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The reports of marketing’s death have been greatly exaggerated


The reports of marketing’s death have been greatly exaggerated


With apologies to Mark Twain, Rob Morrison asks what the innovation agenda means for the traditional power-base of marketing.

A couple of years ago one of my clever clients identified a change in the pecking order on the management boards of Australian business. They were looking to expand their remit across the C-Suite and in the process to tap bigger budgets.

Their insight played out like this:

The head of the table was still the CEO – no change there. The second loudest voice in the room was still the CFO – well, without cash no-one can do anything. But after that the playground got a bit blurry. The CIO, traditionally the slightly geeky one, and the CMO, the bolshie one in the power suit, were now pushed together.

Digital disruption meant they had shared projects, budgets and timelines. Threats from upstart brands, without the legacy of bricks and mortar, meant they had to move, and move fast.

So an uncomfortable marriage was born. Shotguns at 20 paces.

In response my clever client ran a highly effective event where the CMO and the CIO were invited to attend together. To learn each other’s language. Understand each other’s agenda.

Of course, one of the predictable outcomes of this cross-pollination has been instability. That uncomfortable feeling that ‘my role’ is being eroded. That somehow all parties feel less important. Some opinion leaders even started to ring the death-knell of marketing itself.

And it’s true, traditional marketing titles are disappearing. When I started, the marketing landscape was populated by product managers, market researchers and promotions directors. Now those same functions are covered by the ‘insights team’ or ‘demand programs’ or ‘on boarding’.

So is it true? Is marketing dead as we know it?

It’s tempting to be drawn down that path when you see people to clinging to the job role they have rather than looking at where their true skill base lies.

Call me biased but I believe, at its core, marketing thinking is still the fundamentals of good business. Any business.

Product development? Find what your audience wants and make that. Pricing strategy? Start with what your audience are prepared to pay rather than what it’s cost you to build. Media selections? Talk to them where they’re already engaged. Conversion strategy? Treat every lead as a precious commodity. Retention? Always remember an existing customer is far easier (and cheaper) to keep than it is to find a new one.

So, no matter whether it’s a sophisticated, hi-tech product targeting Gen Y, or a market stall in medieval Britain, marketing will survive.

We might just need to be flexible about what’s on our business card.



Rob Morrison

Rob Morrison is acting ECD at Ogilvy Brisbane.

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