Marketing is Dead! (Long Live Marketing)

Every now and then, industry analysts and media pundits enjoy writing the obituary of a particular business function. Often it's little more than an individual trying to make a name for their site, or an opinion piece designed to drive furious clicks. When it comes from the Harvard Business Review, however, people sit up and take notice, as is the case with an article published on the site this week entitled "Marketing is Dead, and Loyalty Killed It." [caption id="attachment_3406" align="aligncenter" width="423"]tombstone boston Image Credit: Andrew Kuchling[/caption] There are plenty of people who will disagree, of course, many of whom are building both reputable brands and loyal customers by employing a variety of marketing methods.

Missing the Mark(eting)

Marketing's main problem is also its biggest promise: it can be many different things to many different people. As a result, it's all too easy to overlook some key elements. Consider the elements of the marketing mix, for example. There four pillars of product, price, place and promotion cover a vast range of company activities, some often associated with marketing (promotion), others less so (product, place). In any case, these foundations of the marketing function inform most of the arguments this article's author uses against it. Many would also argue that other P's should be included, such as process for the ways of working that bring the other four to the marketplace, or provision, which is often used to refer to customer service functions. Any way you slice it, it's almost impossible to proclaim marketing dead when it seeps into so many areas of a business. The example of Apple is raised first and foremost, with the caveat that the world's most valuable brand is of course not immediately comparable to other companies. It's important to note that it really is, however, and it was a mixture of visionary design and aspirational marketing savvy that brought Apple to this point. In product terms, the marketing function helped Apple to position its devices at the upper end of the market and build the 87% loyalty that the article quotes by communicating to customers that this product stood apart from the rest. And in terms of promotion, is there any brand more iconic than Apple for its advertising over the last decade? From the silhouette, catchy song-backed iPod commercials to slick iPhone and iPad adverts that emphasize the sleek look and feel of their devices, Apple has made use of many forms of marketing, some traditional, some more modern. Ironically, the one area in which the brand has less of an active presence, social media, is one of those most lauded by the writer to explain why marketing is passing away and loyalty taking its place. Apple Event with iPhone

Loyalty is a Symptom, Not a Cure

Building loyalty for your business has always been an important part of marketing. Whether it's through advertising to reinforce product qualities that consumers enjoy, or following up a product purchase with outstanding customer service, great companies understand that these activities feed off one another, rather than living in separate bubbles as the HBR article suggests. Social media does indeed play a huge part in communicating with customers now, with the many-to-many form of communications much more common in our daily lives than the more basic "push marketing" that occurred over television and radio. As we've always said,  positive customer reviews and a 5-star reputation online make for some of the more powerful marketing tools available to your business. But they are still just that, marketing tools! What it all boils down to is that marketing has the ability to inform every aspect of your business, as long as you understand - and act on - the term in its broadest sense. To that end, consider this definition:
Marketing is the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service; the activities that are involved in making people aware of a company's products or services.
Loyalty is a result of these processes, not a replacement. For that reason, if your marketing dies, so does awareness of your product/brand and, eventually, the loyalty that customers have for it. We all want envy Apple's iconic brand and die-hard following (not to mention those infinite cash reserves!), but don't forget that it has took decades for the company to bounce back to the head of the pack, fueled in many ways by the memorable marketing the company commissioned. When you aspire to that level of brand recall, remember that a big part of getting there is picking the right tools (and paying no mind to the greatly exaggerated rumors of marketing's death!)

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