Monday, May 15, 2006

Is Marketing 'The Strategy'? Or does Strategy drive Marketing?

What came first ? Strategy or Marketing? Define what we should sell or sell what we have defined!

This is another avataar of the the cliched 'chicken and egg' story. The traditional debate - do we sell what we make or make what we sell.

Kotler in his recent book, 'Q&A on Marketing' is emphatic about the role of marketing in setting direction for the entire corporation. About Marketing in fact being Strategy

In reality however, how many organizations have reached marketing nirvana, and allow their marketing leadership to influence, let alone direct, critical decisions.
And here i mean decisions about Investment - in new products, on R&D, geographic expansion or exit, M&A, and hiring the right kind of people!

How many times does marketing really decide what the organization should do about their core business?
It is mostly entrusted with packaging what is already available, giving the car a new coat of paint and fancy accesories, while the engine remains the same, or maybe even rusts with time. As someone said, it is entrusted with 'perfuming the pig'.

In most organizations marketing 'inherits' or are handed over what needs to be marketd.

Spefically, for marketing managers, rarely do we get an opportunity to Make what would sell, or what we could market. More often than not we are handed a set of attributes and differentiators already available and expected to weave the magic.

And in fact, these differentiators could be imagined or even 'desired'.

How many organizations really possess differentiators in the first place. Most differentiators fast turn commodity.

So where does marketing come in? Turn commodity into differentiators?
Get customers in and leave the rest to the delivery ( of products or services or experiences... every one delivers something )?

Or should mot marketing be guiding to the next set of differentiators, of real product and service value, of listening to markets and customer needs and directing the next set of service offerings, of product features, indeed of 'innovation' itself.

That brings to mind another question - how many marketers really know their products, the market, their own differentiators, their own strengths and shortcomings, competitors strengths and weaknesses, cometitors plans and strategies, the business environment and economic trends and their impact, the socio-political undercurrents, the rising price of oil, the weather and its impact, and so on and so forth.. to be able to truly guide their corporations to leadership.

An if they do know all of the above in the preceding para, do they remain marketers or do they turn into strategists?

i.e. do they remain artists ( like marketers are supposed to be ) or turn into mathematicians.

And this raises another question - is marketing about an art or a science?

more on the above later..


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