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.









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