Marketing Awakes

Thanks to a prompt from my old colleague Jennifer Kirkby, CRM strategy editor of BT Insight Exec, I read on Peppers & Rogers site that The American Marketing Association, has changed its definition of marketing. Many in the industry see this definition leading to new standards for marketing practices and education. It certainly begs some interesting questions of current marketers. The previous AMA definition of marketing, active since 1985, was: "Marketing is the process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of goods, ideas and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals." The new definition of marketing, unveiled at the AMA's Summer Educator's Conference in August is: "Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders." The central point is intact. Marketing connects one sets of demands against another. So that's clear! However, we can see several important shifts here: 1. From a process, to a function - acknowledging the centrality of this needs-matching process at the heart of organisational operation, not just as a bolt on process to design sales strategies. 2. A shift from transactions to value as the focus - and the consequent realisation that value is not held within transactions, but is created and delivered in various forms, many of which are long-lasting and relationship dependent. Hence the inclusion of relationship management as part of the definition. 3. A move from satisfying organisational goals, to meeting stakeholder and organisational needs - a clear acknowledgement that multiple stakeholders have demands that require fulfilment. Although the definition moves us on it still doesn't really grasp the nettle of the new reality. Firstly, marketing is more than just a function. It is closer to a 'discipline' in my book. As the adage goes, if marketing were left to marketers we all be in a very sorry state. Secondly, the separation of value-creation from relationship management seems like a devisive and destructive distinction to me. The point is that value is created through transactions AND relationships. But the role of marketing is not to manage these as separate disciplines, but to unite them - to create transactions which build relationships and vice versa. Finally, the definition now implies a one-way flow of value from customers to stakeholders. This potentially undermines the very core of the 'marketing as matching' ethos. Sure we create customer value to fulfil customer needs. But true marketers also create stakeholder value to match customer needs. The crucial lesson is that value is commonly created, and commonly shared. Marketing is the management of this network of stakeholder relationships (SRM if you like) in order to create mutual value. This is the essence of Corporate Marketing which Glasshouse is actively campaigning. The stark and simple reality is that marketing is a process of sustaining MUTUAL satisfaction for investors and customers, by managing all stakeholder experiences in their totality - both at a transactional level and through relationship management. Or something like that. Rigid definitions are always a bit of a minefield! It's multi-functional, multi-stakeholder and multi-faceted. It's hard. But in a world where product brands and corporate brands are mutually reliant, it must be embraced. What holds all this together, are strong organisational brands and the competencies, processes, and the assets which comprise them, whether animate or inanimate. In many ways it's just the natural consequence of embracing the new reality beyond branding.


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