The Limits of Marketing

The Limits of Marketing

Just about everywhere you look, there are discussions about marketing. Should marketing or sales lead the parade? Is market research dead? How to use social media for marketing. And on and on. Courses are taught on marketing. Articles are written. Speeches are given.

But I have never seen a discussion of the limits of marketing, what marketing cannot do.

For example:

1. Marketing cannot (usually) make a flawed product into a marketplace success. Nor can it keep out-of-date products perpetually relevant.

Certainly, marketing can create messages that ignore problems with the product. But customers are not stupid. And with today’s 24/7 access to information and opinion, a poor product doesn’t stay a secret for long.

2. Marketing cannot prevent a product from being mispriced.

Obviously, marketing has input into pricing decisions. Competitive analyses and customer research should always guide pricing decisions. But marketing cannot control development or manufacturing costs. Nor can it over-ride financial decisions about expected ROI.

3. Marketing cannot control the level of innovation in an enterprise.

Marketing can certainly suggest how marketplace trends are changing. In fact, if it doesn’t, there is a dereliction of duty. But it cannot force the organization to invest time and resources to come up with new products or services to meet what may be an emerging trend. It cannot create a culture of innovation, nor can it time that innovation.

4. Marketing cannot overcome bad service.

Despite all the discussions of customer “engagement” and the feedback and opportunities offered by social media, too many companies (lip service to the side) see customer service as an expense item, not a marketing opportunity. And customers can tell.

Marketing is inextricably intertwined with the rest of the organization.

The traditional organization charts, defining turf and responsibilities, are more useful on paper and for HR purposes that they are for market success in the 21st century. Success is no longer a matter of being “lean and mean” (if it ever was).

Success today is a function of growing intra-enterprise collaboration. The successful marketer, going forward, will not merely know his marketplace, his customers, and his products. The successful marketer will also be skilled at over-coming cross-bureaucratic divides and turf-defined tunnel vision. The most successful marketer of tomorrow will be a unifier within the organization as well as a skilled proponent of the organization’s brand and message to the marketplace.

Are we up to the challenge? If we are, then there are far fewer limits to marketing.

4 thoughts on “The Limits of Marketing

  1. Great points, especially for those organizations in which marketing is held accountable for non-marketing functions. By using the marketing function as a scapegoat, the often avoid solving the real problems.

  2. For me, it all comes down to culture. If the executive team knows and lives the concept that “marketing is strategy” they (the CEO, CMO, CFO, COO) then must set clear rules of engagement across functions in the organization.

    I see the issue square in the middle of the executive suite. CxOs need to proactively address “Field of Dreams” approach in product development when there is “if we build it, they will come” mentality. They must ensure that pricing set by Product Management (a marketing function) does not get undermined in the field with unapproved discounts to make a quarterly number at the expense of a long-term corporate value strategy. Social-media-savvy CxOs keep a pulse on customer service “experience” and need to make it an HR problem when delivery does not meet the company’s brand promise coming out of Marketing.

    Another perspective on this issue is that all too often, marketing is held accountable in a corporate culture where rules of engagement are lacking, or missing entirely. In today’s high-speed business and time-compressed industries, CxOs need to set a culture where every function supports and collaborates with marketing, or results will be limited.

    • I agree. Both the problem and the solution is in the executive suite. But while that’s easy to say, it is not easy to overcome the entrenched turfs and tunnel visions that inherently exists there. Sad, because it shouldn’t be so; but that’s the real-world situation all too often.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *