Maybe Marketing Won

Two things in twenty-four hours have made me consolidate a thought I’ve been playing with on and off for a year or so. It’s about Marketing and the fabled 4Ps; Product, Price, Place & Promotion.

First thing.

This morning, another cracking post from Dave Trott. Read it all, but the payoff is…

“…by ignoring everything except the brand again, the experts got themselves in worse trouble.

But surely these were “marketing experts”.

Isn’t pricing and distribution part of what a marketing expert does?

Ensuring the pricing and distribution of the product is right?

Apparently not.”

Second thing.

Yesterday I had an excellent extended coffee with Brad Berens, and he picked me up on something I hadn’t thought of – I used the word ‘brand’ to describe everything that a company does (I was talking about the “tone-of-action” thing again). Brad’s point was this; it’s not that it’s wrong, in a classic marketing definition of the 4Ps, to use this as a framework for thinking. But as soon as you use the word ‘brand’, the CEO, and the CFO, glaze over. They pigeonhole it. You’re now talking about the thing that someone further down the food chain has to bother with.

Oh, actually, third thing.

Andy Budd and I have this really interesting, ongoing conversation about “marketing people” versus “product people”. The shorthand is that Andy’s position (in as far as I can talk for him, apologies Andy if I have it wrong) could be paraphrased by this Dilbert cartoon:

Engineers Built Everything That Matters - Dilbert by Scott Adams

I’ll leave a gap here for Andy to clarify better than that if he has a chance:


My point in this is that, defined and structured properly, Marketing includes the product. What Andy’s talking about is just the promotion bit. But then, upon reflection, Andy’s living in reality, and I’m describing a utopian position.

Marketing, the classic marketing, the stuff Stephen King wrote of in his brilliant late-career rant “Has Marketing Failed Or Was It Never Really Tried?“, is further away from being a reality than ever.

But why?

Well, maybe, just maybe, Marketing won.

It demonstrated the fundamental importance of the 4Ps to organisations.

Maybe the conversation went like this…

“Product” said Marketing “is fundamentally important; ‘Making Things People Want’, and all that.”

“You’re totally right” said the Business. “Tell you what, now that you’ve got us started, let’s get some real experts to push this to the next level. People who really understand our customers, our capabilities, the qualities we can deliver in the products and services we produce. They can take this from here.”

“Well” said Marketing, “you’ve got to think about Price too, that’s really crucial to get right.”

“Right you are” said the Business. “We know some really clever folks, experts in statistical modelling and price setting and with PHDs in Behavioural Economics and all sorts. They should probably do this, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, alright” said Marketing. “We’ll get on with thinking about Place then, and how we ensure availability for customers.”

“Actually” said the Business, “this is a specialist art, we think. It’s about building business relationships, personal relationships, with all the wholesalers and strategic partners. We’ll get a proper team on this.”

“Oh, ok then” said Marketing. “I guess we’ll just do the Promotion bit then.”

“Mmm” said the Business, not really listening anymore.



5 responses to “Maybe Marketing Won”

  1. I’ve been having this discussion about brand for most of my adult life – including the “end of brand” debates after ‘Marlboro Friday’ when I was at Quaker Oats in the early 90s.
    There are companies that really understand that a brand is pretty much everything that the company does under the brand name – and product is fundamental to brand.
    You can often spot those companies because the office is in the same location as the factory and the brand managers can answer detailed questions about the product ingredients, sensory profile, cost base, balance sheet etc. In multi-brand companies, the brand managers are effectively running business units.

    Then there are companies that equate brand with (visual) identity.

    The skills required to succeed in each type of business are entirely different.

    Perhaps it’s time to divide marketing into “Brand” and “Promotion”.