Marketers such as Philip Kotler consider that their role is to satisfy customer needs profitably. This is certainly not what the majority of people who work in business consider as marketing. When we think of the marketing team we think of the guys who commission the advertising and brochureware, and typically they don’t actually create these themselves. If anything, the way marketers describe themselves is the end-to-end of what any business does and is the remit of everyone in the organisation. So why do we need marketing people?

It is of course the products and services that we develop that satisfy our customers’ needs, and the efficiency with which we do this that determines whether we are profitable or not. This marketing agenda is everyone’s, but in particular is the remit of the business owner or CEO.

The CEO delegates certain of his responsibilities to different functions within his business… and this is where the rot starts for marketers. The marketing guys are given the remit to do the market research, feeding the results back to the other parts of the business. What do our customers think of us, how is our brand perceived, how do we fare in relation to our competitors? They also have responsiblity for communicating the product benefits and brand messages back out to customers.

Photo courtesy of Labour Behind the Label (CC)

Nike's staff are told to Just Do It!

But there’s something missing here. That is, everything that happens between the data coming in from customers and the messages going back out to them – none of this is the remit of the marketing people. They have influence on what happens but no control. The other functions in an organisation see the marketing guys as the pink and fluffy guys who “do the ads” so their suggestions about product or service improvement are not taken particularly seriously.

Impotent marketers meanwhile are left frustrated since they can’t deliver on the things they know their customers need. So they spend time creating messages that seek to differentiate their products or services in ways that often have nothing to do with their products or services. They create whole new worlds of attachment to brands that have nothing to do with the products or services they sell. Nike’s “Just Do It” message is ridiculously detached from the clothing they sell which was stitched together in cheap-labour factories throughout Asia.

Marketing has already fallen on its own sword when we judge a company by its clever ads rather than the clever products it makes.

Marketers have a choice today. Stick to the knitting and re-brand yourselves as the Research and Advertising Team, so that everyone is clear on your role within the organisation. Or, shift your remit to include ownership for the entire customer relationship. Now this might sound great, but be warned that it involves spending lots of time understanding the more gritty parts of how your business works, including service, process, product, technology, capabilities, resourcing, costs and profitability,.

Either way, it is time to lay Marketing to rest.