Saturday, November 21, 2009

So I am back...

Been busy - and a bit distracted the last couple of weeks. Want to pick up on the idea that one of the core arguments against marketing being "necessary" is that it can - and often is used for less than positive purposes - some would say evil.

To get there we need to think about the core element of marketing - exchange. In theory marketing is usually thought of as an exhange - a transaction that is freely entered into by both sides - that a seller offers and a buyer accepts.

Sounds good - free exchange freely entered into - what could possibly be wrong with that. Well what if one side knows something the other does not - what if the seller knows that tobacco is both harmful and addictive but instead of sharing this info with the buyer, the tobacco company goes to great lengths to create an image of smoking as something cool and part of a cultural norm.

The problem of asymmetrical information is real - and marketers either knowingly or not have used this to promote and persuade consumers to engage in exchanges without full knowledge about the costs and benefits of the transaction.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I am back

Had a couple of distractions to deal with - and sorry for disappearing for awhile. I have a couple of thoughts floating around that I will try and get sorted out over the next few days. The core of what I will be trying to explore is the idea that marketing is different from marketing activities and that until we sort through this distinction we end up in a very muddled place. In suggesting that the activities of marketers - advertising for example - can and often do occur outside of the realm of marketing I am swimming upstream - the great Shelby Hunt considers the distinction to be a moot point - settled law if you will. I will try and make the case for the contrary.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Where this is headed...

Took a couple of days off - getting ready for a business trip. I did run across an article and a google reference to a couple of books on "Critical Marketing". Got my blood boiling!

Here is how I see the problem - and please someone correct me if I am wrong or have over looked something.

At the core of Adam Smiths "theory" was the idea of the "invisible hand" and I think this is a critical element of what defines marketing.

Said another way, it is NOT marketing when we introduce something other than free choice to the transaction.

The rationale for saying this is pretty straight forward. If we accept the idea that as marketers we must always be concerned with our impact on society then we must logically take responsibility for the bad outcomes that often come from exchange transactions.

That means that we ARE responsible for lung cancer, obesity, global warming, the financial meltdown and virtually every other problem that we face today [yes I can make the case for marketing causing 9/11 - but won't do so now].

But I reject this broad definition of marketing - took me awhile to get there. My personal definition of marketing is that it involves not only the flow of goods - but the flow of responsibility and accountability from seller to buyer.

For my view to be valid we need to confine marketing to those exchange transaction that are freely made - the seller freely offers and the buyer freely accepts.

So that is where this blog is headed - a call to confine and redefine marketing to those transactions and transvections that are freely made at each and every stage.

That leads to the logical question of is this "ideal state" obtainable in today's world - I will try and deal with that in a post down the road.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dr. Phil's Evolution

In the last post we offered up Dr. Philip Kotler's current definition of marketing as given in the 13 edition of his Principles text.

It is interesting to put the current definition in context - here are some earlier Kotler definition...

Marketing is...
the set of human activities directed at facilitating and consummating exchange
(Kotler, 1972, 2nd ed).

human activity directed at satisfying needs and wants through exchange processes
(Kotler, 1980)

the social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating, offering, and exchanging products of value with others
(Kotler 7th, 1988).

a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating, offering, and exchanging products and value with others.
(Kotler, 1991)

What we see in the good Doctors evolution is a move from a rather simple definition - facilitating and consumating exchange to today's, longer, more complex definition.

And Dr. K is not alone in is move from simple to complex - here are three American Marketing Association Definitions covering the last 50 years or so,

Marketing is...
the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers or users.
(AMA, 1948, 1960)

the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.
(AMA, 1985)

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.
(AMA 2004)

Note that both the AMA and Dr. Kotler have added the idea of relationship managment to their definitions - we can thank the Swedes for that one. A virtual deluge of papers came out of Scandanavia in the later part of the last century which argued that we had been focused on the wrong core construct - exchange. They basically argued that all of the ills of marketing would be cured if we just shifted our focus to relationships giving birth to "Relationship Marketing".

Here we have our first argument for abandoning Marketing - if you can't explain it simply - think E=mc2 - then perhaps we are not working on something amenable to a general theory.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Conundrum To Start With

So my good friend Lisa asks for a definition...
In doing so she strengthens the case of getting rid of the whole darn thing in my opinion...

But my opinion matters less than what the great marketing thinkers have to say....

The dominant text books in marketing at both the undergraduate and MBA level have one thing in common - they are co-authored by Phillip Kotler. Dr. Kotler has owned the field if you will for about 30 years. The intro marketing course I teach is using the 13th edition of his principles text.

Here is our Dr. Phil's definition...

The process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customer in return


So what the heck am I thinking. Well a number of things.

In my recent class on Marketing Thought [Theory?] we got to wrestle with a number of topics and as I tried to make some sense of these I came to the conclusion that maybe we are asking the wrong sort of question. Trying to develop a general theory of marketing, asking if marketing is an art or science? Those academic conundrums miss the point.

My intent is to post a couple of times a week a series of "chapters" that set forth a series of arguments in support of the basic proposition that we would be better off if marketing - at least marketing as we currently know it - went away. Here are some of the topics - more hopefully will surface over the coming weeks.

1. Marketing is a derivative science
2. Marketing lacks a general theory
3. Marketing is dangerous
4. Marketing is too generic to be of any value
5. Marketing is just good management
6. Marketing is just applied economics
7. Marketing is a creative art

Sunday, October 4, 2009


So I have been pondering this question for a couple of weeks. It has led to some interesting places and is meant to be a bit provocative and hopefully leads to some interesting reactions and comments.

My original intent was to actually develop an scholarly paper on the topic and I may still try and do so - but I want to present a few essays in this space that address the question, get some reaction and see where that all leads.