The Devolution of Marketing

It is impossible today not to have noticed the increasing number of specialties and sub-specialties that all claim to be the key to successful marketing.

Some days it seems that it is a marketer’s primary responsibility to create a new twist or term on what marketing is.  In fact, the easiest way to be seen as a “thought leader” in marketing is not to be exceptionally adept at driving revenues; you just have to come up with a new piece of jargon to explain what we all do (and, in some cases, have always done).

This is great for academics.  It means more tomes to write and more courses to give. This is great for consultants.  It means more potentially lucrative niches to mine.   It is great for bureaucratic empire builders.  It means more people working for you; and with expanding empires come more prestige and higher salaries.

But it’s not so great for the businesses that, perhaps naively, expect to see a return on their marketing investment.

Can we agree that marketing’s mission is to present an enterprise and its products/services in the most appealing way to the world while, simultaneously, interpreting the market place to the enterprise in a way that fosters product/service development?

Can we also agree that the business world is increasingly complex and that our customers and prospects have access to 24/7 information?  That buying decisions are becoming both more nuanced and more influenced by factors outside company control?

Then as we parse our prospects into ever-finer categories, as we develop ever-more precise personas, as we create new micro-specialties, etc, I would suggest that we are going in the exact opposite direction than our market places are taking.

Customers are becoming more sophisticated, more complex, and more able to integrate information from more and more sources.  No persona, no one medium, no specific marketing specialty, no increasingly linear view of the market place can capture the reality of the whole person who decides when and whether to buy.

Let me suggest something radical:  If customers are becoming more integrative (at least with all the information they receive), wouldn’t it make sense for marketing (whose primary function is to connect with customers and prospects in a meaningful way) to be more integrative as well?

No, I’m not suggesting that we abandon all marketing specialties.  But I am suggesting that we recognize them for what they are:  sub-sets, one-dimensional views of a multi-dimensional market place.

What we need now is a gestalt marketing approach – a marketing approach that recognizes that the whole is different from the sum of its parts.

What we need now are marketers able to discern what the various specialties offer and rise above them.  What we need now are marketers who are able to assimilate each segmented view and create a whole that is more than a simple accretion of parts, a whole that approximates how our real-world customers and prospects actually think and live.

I know, this gestalt marketing approach sounds hard, idealistic, and unrealistic.

But, strangely enough, it’s what the standard for marketing used to be.


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