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?

Is marketing simply teaching new dogs old tricks?

Can anyone tell me if they’ve come across any new earth-shattering insight about marketing that hasn’t been discovered already?

Marketing is all about new ideas

The impression of marketing given in social media is that it is a profession that is forever in a state of flux and that if you don’t keep up with change you are doomed to failure.Well there’s an old trick for a start! Fear sells – terrify your prospect that their future career or business is in jeopardy if they don’t take on your ideas.The principles of marketing are enduring and are unlikely to change. This is because they combine into a particular managerial world view. What Thomas Kuhn called a Paradigm.

Marketing is all about old ideas

Now the thing about paradigms is they create acolytes. Acolytes are people who are introduced to the mantras and creed of a world view and fall in love with the paradigm because it makes sense of the world in a way that was hidden to them before. The paradigm is so helpful that the acolytes then evangelise about it (tell every and anybody that it is ‘the way’ and the only way and all other ways are wrong.

People new to marketing are initiated into the rites of the marketing profession, its principles methods and language. Many of these people are at the early stage of their commercial career others may come to marketing mid-career whilst studying an MBA or similar.

Seasoned business professionals are rarely taught anything fundamentally new about marketing – they actually know it all and practice it’s principles instinctively.

Of course other paradigms come along to replace prevailing ones but only when a completely new way of seeing things is put forward. Views such as Service Dominant Logic might be classed as one and the ideas published in the area of Critical Marketing. Everything else I read about concerning everyday marketing management and problem solving sits within the conventional marketing paradigm.

So whilst I read a lot about new techniques such as the application of social media in marketing activities, and trends such as the importance of story telling for brands,  because I’ve been around a while I don’t actually see anything truly new in terms of everyday marketing management thinking. Let’s check a few of the marketing stalwarts out.

Marketing’s old ideas

  • Customers buy benefits not features
  • There is a difference between need and want
  • Brands are a promise of value
  • Customer segmentation and targeting is an effective use of scarce resources
  • Make the marketing mix relevant to the target customer
  • Firms need meaningful differentiation to compete
  • Customer centricity should be your focus
  • Keep an eye on your competitors
  • Plan what you by following the structure; where are we? where do we want to be? set out how to get there, and measure your effectiveness
  • Don’t give profit away
  • Have a dialogue with your customers
  • Changing the logo is not changing the brand
  • Some customer aren’t worth doing business with

Have I got this wrong? Are there any new principles you would teach new dogs?

Do management gurus really improve your business? 

  
There is probably nothing less connected to everyday business management problem solving than early medieval philosophy. 

Recently I stumbled across a classic of this genre called The Consolation of Philosophy written by a chap called Boethius. It is a collection of his thoughts on life the universe and everything as he awaits execution after being wrongly found guilty of a crime. 

Just the sort of light reading you need after a hard day at the office you might think! 

In his prison cell he is visited by the goddess of philosophy who helps him make sense of his predicament and gives him peace of mind.

It was something in the first couple of pages that caught my and got me thinking about the impact and value of whole management education and consulting industry. 

Boethius is initially visited by the Muses – who inspire him to write down his initial thoughts. Then the goddess of philosophy and wisdom turns up (conventionally called Sophia – hence philosophy – love of wisdom) who sends the muses packing:

“Who,’ said she, ‘has allowed yon play-acting wantons to approach this sick man—these who, so far from giving medicine to heal his malady, even feed it with sweet poison?”

Excerpt From: Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius. “The Consolation of Philosophy.” iBooks. 

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: Consolation of Philosophy

I wondered after reading this if management gurus of all types from university researchers and educators through to management consultants are as much to business as the Muses were to Boethuis. Do they actually provide deep insight and wisdom or do they merely peddle tool kits that simply structure the analysis of issues, the ranking of options and the selection of the silver bullet. 

(Ha! My predictive text suggested mullet – silver mullet eh? well they say the fish rots from the head cf Bob Garrat) 

So there we have it! From  Fish bone diagrams (cf Ishikawa) to Porters Five Forces, Prestcom to strategy canvas. From Belbin to Myers-Briggs. All very a-musing. Rather than giving businesses medicine are these really sweet poison?

‘Don’t be ridiculous Paul’ I hear you say. ‘These tools are really helpful, what’s your problem?’ 

Well to some extent I agree. Where I start to have a difficulty is when these tools are talked about ‘as if’ they the only game in town, the only way of understanding problems, the definitive way to describe the competitive space or the definite way of characterising people. 

Then I think these tools are ‘muse-like’. Tending to poison rather than medicine, something to be rote learned rather than understood and unthinkingly applied without a care for the assumptions they are built upon. 

Assumptions such as ‘the business environment can be objectively analysed and measured’ or ‘human beings can be categorically typed regardless of social context’.

Eric Fromm in his book To Have or To Be offered what I believe to be sage advice. He said we should beware of people who claim to have the answers. In the world of management this manifests itself as Normative advice. Advice that is purportedly factual and uncontestable, the norm, what you should or must do.

So what is a management educator to do? How can they create value if they aren’t telling executives what to do to solve their problems?

I wonder if it is fundamentally about developing awareness of how we make sense of this thing we call management (cf Alvesson and Wilmott). Thus it’s about inviting practioners to think about their assumed philosophy, about the nature of the business world and how it influences the reasoning they use to decide the actions they take?

Perhaps we are about visiting practioners in their psychic prisons and providing some intellectual medicine? 

What if businesses followed the advice of Plato mentioned by Boethius.

“That states [substitute organisations here] would be happy,  either if philosophers ruled them, or if it should so befall that their rulers would turn philosophers.”

Is business school innovation just about technology? 

  
John Byrne has published a provocative article on LinkedIn titled The most innovative business school ideas of 2015.

It’s an interesting survey of 10 U.S. business school initiatives that are deemed to be innovations. All of them involve the use of technology. The notions of innovation and technology are thus conflated. It appears that there can be no innovation without technology.

John makes some interesting claims. Firstly he suggests that:

“Most often, business school professors trot out well-worn examples from world class innovators ranging from Apple and Facebook to Uber and Tesla.”

Whilst I’m sure such famous brand examples are used frequently I know that many of my colleagues use just as interesting and less well known examples from their commercial experience and research. 

For example in my world of gambling one of the most disruptive innovations was the ‘nudge’ feature on slot machines, an idea patented by Cranfield Ltd (not related to the UK business school btw) 

Secondly the article appears to be grounded in the assumption that business school innovation is all about the way in which course content is delivered.

“Among all the innovation to hit the business school marketplace this year, we think there are at least ten that truly stand out–and deserve credit for being highly creative attempts to improve business education.”

I would ask if the delivery of business education through technological applications such as Mooc’s or revised on-line courses are educational improvements per se.

Sure the ‘delivery’ might be novel but are the educational (pedagogic/androgogic) approaches necessarily much different. 

The article does hint that content /educational innovations matter, but John makes another claim that I’m not sure accurately represents how management research happens. He says:

“For years, academics in narrow disciplines largely constructed theories of business education in the abstract, hoping that their outcomes would eventually line up with market needs.”

Really? John I recommend you read Evert Gummesson’s book Qualitative Research in Management Research. The first implied assumption in your statement is that management researchers exclusively use deductive theory building as the starting point for their research. In other words they sit in ivory towers inventing theories about business practice and then testing them out to see if they are false (Popper)

The second is that researchers restrict themselves to narrow silos. 

Taking the first assumption. Along with many management researchers a significant amount of theory is derived inductively. It starts with real world practice and produces deep and insightful explanations of that practice. Theories are explanations not simply abstract prescriptions that are waiting for the real world to play catch up. They ‘are’ the real world.

Taking the second assumption. In my case when I examined key account managers and value creation I didn’t restrict my research to ‘narrow’ managerial theory either, I made use of social constructionism (Schutz, Berger and Luckmann, Burr) Identity  theory (Elliott, Lawler, Goffman) Relevence Theory (Grice, Sperber and Wilson) and Imagination Theory (Brann, Warnock, Beaney). Whilst I agree these might not be common managerial areas of study  and they are definitely not ‘narrow’ in themselves nor was drawing from a diverse range of theory an exercise in ‘narrowing’.

The biggest omission in the article overall seems to be the way in which innovative business school thinking is scarcely touched on. 

No comment is made about challenges to the taken for granted dominant US business school paradigm of management that underpins the examples of technological innovation given in the survey.

Where is the challenge to positivistic research methodology? Where is the challenge to linear rational management analysis and decision making? Where is the challenge to the de-humanising of management practice through focus on technique and process?

I would argue that business school innovation truly starts by disrupting the educational paradigm on which many courses and curricula are based and that includes the feted MBA itself. 

So rather than just seeing business schools as merely training organisations (and the hand maidens of industry) which seems to be inferred when John gives the example of a school developing;

” a pathway or of cohesive courses that help students develop a specific set of skills(my emphasis).

I would argue that the only way business schools can be seen as innovators is by challenging the very subject of business itself. 

I suggest that innovative business school thinking comes through provoking practioners to critically reflect on business as a social phenomenon, to challenge its principles and its ways of acting, to devise new ways of seeing. 

True business school innovation is thus not the application of technology. It is the use of the very faculty of mind that has been disparaged for decades as childish and unreliable and rejected as unscientific by the dominant objectively driven outlook of the US business school paradigm. The human imagination is the source and application of business school innovation.

Is it time to throw away your marketing ideas?

Trash-to-TreasureRecently I wrote about how ideas come and go in the field of marketing.

It’s as if marketing practice has become a parody of itself through the relentless consumption of the latest management ideas and the disposal of ‘worn once’ theories.

This analogy could be stretched further if you then think of university business schools as the sweat shops where marketing ideas are churned out for the insatiable demands of journals and readers.

The image on the Luevo website shown here seemed to capture the sentiment I had in mind perfectly. Imagine yourself as a marketing executive rummaging around your wardrobe of latest marketing ideas desperately trying to find something to wear at the next strategy meeting, product innovation gathering or the next campaign planning session.

An article by Rebecca Coleman in Marketing Week really brought this home to me when she wrote about us entering the post mindfulness era. No doubt many of you will have read about and even experienced a mindfulness course. All the rage over the last couple of years as a way of improving you work/life balance and your personal effectiveness. Now it seems mindfulness is just a disposable fashion item.

The issue of managerial fads and fashion is not new. Most MBA courses will get their students to write an essay exploring it. What intrigues me is why practitioners hunger for new idea after new idea when many of the deepest and most helpful marketing insights have been uncovered years ago?

Neuro-marketing is another. The lure of mystical insights into the workings of the customer’s mind is beguiling. But are we really finding out anything new and helpful about customer thinking and behaviour?

Do marketing people really need to know the inner working of the brain when we already know that novelty and surprise  turn customers on? Surely practitioners only need to operate at the level of analysis of the general phenomenon rather than delve deep cognitive and neurological functioning of the most complex organism in the universe? Are we marketeers or doctors of medicine? Knowing serotonin levels might be very interesting but does it impact on the bottom line?

What if we turned the issue on it’s head? I would argue that the central ideas we have in marketing are enduring (customer centricity, competitor awareness, value creation). What changes are the cohorts of new entrants into the profession each year eager to learn. Is this why there is a demand for ideas? Not new ideas but new people wanting to learn? For them everything will be ‘new’ and ‘new’ is better.  It’s as if the classic wisdom of the profession somehow gets lost in the pursuit of the fashionable idea. Ideas from the 1960s reappear with a slight style twist of today.

Just like fashionable clothes too the experienced business person will say ‘but we did that years ago’ (focusing on the similarity of ideas) whereas the early career marketer will say ‘this is the latest thing’ (focusing on the difference of ideas to satisfy their craving for novelty).

So if we look at the example of Sentiment Analysis which is all the rage in tracking social media to find out how is saying positive and negative things about your brand on Twitter and Facebook. Where is the difference between that and the enduring concern with understanding what your customers say about your products and services that has been around for decades?

Simply look at:

Keith R.J. (1960) The Marketing Revolution. Journal of Marketing.

Miles L.D. (1961) Techniques of Value Analysis and Engineering. New York: McGraw- Hill Book Company.

Both emphasise the need to listen to the customer.

Then look at:

Griffen A. Hauser J.R. (1993) The Voice Of The Customer. Marketing Science (12) -1 which is the seminal work on this topic.

Maybe it’s time to take a step a back, slow down and go back to the classics?

My suggestion would be why not ‘wear’ an original idea rather than some superficial modern day copy?

McKitterick J.B (1957) What is the Marketing Concept? In Frontiers of Marketing Thought and Science. Frank M Bass.ed. Chicago. Amercian Marketing Association. Pp71-87
Bagozzi R.P. (1974) Marketing as Exchange. Journal of Marketing(38)
Kotler P. Levy, S.J. (1969) Broadening the concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing Vol 33,(1) pp 10-15
Kotler P. (1972) A Generic Concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 36, (April), 46-54
Levitt T. (1960) Marketing Myopia. Harvard Business Review.
Levitt T. (1980) Marketing Success through the differentiation of anything. Harvard Business Review.
Levitt T. (1981) Marketing Intangible Products and Product Intangibles. Harvard Business Review.
Levy S. (1959) Symbols for Sale . Harvard Business Review
Borden N.H., 1964. The concept of the marketing mix. Journal of Advertising Research 4 (2), 2–7.
McCarthy J. (1964), Basic Marketing. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin.
Aaker J. Dimensions of Brand Personality Journal of Marketing Research, 1 August 1997, Vol.34(3), pp.347-356
Holbrook M.B. (1999) Consumer value: a framework for analysis and research. Routledge, London
Ravald A. and Gronroos C. (1996) The Value Concept and Relationship Marketing, European Journal of Marketing, 30, No, 2, pp. 19-30.
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
Bower M., Garda R. A. (1985) The role of marketing in management. The McKinsey Quarterly, 3, 34−46.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the era of the Schizophrenic University 

  
Jo Johnson wants universities to pay more attention to teaching and aims to do this through the Teaching Excellence Framework. 

This ambition is based on certain assumptions such as most universities favour research rather than teaching. This is a flawed assumption. Some universities – often the post ’92 variety have always had a reputation for excellent teaching and drawn from the wisdom and experiences of seasoned professionals rather than the idealistic musings of early career researchers.

According to The Guardian today this will lead to universities having to choose between Research or Teaching or suffer from what business strategist Michael Porter has always advised against – being stuck in the middle. 

This middle ground is a recipe for organisational psychosis with the conditions being created for academic schizophrenia – ‘am I a researcher or an educator – how can I reconcile two related yet utterly contrasting skill sets’?

And yet this middle ground is exactly what some universities are trying to straddle and generating a deep psychological imbalance in the very people who originate and deliver value – the individual academic. 

The supreme irony is that the discourse of marketing which so many university managers have bought into belies there complete lack of strategic marketing competence. 

The era of the schizophrenic university is upon us. Symptomised by incoherent value propositions, confused competitive positioning, and an impoverished grasp of the value definition, creation and delivery. 

#university #academic

What are the ideas that have shaped today’s marketing thinking?

old and new hand

I’m just writing a lecture for Sheffield Business School International Marketing Masters students. I wanted to explain that in a literature review for their research proposal whilst contemporary articles are preferred there are always seminal articles that have lead and shaped thinking in the subject.

I created this list of some stand out articles that have endured.

McKitterick J.B (1957) What is the Marketing Concept? In Frontiers of Marketing Thought and Science. Frank M Bass.ed. Chicago. Amercian Marketing Association. Pp71-87

Bagozzi R.P. (1974) Marketing as Exchange. Journal of Marketing(38)

Kotler P. Levy, S.J. (1969) Broadening the concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing Vol 33,(1) pp 10-15

Kotler P. (1972) A Generic Concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 36, (April), 46-54

Levitt T. (1Holbrook M.B. (1999) Consumer value: a framework for analysis and research. Routledge, London960) Marketing Myopia. Harvard Business Review.

Levitt T. (1980) Marketing Success through the differentiation of anything. Harvard Business Review.

Levitt T. (1981) Marketing Intangible Products and Product Intangibles. Harvard Business Review.

Levy S. (1959) Symbols for Sale . Harvard Business Review

Borden N.H., 1964. The concept of the marketing mix. Journal of Advertising Research 4 (2), 2–7.
Aaker J. Dimensions of Brand Personality Journal of Marketing Research, 1 August 1997, Vol.34(3), pp.347-356

Holbrook M.B. (1999) Consumer value: a framework for analysis and research. Routledge, London

Ravald A. and Gronroos C. (1996) The Value Concept and Relationship Marketing, European Journal of Marketing, 30, No, 2, pp. 19-30.

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

Zeithaml V.A. (1988), Consumer Perceptions of Price, Quality, and Value: A Means-End Model and Synthesis of Evidence. Journal of Marketing, 52, (July), 2-22

Anderson J.C. and Narus J.A., (1998) Business marketing: understand what customer’s value. Harvard Business Review (November–December), 76 (6), 53–65.

McCarthy J. (1964), Basic Marketing. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin.

There are obviously several more, so any suggestions are welcome.

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