Marketers too busy to concentrate on the important things ?

From last week’s Australian Financial Review (May 2003):

“Talk to most marketers and advertising agency executives and they complain about a lack of innovation in the $20 billion marketing industry in recent years. Worn down by constant cost-cutting or budget freezes and the push by most companies for immediate results, marketers have increasingly focused on short-term, tactical campaigns and products, ignoring the development of long-term strategies.

Marketers recognise the problem. A recent survey by the training company Nine Dots Marketing found that 70 per cent of marketers described their skills as task-oriented. More importantly, 56 per cent said they needed to be trained in strategic marketing planning.”

Call me cynical but I’m not surprised that a survey from a training company found a great need for training. What surprised me more is that ONLY seventy per cent of marketers described their skills as task oriented.

The modern corporate environment seems to leave no time for tackling the big important problems. A senior manager waggishly said to me recently “I’d love to get my marketing people together to talk about your research showing what price promotions do, but they are too busy running promotions”.

He was making an important point, marketers are spending so much time doing things, they have no time to work out if they are doing the right things.

It’s a vicious spiral downwards. If we don’t spend time building specialised knowledge about how marketing works, then the marketing department will never be respected. Marketing departments won’t be looked to as custodians of knowledge not available elsewhere in the company. So marketing won’t be valued and marketing budgets will come under increasing pressure, and we’ll have even less time to think about important things.

Training is only part of the solution. First, we have to have some real knowledge to impart. That’s why the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for marketing science’s R&D Initiative is so important. To be good at strategic planning we have to know some fundamental things about marketing, how buyers buy, how brands perform, how media works etc.

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