Where is Marketing Headed?

blue guyI recently read an interesting article in titled Marketing is Being Devalued. It was written by Larry Light, CEO of Arcature, a management consulting company. Larry Light was a senior executive at BBDO/New York back in the 70s when I was a young AE at the firm. He probably neither remembers me, nor does he realize that I learned presentation tips from him back then. I realized that “less is more” in slide content (no power point back then). That the presenter gives the presentation and that populating visuals with the entire content diminishes the role of the presenter.

Be that as it may, the headline of his recent article at first blush sounded like a condemnation of the profession for which he is well known. However in reading further he clarifies the headline as follows:

“Instead of a profession, marketing is becoming a trade: the trade of managing and executing marketing communications … Effective marketing leadership is not merely about message and media management. This can be delegated. Marketing leadership is about business management.”

I think he is 100% correct in his observations. Marketing is about brilliant ideas derived from deep business insights, not  a snappy slogan or a smart tactic. Of course we all know CMOs and their ad agencies are under fire.  They both last 18-24 months (usually concurrently) until the clock starts again. So they too often take the short cut to success and go for a spiffy idea as opposed to a well thought through program. If Larry Light is correct in his portrayal of marketing people as largely executors of marketing communications, then marketing does indeed deserve to be devalued.  

The smartest marketing folk I’ve met are business people first. They are far more than mere executors of marketing tactics. Brilliant ideas come from deep insights, courage, knowledge, and analysis. With the wisdom of hindsight (where we all knew that Butler University would be 2 points from being the NCAA Men’s basketball Champions) I now realize the superficiality of what I thought were substantive “marketing discussions” in my youth. I now see them clearly for the b.s. that they were. Substantive business-based marketing is hard. Exeecution of marketing tactics is far easier.

Obviously marketing in the current decade is far more complex than in yesteryear. But the premium on brilliant business building ideas has not changed. Because in the end, those with the best products with the best ideas win.

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