Magazine article Marketing

Perceptions of Marketing: You're Not Paranoid, They Do Hate You

Magazine article Marketing

Perceptions of Marketing: You're Not Paranoid, They Do Hate You

Article excerpt

Marketers must develop new skills if they are to rescue the reputation of their profession.

Marketing is disposable and unimportant to strategic development.

Its recruits are inferior to those in other disciplines.

It is untrustworthy, unreliable, unco-operative and it lacks leadership.

Such are the findings of a study into how marketing and marketers are perceived by their peers in other departments on both sides of the Atlantic.

Few professions indulge in such regular navel-gazing as marketing. But is this study, carried out by Research International, more than just another bout of introspection? Does it indicate that, despite the apparent strides marketers have made toward improving accountability, there is still something wrong at the heart of the profession?

Marketing academics believe the findings are accurate and that marketing still has a mountain to climb to restore its tarnished reputation. 'Marketing does not have the pre-eminence it once did; it is now a second-tier function,' argues Simon Knox, professor of brand marketing at Cranfield School of Management.

'We were the people who were going to change the world and be the business leaders, but finance remains the path to the top.'

Credibility issue

Hugh Davidson, visiting professor at Cranfield and author of Even More Offensive Marketing, agrees. 'Nothing much has changed over the past 20 years,' he says. 'Many of us are still weak on business analysis and substance and bad at communicating.' Or as John Quelch, associate dean of international development at Harvard Business School, puts it: 'Marketing is challenged as never before.'

Despite high-profile marketing successes such as Tesco, there is no room for complacency. Marketers' confidence may have been eroded over the years by regular accusations of being 'soft' and wasting money, but they have missed opportunities to restore their credibility. 'Marketing needs better data management, customer insight and quantitative analysis, but it has shown no discernible trend toward doing this,' says Knox. 'It has not taken ownership of knowledge management and it has let IT take hold of CRM - with disastrous results. No wonder marketing is being marginalised.'

Davidson believes that marketers must adopt a three-pronged approach to increase their effectiveness and their standing: first, work out exactly what they should be doing; second, practise marketing properly; and third, communicate what they do. 'If you get 10 marketers around a table, they will come up with 10 different definitions of marketing,' he argues. 'It's no wonder their colleagues can't work out what they do.'

Davidson believes the best and simplest definition of marketing is 'managing demand profitably'. Changing its name to 'demand management', he says, would do much to focus marketers' minds and clarify others' perceptions.

Short-term trouble

Effective practice requires marketers to stay in their jobs longer. The average tenure of a marketing director is 18 months, making it difficult to build relationships, hampering real progress and perpetuating marketers' reputation as fly-by-nights. 'It has been a disease of marketers for decades that they think that if they are not headhunted into a new job every 18 months they have failed,' says Davidson.

Marketers must also be the best business analysts in the company, building credibility with numbers and generating reliable forecasts, he adds. They must then communicate what they do to the rest of the business, particularly finance and operations, then to other business people and the financial pages of the broadsheets.

Malcolm McDonald, emeritus professor at Cranfield, believes the marketing community is held in such low esteem because it lacks qualifications with the same standing as, for example, those provided by the Institute of Chartered Accountants - a view shared by Dianne Thompson, Camelot chief executive and president of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. …

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