Marketing capability starts and stops with people and ideas

One of my favourite tv programmes as a kid was Fireball xl5. It featured a funny animal called Zoonie the Lazoon and the smart robot called Robert. 

An enduring theme in science fiction writing is the role of really smart robots and how they relate to human beings and being human. Data in Star Trek and the robot in I-robot all wonder about being human. That emotive, illogical and unpredictable being that brought them into existence. 

So much of contemporary marketing it seems to me seeks to de-humanise business. Forget the rhetoric of customer centricity and relational value, just scratch the ‘warmth factor’ surface and you see that organisations think and treat customers as a resource to mine and exploit. 

In parallel marketing professionals laud the application of objective analysis and decision making and have fallen madly in love with the power and reach that social technologies have provided. 

There is talk in marketing circles that digital skills are what marketing is. The more like Robert the Robot you are the better chance of landing a marketing job.

Because I disagree with this point of view I found this recent article in Forbes magazine very interesting. 

Titled that ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket. It tells the story of how people who have studied subjects such as drama and philosophy have made a huge impact in high tech businesses like Slack the team Comms app that is growing like mad at the minute. 

The case in point is the slack bot – a technical help assistant that pops up when you use Slack. It’s humanity was instilled in it by Anna Pickard. 

“Such creativity can’t be programmed. Instead, much of it is minted by one of Slack’s 180 employees, Anna Pickard, the 38-year-old editorial director. She earned a theater degree from Britain’s Manchester Metropolitan University”

The point for me is that talk of marketing capability always starts with someone and happens between people. It can’t be programmed and it’s not an isolated skill or trait. It is inherently social. 

So if your business is having problems forget strategy and product reviews, forget reliance on digital technologies and review the capability to generate the nature and relevance of these things to the business in the first place.

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