Mumbo Jumbo damages marketing credibility

Recent papers published during this year by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and its respective publishing partners, Deloittes and Accenture, make interesting reading.

The papers “The Future of Marketing Capability” and “Improving Marketing Effectiveness” appear to concentrate on the problems of marketing accountability and the perceived relevance at board level for strategic planning. Yet another publication, “In Search of Strategic Marketing,” published by the CIM and Accenture claimed research with leading marketing heads of 50 major international businesses, representing some 16000 marketing practitioners in the development of its findings.

Important as these reports may be, one is struck by the relevance or otherwise that they have to the majority involved in marketing. According to statistics for 2008 from the UK Office of National Statistics, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 50 employees made up 98% of all registered business enterprises, while companies with over 250 employees made up just 0.4% of all business enterprises. Thus these three publications would appear to be relevant to perhaps just 0.4% of all registered business enterprises.

From these statistics it would seem that the majority of marketing practitioners are probably employed in the 98% of registered businesses known as SMEs. Within SMEs, marketers are more likely to be involved in all aspects involved in getting and maintaining business, as the nature of SME organization does not generally allow for the development of wholly separate functional departments. Whereas in large organizations, the marketing function may be a wholly separate department which may or may not include selling. Thus in the SME sector, marketers may have a broader responsibilities, with greater direct involvement in overall business planning than their counter-parts in large companies.

The sole purpose of every commercial business is to make money; commercial businesses exist for no other reason. Responsibility for producing the income is therefore the most important activity of any business.

Marketing as defined by the Chartered Institute of Marketing is “the management process of anticipating and satisfying customer demand profitably.” Given that the purpose of every business enterprise is to make money, perhaps the emphasis of the CIM’s definition should be changed to read that “marketing” is the management process that produces sustainable profitable income, by anticipating and satisfying customer demand. The purpose of marketing is therefore the production of profitable income for the long term future of the business.

Over recent years there has been a concentration by marketers on the needs of the customer, and for making businesses customer orientated. In many ways this is understandable, but while the “customer is king” is a laudable business statement, the fact is that the purpose of effective marketing is to produce profitable income and not the satisfaction of customers. The anticipation and satisfaction of customer demand is only the manner by which income is achieved.

Judging from the new CIM White paper, “The Future of Marketing Capability” perhaps it is time for marketers to define their activities and how they are relevant to a business. Is their purpose to produce sustainable profitable income for the future of their business, or do they consider that their prime activity is the development of strategy, brand development and “value”, however that may be defined?.

Many recent academic reports and papers give the impression that marketers appear to spend a lot of time “navel gazing” on the importance of “marketing” and the need to explain its benefits in brand image, “value” and market share. While brand , value, CRM, and advertising, have their importance, they can be a convenient diversion from the hard fact of producing sustainable long term profitable income. What senior management need to know is, how much profitable income has been produced what it cost to produce, and how the income may be maintained? For marketers involved in SMEs, answers to these questions have immediate importance. Developing “marketing strategies” may sound important, but unless the strategies are turned into specific attainable objectives, with a clear action plan for their achievement and measureable results, the actual contribution to the business is negligible.

Marketers who have the responsibility to produce the income for the business by anticipating and satisfying customer demand, and wish to be taken seriously at senior management and board level, may have to eschew the term “marketing” altogether. Marketers aspiring to senior management must be seen as managers of income production and trade development, by conducting their business with performance measurement and quantifiable results, while communicating in clear English, rather than “marketing and business speak”

Marketers claim that they want recognition and to be an influence to senior management and board members, yet they seem incapable of expressing themselves in plain English. So much of this type of writing seems to be on the premise of “bullshit baffles brains”, yet it makes one suspicious that behind the “smoke and mirrors” of this impenetrable language, there is very little substance, and that this would be highlighted if it were written in “Plain English”.

The document “The Future of Marketing Capability” is a case in point. If it is an important document why do the authors make it so difficult to understand? Written as it is in a columnar format and published on the web in PDF, its format is wholly unsuitable for on screen reading requiring constant page movements up and down, making it difficult to follow and read. The report also seems to be incapable of using plain English. Every opportunity is made to use jargon, and “marketing and business speak”. Perhaps the writers believe that it is fashionable and adds to their credibility in the closed world of marketers, but in the open world of business decision makers, such writing is easily dismissed because it obscures meaning as well as relevance and credibility with readers. Marketing practitioners who indulge in writing reports in similar “mumbo jumbo”, damage the credibility of their profession, thus potentially barring their involvement at board level decision making.

If the “smoke and mirrors” effect that results from the use of “marketing” language, as demonstrated in these reports, has produced the image which excludes marketers from senior management and the boardroom, then marketers have only themselves to blame.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 30 Dec 10

January 25, 2011   Posted in: marketing management

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