It’s possible historians will look back on this gesture and say:
"We believe it started here. This is when marketing ceased to be "marketing." This is when they began changing the term and the field."
Certainly the conditions are right. I mean, if "marketing" were a brand, we would have redesigned and relaunched it a long time ago. As it is, the idea stands for an extraordinary bundle of things. It is a very messy concept indeed, and the practice…well, the practice is even messier. Getting rid of this idea is a good idea.
Piers believes marketing has 3 particular problems.
1) ‘marketing’ doesn’t really encompass the solutions that people are generating in business today;
2) ‘marketing’ comes with all the bad baggage that advertising and promotions has generated (e.g. urban spam);
3) ‘marketing’ isn’t accessible to a new generation of creative minds.
(numbering, and point form, added)
All of this is right. And new language is called for. A couple of months ago, following the suggestion of Jerry Michalski, I proposed that we give up the term "consumers" and begin using the term "multipliers." Some people thought this was a good idea for about 3 seconds and went right back to calling them consumers. It is hard to shift linguistic furniture as substantial as "marketing," and perhaps we shouldn’t try.
And I am sure there are people who will say it’s "only" language, that it doesn’t matter what we call it. But changing the term is a potentially a revolutionary thing to do. Change the term and we begin to change the things it defines and enables, the concept, process and hiring of the corporation and the business school. Once the term catches up to the reality, the reality is obliged to catch up to the term.
There are a couple of risks here. "Marketing" reminds us that we are are not just talking about branding, and the likes of you, me, and Piers sometimes forget to include things like pricing. And when we do this, we marginalize ourselves and create a market for McKinsey. While we are chasing after big ideas, someone else is collecting the data, crunching the numbers and offering a more deeply informed approach to the problem.
It’s also true that removing a "reigning" term is like removing the head of state. Good ideas can now flourish but bad ideas can flourish too. When we change this language, we encourage a tower of babel and the rise of still more gurus to lead us to the land of clarity. Sticking with the old language protects us from the ambitions of our betters and the anarchic tendencies of the mob below. What is it that Van Morrison said about "no method, no gurus"?
I mean, let’s be honest, "marketing" is a brand with an incredible installed based, a lot like Windows. No one likes it very much, but it makes the world of computers (read business) make sense. By this reading, we should just stick with orthodoxy. It might not be very good, but it’s better than its alternatives.
No, let’s not "go along to get along." This is a revolutionary moment because so much in the traditional purview of marketing has changed. The old regime has to topple. It has been hollowed out by the new realities. We bloggers in the marketing world document it’s insufficiencies everyday. At the very least, it is, as Piers says, hostile to the new powers of creativity and innovation that are now at large in the marketplace. We have no choice. We have to move.
Did marketing die yesterday? No, of course, it’s didn’t. It’s not even feeling poorly. But you have to start somewhere. I wonder if Piers just did.
Fawkes, Piers. 2007. PFSK Conference Los Angeles: Dropping The worl ‘Marketing’ PSFK.
July 31, 2007. here.