Marketing's image problem

If you cage a lion and put it in a circus, you create an amusement for children, but the wild loses its most-feared predator.

For the last couple of month's we've noticed something remarkable whenever the topic of marketing comes up in a discussion with non-marketing people.

We'd classify the spontaneous reaction to the mention of the topic as scepticism at best; honestly though, it's more like a strong aversion to the subject and the people that practice / 'believe' in it.

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As a business discipline it's not crazy to say that marketing doesn't have a very good reputation with business leaders.

Marketing professionals (it would seem) are often labeled as people who 'dabble in the dark arts', are considered to be 'creative-types' who struggle to convince more empirically-minded individuals as to the value of marketing.

How did this happen and why is this so?

How could it have come to pass that something so critical to the long-term commercial success of any business ends up being the very thing that gets used as a punchline? If you'll allow us to use a different ridiculous analogy to illustrate the irony here; it's a bit like space rocket astronauts making jokes about 'the idiots' that make their rocket fuel. It's crazy.

Our suspicious is that the problem really lies in an outdated approach (one that was formed during simpler, less complex times) as to where the marketing function is located in a business and who in the organisation is responsible for it.

The marketing department

Yes, marketing's image problem, ironically, lies with people that label themselves as marketers; or those that work in 'marketing departments'.

When you departmentalise the function of marketing from the rest of the business, what you create is the illusion that marketing and 'the rest of the business' are somehow separate from each other.

Marketing departments (much like Innovation departments) are where good marketing goes to die. Marketing doesn't belong in a department; it what every great brand does at every level, all of the time.

Marketing is primarily concerned with growth by improving the state of the relationship that a brand has with existing customers and potential customers. Sure a team of people will be tasked to execute marketing-related tasks throughout the year in support of the strategy; but marketing needs to be driven at an executive level. The CEO is ultimately responsible for the success of the brand and that's where it starts and ends.

What good marketing looks like

Successful marketing results in a business enjoying a sustainably growing number of willing buyers of its brands and products in a defined market over an extended time horizon. If that ideal condition is not the case, then the business has a marketing problem that needs to be solved.

The discipline is strategic and creative, offers informed approaches to competing with competitors for market share, while being guided by empirical evidence and gut-feel. Practitioners design innovative ways of working successfully within constraints to achieve more with less, spending money wisely on building intangible assets that will yield exponential commercial value long into the future.

When the practice is not given the necessary oxygen to deliver the stellar results that it is capable of, it ends up a shadow of its potential and a perennial problem child for executives.