Is marketing dead as a discipline?

Don’t worry, I still believe in branding, trust and providing products and services that customers actually want, in a manner that they want and when they want it. However business management no longer does.

At least that’s the conclusion that I drew having read The Short Life of the Chief Marketing Officer by David Kiley and Burt Helm in BusinessWeek (November 29, 2007).

The sub headline of the story blames the new media choices now facing CMOs, but the body of the article talks about CEOs who need results immediately to try and satisfy their obsession with the stock market pice, a lack of understanding of what brand is and its value, other function heads who are constantly second-guessing the CMO and the inability to justify marketing spend in terms of return-on-investment.

Mark Jarvis, Dell’s CMO since October: “It makes for a deadly cocktail of high expectations, resistance, and complexity.”

The thing is that business managers do understand brand value when it comes to their balance sheet; the more conservative call it goodwill, whilst the more savvy may break it out sub-brand by sub-brand. But they don’t want to invest money in it.

So businesses want to focus on transactional marketing: every bit of budget leading directly to a sale or measurable form of customer interaction that they hope will lead into a sale. This makes it harder to differentiate and sell on anything other than cost: either in terms of absolute price or multiple purchase offers (3 for 2, buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF)). So, how would marketing be carved up? Social media elements such as blog and forum interaction lends itself quite nicely to the customer services operations of businesses and sales could take a lot of the other elements of marketing.

  • Where does that leave the marketers and associated professionals in areas like design?
  • And in the longer term where does it leave many businesses who are competing on price rather than harder to replicate differentiation and brand loyalty?