Why is marketing such a dark art?

Why is marketing such as dark art? Well there is a part of me, that will certainly say that its not a dark art but that it is an art. I think that marketers believe that what they do is art and I don’t disagree. Marketers are able to demonstrate their abilities to ‘connect’ with target audiences. They have ability to understand their target audiences and in working with their colleagues and partners to devise campaigns they are very often very creative. So ‘arty’ applies, but unfortunately this is where the ‘dark’ part comes into play.

Marketers love to win awards and particularly those marketing awards which recognise the creativity of marketing campaigns. However, that is often at the cost (excuse the pun) at the central reason of campaigns, which is to MAKE MONEY for the organisation!


In case that marketers out there think I’m ranting without any independent support for my argument, I recommend that they read “Marketing in the era of accountability”, by Les Binet and Peter Field , who recommend that marketers should focus more on hard objectives’ i.e. revenues and profit rather than on the more widely used soft objectives of ‘brand awareness’ and/or ‘improving brand image’.

And this is leads to the next question...

Why are marketeers so difficult to make accountable? Metrics, metrics and more metrics. Marketers are inundated with all sorts of metrics of every sort. Most of them are part of the smoke screen. The ONLY two metrics that matter, are the ones that shareholders, CEOs, entrepreneurs and even staff ‘like’ - turnover and profit. Without turnover you don’t have a business and without profit you most certainly won't have a viable long-term business.

While marketers are very skilled at ensuring that ‘soft objectives’ are on the metrics agenda, it fails to prove to the ‘C-Suite’ (love that term) that marketing is a revenue generator and not a cost centre. And that is starting to create a problem. Marketeers need to change  the terms of reference and  embrace the language of turnover and profit . These metrics need to become central to their everyday vocabulary. Only then can they can truly account for the capital that they invest on behalf of the company.

If they don’t, well then.....

Is marketing dead? Marketing is over 50 years old. And while its been through various iterations and advancements over these years, it has held onto the old paradigms of thinking based on Kotler’s 4 , the 7 P’s, the BCG Matrix and Porters 5 Forces Model. Marketing is a relatively new business discipline. Selling was around a long time before, as well as markets themselves. It is my firm belief that marketing is not dead but needs to change and to adopt new models that better reflect the businesses as well as the customers of today.

Its remarkable, when we have seen so much innovation in many other business disciplines (manufacturing, finance, HR, distribution, IT), that marketing is still relying on these old models. These models are not altogether obsolete, but in today’s very significantly different marketplace, they are becoming more so. It’s a bit like comparing the first TV my family owned - a black and white, push button Bush, with the flat screen, 3D capable, ambient lighting of the latest Philips TV. You still get a picture, but so much more can be gained through your use of the latest technology.

As long as marketers are willing to seek out these new models and to essentially challenge their existing paradigms, then marketing today, whilst it will look as different as the first ever TV does to the latest SMART TV, it will never die, but continue to deliver financial value to the organisation.

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