011 book asked…

Why should anyone buy from you?

The idea of ‘Purpose Marketing ‘ seems to me like yet another of those mystical inventions of some marketing professionals who  claim that only they have the privileged professional insight to see the magical and profound marketing reason for which something is done or created or for which the business exists.

Sagely these marketing types propose that Marketing ‘Is all about the higher purpose of your brand’…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image credit Agustina Guerrero

Even esteemed marketing Prof. Ritso is having a pop at Purpose Marketing. In this article in in Marketing Week he cautions Om-nicient marketeers to remember the fundamental rather than the transcendental purpose of Marketing.

‘Heineken should remember marketing is about profit, not purpose. Heineken’s new purpose-driven ad might express all the right values, but marketers must remember if you don’t use your budget to create sales, you’ve failed.’

No wonder some marketing professionals struggle for reputation and credibility in organisations. Imagine this sketch:

Boss: so what you going to do to increase profits and market share?

CMO: we need to communicate our purpose – thinking ‘save the banana’ or ‘protect the navel gazers in Antarctica’

Boss: wtf?

CMO: well Boss these days its all about connecting with the ends-means, aspirational purpose drivers of Generation Z in a digitally connected hyper-real post truth society

Boss: we already have a purpose – we solve customer problems, make their lives easier,satisfy customer needs and give them great value (just read about it in Value-ology btw) and sell them products and services at a price they want to pay.

CMO: Om…it’s alot deeper than that though Boss…from a marketing perspective we need to  creatively communicate our values in the most arcane abstract way possible to show how smart and insightful we are and that we aren’t selling anything even though we are selling something…if you get what I mean.

Boss: how much are we paying you?

For me Alex nails it when he says:

‘It’s also the purpose of the word “purpose”. If a brand figures out what it’s for, and strives to deliver it to the best of its ability, then it can maximise the value it gives to the world, and thus maximise the value it receives. In this situation everyone wins – the brand is focused on value creation and innovation, which is good for the customer, and the customer rewards them handsomely, which is good for the brand.’

This line of thinking connects directly with the principles and methods of our book

Value-ology.

 

 

Attaching some abstract ‘purpose’ to your business in the hope that customers will associate your brand with deep and meaningful values like ‘save the porpoise’ makes a big mistake in confusing Values with Value. Okay I get that Values (deeply held beliefs about what matters in life) can be valued, and they are not necessarily the same thing as the problems I want your product or service to solve for me. Also Purpose Marketing overlooks the idea of Value Appropriation (the point Ritso is making) whereby organisations also have to get value out of the supplier customer exchange. It’s not all about the customer (Marketing Fallacy #1) For more on this see:

Ellegaard C., Medlin C.J., Geersbro J. (2014) Value appropriation in business exchange –literature review and future research opportunities. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing 29/3 185–198

Does this mean that Purpose Marketing is just another ‘fad’? Another way of some professional marketers searching for their professional purpose?

I predict that this form of Marketing will soon be superseded by Cetacean Marketing which will all be about Killer marketing campaigns that ensure you don’t give your customers the hump by creating the wright value proposition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will non-marketers ever understand Marketing? 

The United Kingdom’s professional marketing association the Chartered Institute of Marketing is once again drawing attention to the long standing problem faced by the marketing profession because of it’s misunderstood identity and organizational purpose. 

Like some weird sort of managerial Rubik’s cube the Marketing profession is made up of all sorts of functions and tasks that can be arranged in a multitude of ways without the puzzle ever being properly solved. Each person seems to have their own ‘perfect cube combo’ and each one isn’t necessarily arranged in the same way. For some folks it all about digital, for others it about value creation, for others its advertising for others its all about the brand.

The fact that large numbers of senior executives in business don’t see Marketing as having any strategic purpose naturally irks aficionados’ of the marketing ideal who passionately believe in the philosophy of marketing as the raison d’etre of business and so the CIM has launched its new strategy to address this issue which is spotlighted in Campaign Magazine’s article Chartered Institute of Marketing ups focus on strategic marketing in new platform 

…cue marketing’s angst ridden credibility  anthem:

 

“Baby, do you understand me now
Sometimes I feel a little mad
Well don’t you know that no-one alive
Can always be an angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad
I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”

Written by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus

So why is marketing so misunderstood?

You’d think that ever since Professor and Marketing godfather Philip Kotler wrote his article ‘The Generic Concept of Marketing’ ( see Kotler P. (1972) A Generic Concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 36, (April), 46-54) that the job of selling the idea and value of Marketing for every organisation on the planet from Global businesses to your kids street lemonade stall was hardly necessary. Indeed in that article Kotler observed:

‘In 1969, this author and Professor Levy advanced the view that marketing is a relevant discipline for all organizations insofar as all organizations can be said to have customers and products.’

The key principles of the marketing paradigm seem to be a done deal don’t they? Customer centricity, competitor awareness, meaningful competitive difference, creation of customer and business value. And yet it seems there’s never a month passes by when professional marketers complain that they are misunderstood and undervalued by almost everyone who is not a marketer.

A few things struck me as interesting in the recent Tweet from the Chartered Institute of Marketing titled Chartered Institute of Marketing ups focus on Strategic Marketing.

Let’s have a look at them in the context of common marketing profession complaints about the way their role is misunderstood.

  1. Marketing is much more than advertising and communications
  2. Marketing is not selling.
  3. Marketing is strategic not tactical
  4. Marketing creates competitive advantage rather than provides mouse-mats

All seems fair enough to me. However might the CIM have undermined its argument when Chris Daly, CIM’s chief executive, says:

“Marketing has been not good at marketing itself”

This struck me as ironic in a news piece where the line is about the strategic role of marketing in business. Doesn’t this statement fall into the very trap it seeks to avoid? The term ‘marketing’ seems to be used here to infer some sort of marketing communications/sales challenge as marketing’s primary role?

I would suggest that a better way of expressing the predicament could be:

‘Marketing has not been good at explaining to the people that matter in their organisation the commercial and customer value it creates’

Something I have observed in many businesses is that the CEO typically regards themselves as the person who defines and signs off the business value proposition in response to their interpretation of market and customer need. Consequently the marketing function is seen in the organisation as the ‘Voice of the CEO’, the mouthpiece that communicates the pre-given value proposition rather than plays a central role in defining and shaping it.

Fundamentally the battle over the role and purpose of Marketing seems to be a battle over who defines the organisations response to expressions of what customer value is and how will the business deliver it. It is therefore not so much an issue of effective and persuasive communication but organisational power.

In that sense the call for Marketing to play a more ‘strategic’ role is really a call for marketing to play a more decisive role in what the business should be doing and how it should be done. The issue that this raises is profound. It is about a battle over ‘who says so and who’s say so counts’ with implications for the sort of organisational set up. In a rigidly hierarchical structure (Fit in or F@*k Off management situation) then chances are the CMO will be on the edges of strategic decisions charged with creating a brand that sells. In a more collaborative structure the CMO will be regarded as providing sage counsel to the CEO and other board and shareholding colleagues on customer insights, customer value, market developments and so on and hence have more strategic influence.

So can Marketing’s Rubik cube ever be solved? Will Marketing ever be understood?

Who knows! So instead of trying to work that out why not tell me what your Professional Anthem would be in my Typeform Survey

My Professional Anthem Is

Imagination: the ultimate source of competitive advantage

I believe that our imagination is the ultimate source of competitive advantage. 

What is the Imagination?

When I talk about the imagination I don’t mean the juvenile-romanticised version of imagination that is associated with idle fantasy, day dreaming, self indulgent creativity and idealism. What I am referring to is the imagination as a world shaping and world revising power. It is our imaginative capacity that shapes what we perceive through our senses and transforms the information we collect on the way in to our minds and shapes the creation of business models, product and service solutions, competitive themes and value propositions on the way out from our minds.

Our imagination is the vital junction box between the material world and the world of ideas. Think of it as a ‘middle-ware’. The ancient Greeks placed a special importance on imagination and Aristotle used the term Phantasia as the imagination’s ability to ‘bring things to light’. Crucially it is the only capacity we have for considering things that are not actually present here and now. This means it is vital for the way we think about things such as past customer experiences and product and service offers that we might buy in the future. Okay so you might be thinking this is a load of philosophical mumbo jumbo? Well hang on a moment, here’s what marketing guru Ted Levitt and strategy experts Hamel and Prahalad have to say.

Ted Levitt in his 1986 book The Marketing Imagination invokes imagination as a necessary aspect of achieving meaningful and differentiation by giving customers compelling reasons to want to do business with the supplier. Significantly Levitt draws attention to the issue of absence when he states “Imagination means to construct mental pictures of what is or is not actually present what has never been actually experienced.” He notes at the onset of his discussion that ideas precede the deed and in that sense his view of imagination resonates with the idea that a value proposal precedes the solution and the creation of value. He claims in this context that The marketing imagination is the starting point of success in marketing.”

Hamel and Prahalad  in their 1991 book Competing For The Future refer to imagination as a characteristic of The Imagination Company that enables it to translate the ‘inconceivable to the conceivable’ by having the imagination to envision markets that do not yet exist”. Implicit in this take on imagination is a capability to use ideas to shape the material world differently. An imaginative company is one that fashions it’s markets rather than merely fits with what presently exists.

Michael Beaney in his 2005 book Imagination and Creativity characterise the imagination as the capacity to create images, to conceive of something non-existent and to come up with something new. So with that in mind this quote by economist and philosopher Kenneth Boulding caught my eye:

“Man’s image [of things] is also characterised by a phenomenal capacity for internal growth and development quite independent of messages received from outside. So great is this capacity, indeed, that it can easily become pathological. In the extreme form we see the schizophrenic who builds up a whole imaginary universe out of the proliferations of his (sic) own images without any regard for contradictory messages from outside. It is this property of ‘imagination’ however which is also responsible for the greatest achievements of man

Eva Brann in her book Imagination Sum and Substance states that the rational world just ‘is’. This means our mind must interpret and manipulate the information and experience it receives so that the cold information means something. Brann also tells us that in order to operate in the world our imagination needs to be ‘gathered by reason’ too otherwise we will attempt the completely unrealistic. Think about that for a moment. What this means is that data capture and data analysis on their own don’t help us, we have to engage in the act of interpretation and synthesis. So the next time you are asked to just ‘tell me the facts’ it might pay useful to take that with a pinch of salt.

So with this in mind, think about anything happening in business and society things such as, big data, artificial intelligence, customer choice factors, customer complaints, service standards – whatever, at the basic level they just ‘are’. It takes the imagination of the sales and marketing minded professional to do something with the information they receive. This is more than perceive and interpret (inbound part of imagination) its is the outbound architectures of new, better and different solutions where the rubber of imagination hits the road.

Some definitions of Imagination:

Imagination is our capacity to think more widely , less literally to let our minds roam amongst possibilities be more ready to suspend belief and disbelief summon things from our minds not given by perception. Roger Scruton in A companion to Aesthetics 2nd edition Davies, Higgins , Hopkins, Stecker

Seeing things as – Wittgenstein

the thought of other past or possible perceptions of the same object  – Peter Strawson

embroidering and trying things out – Michael Beaney

Imagination is competence:

As you can see these are characteristics of an agile professional and therefore an agile organisation. It is a characteristic that is not seen in stultifying bureaucracy and individuals who think that doing good job is making sure systems and processes are unthinkingly policed and non conformists are punished and de-valued. Imagination is the skill of the consultative sales person, the ability of the collaborative co-worker, the habit of an organisation that learns.

Imagination is the antithesis of administrative bureaucracy and the associated massive cost burden and loss of competitive opportunity. Bureaucracy kills the imagination.  Imagination is a fundamental aspect of being able to act on the principles and ideas set out in our book Value-ology

Is your brand bland? 2 ways to avoid it. 


Bland is defined as:

“lacking strong features or characteristics and therefore uninteresting.”

It is fear of being unremarkable that haunts the dreams of marketing professionals around the world. A common problem with average brand management and marcomms however is that this fear translates into solutions that lapse into self idulgent shock tactics, self referencing obsession with wit, and or a narcissistic concern with art and image. All of which result in a disconnected brand purpose. 

Helen Edwards writing in Campaign looks at this issue and the ways marketing people can miss the commercial and customer relevance of their ideas. One of the risks of putting intellectual effort into defining a brand purpose is that it ends up being so thematically general it lacks any relevance to the customer’s matter at hand. This in turn means less chance of driving sales. 

Edwards cites purpose statements like ‘let’s change the world, let’s serve customers better’ as typical of the Brand Bland. 

Stuff like this might produce a high sense of  personal or organisational self esteem but does the customer really give a sh£t? Unless these higher ideals are really what the customer is seeking from the solutions they are after how can they possibly influence purchases? 

Part of this line of thinking is probably down to values based marketing – that deep mystical version of marketing that claims exceptional insight into what makes the customer really tick. Not all customers are so deep, so abstract, that idealistic. The example that works taking this line is cited as Fairtrade. Now that makes sense the values are explicitly linked to what is sought by the purchaser. 

If you’re not careful though focussing on brand purpose is all about you. Your values, your passions, your aspirations and they might have diddly squat to do with the customer’s purchasing as such. In that sense it’s just another version of product rather market orientation. 

So how do you avoid a bland brand?

1. Be relevant to the customers matter at hand. Find out what causes the customer to buy in a very direct and immediate sense 

2. Don’t confuse customer value and values. Make sure your customers get the thing they directly want for the price they give not some bland aspirational idea.

One way to think through these issues then why not read more in: 

Value-ology

Imagine getting your marketing degree in just one day

How long should it take to study for an undergraduate degree? Do you think it should be 3 years, 2 years, 1 year or even faster? Think about it – just like a drive through burger joint, you rock up, place your order and collect your qualification in next to no time. Is this the future of higher education?

Tom Cutterham of The University of Birmingham has just written an article in Times Higher titled – Two-year degrees? On the road to enlightenment, speed kills. In it he outlines what he feels are the negative consequences of such a university experience for all stakeholders. He also points to a supporting argument for his stance put by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber in their book The Slow Professor. The gist being that high speed instrumental knowledge gain diminishes the value of a higher education. 

Pedagogically there has been considerable research into how time matters in higher education because it is a transformative experience not simply the filling of empty minds with information. In particular there is a change in how students view the certainty of knowledge over their studies in which they move from a simplistic ‘right/wrong’ stance to one where the truth of things is ambiguous. Such a change cannot be forced quickly, students have to learn how to change.
So all of this got me wondering. If I had to design a 1 day marketing degree what would it look like? Now one thing to bear in mind is that this is the tutor giving you all you need to know. 1 day doesn’t allow for much self study and reflection. Mind you as a student interested in ‘know what’ rather than ‘know how and or why’ I’m sure that’s fine isn’t it? 

Additionally whilst I’m going to tell you what I think you should know for your one day marketing degree I won’t be advising you on how to research, study or write assignments. There’s no time for that only time for the transmission of knowledge. Also the level of analysis for a 1 day marketing degree is understandably chunked up to some very big but useful big chunks. 

So here we go…all you need to know for a one day marketing degree. 

Understand the market

Understand your customers

Understand your competitors 

Create, deliver and communicate value

Create a Brand

Create great service 

Create great relationships 

Know how to segment, target and position

Know how to manage the marketing mix

Know how to make a marketing plan

Know important marketing metrics

Understand Digital 

Be imaginative 

Develop professional talent 

Integrate and align everything

Make money 

So there you go you are now fully qualified on PJ’s One Day Marketing Degree. It’s free so I’m sure you’ll agree it’s great value for money too! All the knowledge without the hassle.

So in your opinion what is the optimum duration for an under graduate degree?

Can you analyse customer emotions? 


Suzy Bashford in Campaign has posted a thought provoking article about the next ‘new’ trend in marketing metrics which is all about Emotional Analytics.

Certainly an eye catching idea. Although the academic in me is screaming – this isn’t exactly new is it? Haven’t we been talking about sentiment tracking for some years now? 

The appeal of reading ’emotions’ as well as merely tracking ‘behaviours’ offers the possibility of a more rounded understanding of people. The appeal of tracking behaviours is you can ‘see’ behaviours. They are the safe ground of objective scientific management. The philosophical view of management that says the only dependable information is what you can sense and measure. 

Emotions are different. The compelling component of rhetoric, the things that get pulled out of us with vivid appeals, the things that shape our attitudes. Let’s make marketing great again! 

You can’t ‘see an emotion’ (you can see an effect of an emotion in the world – crying, laughing etc). They are invisible and powerful so no wonder organisations are fascinated by them. Understand emotions and you start reading people and their thoughts about brands, products, services AND let’s not forget customer facing staff. 

But hang on! Have you noticed something here? Yes it’s that thing that sits quietly in background called ‘the marketing discourse’. That thing which marketing professionals draw from and use to convey their professional identity and credentials. Professional Discourses are the dominant words that convey the key beliefs and ideas of a profession. They live in a paradigm. 

In this case we have the term ’emotional analytics’. Wow! sounds super sexy doesn’t it! Sort of ‘I have to have me some of that!’. The thing is can you analyse an emotion? And if you can – so what? You only end up describing some attributes that make up the ‘thing’. 

If emotions are subjective and qualitative surely we should emphasising the ‘interpretation‘ of emotions shouldn’t we?  Reading what the emotions mean? Hearing from the consumer the meaning they give to their emotional connections to brands, products, services and people. 

Analytics for me smacks of Technological Determinism. The conviction that technology can provide the answers for everything. Just keep refining the algorithm and eventually you won’t need a CMO anymore! The computer says ‘love’ 

So can you analyse emotions? What do you think? 


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