Is Marketing Dead?

Is marketing dead? Judging by a number of recent articles, especially in the American business press, some people would seem to think that it is. Perhaps American marketing is dead. But what are these articles actually talking about? Is that, which some people call “marketing” something specific, or is it just another business process?

One has to accept that despite there being some very good “official” definitions of the term, most people have their own ideas of what they think the word “marketing” means, and these vary considerably. Why is this? It seems that it is largely the fault of marketers, who rather than promote an agreed definition, would rather use the word “marketing” as it suits them in a casual way. Marketing thus becomes an increasingly vague and devalued word, open to many differing interpretations and frequent misunderstanding.

The purpose of any business is to produce money in the form of profit, by performing a service or producing a product which customers want to buy. To enable a business to start requires money, provided by investors and a workforce who undertake the necessary work. Income produced by selling the goods or service provides payment for the workforce and a dividend for the investors. However, if the business is to continue for the long-term benefit of the workforce, investors and customers, it must ensure that its income is sustainable and continuing into the future.

Businesses can be divided into two distinct areas; business operations and business support.
Business operations involve getting and retaining business to produce profitable income, by the anticipation and satisfaction of customer demand. Thus business operations involve market research, product development, manufacture, customer identification, advertising, promotion, public relations, sales, delivery, after sales service and credit control. By contrast, the business support function provides the necessary resources to enable the function of business operations to actively produce income, including finance, personnel, and purchasing.

In order to maintain the flow of necessary profitable revenue requires the constant getting and retaining of business, which requires the combined activities of the Business operations area. Getting and retaining business is therefore the most important activity in any commercial organization, without which it would have a very limited future.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines “marketing” as “the management process that anticipates and satisfies customer demand profitably”. In other words, marketing is about producing profitable revenue by getting and retaining business. “Marketing” is therefore at the centre of business operations. In fact, considering all the various activities which are involved in anticipating and especially satisfying customer demand, which must include production and product development, “marketing”, might be better described as “the function of business operations.”

Unfortunately, from the business press, it would seem that marketers always to want to become more specialists in narrower skills, such as E marketing, customer relationship management, advertising, promotion and PR. Few marketers either appear to have, or want to have experience of sales and selling, yet sales and selling are the ultimate test of every business as these are the actions that finally produce the income. But if marketers see themselves as a separate business area to those involved in sales, who then who takes overall responsibility for producing the necessary sustainable profitable income on which the future of every business relies?

The word “marketing” is becoming devalued, being mistrusted by the public and by business in general, largely because marketers continue to use the word casually. Many people claim that they are involved in marketing, and so they are, but on closer inspection, unless they are involved in producing profitable revenue, they are only involved in “marketing” based disciplines, with the danger that they become more remote from the income producing process.

No matter what you call it, the business process of “producing sustainable profitable revenue by anticipating and satisfying customer demand”, is fundamental to the success of any and every commercial operation. The term “marketing” may be dead in some people’s opinion, but the business and management processes necessary to produce sustainable profitable income for the long term, remain the same, regardless of whatever fashionable term is given to them.

Next year, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) celebrates its centenary. Some have suggested that the centenary year would be a good time to revise the CIM’s definition of marketing, but this is not necessary. Marketing definitely is not dead, because the process is fundamental to every business. However, the word marketing may be redundant as a meaningful term which may be clearly understood without equivocation, unless professional marketers on both sides of the Atlantic learn self discipline in their use of the term and vigorously defend its confinement to a sound definition.

Perhaps, rather than continuing futile attempts to redefine the term “marketing”, it is time to seek a new word or term that embraces “the business process of producing sustainable profitable income, by anticipating and satisfying customer demand,” and one on which we can all agree.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 28 Jun 2010
Contract Marketing Service, (Specialists in Measuring Marketing Performance)

July 12, 2010   Posted in: marketing management

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