This afternoon, I had a moment of clarity, possibly. I know marketing discourse is not supposed to be drug assisted. But sometimes you have no choice. I am taking Oxycodone. (insert joke of choice here)
I found myself wondering.: Who owns the future of marketing? There are several contenders:
1. the MBA programs and the academic marketers who staff them
2. the marketing practioners working inside the corporation
3. the marketing practioner working as a consult outside the corporation (jack of all trades variety)
4. the marketing practioner working as a consult outside the corporation (single method seller; e.g., Jerry Zaltman, Claude Rapaille)
5. the design community now poised to take over branding and other aspects of the marketing field
6. various social scientists, including anthropologists and ethnographers
7. [other contenders, please suggest]
One way to answer this question is to see which of these contenders is best qualified to answer the following question:
What is the best way to think about the
1. extended product
2. as it speaks to/works for/connects with
3. the whole consumer (i.e., the multiple consumer, one or several aspects thereof)
4. in several categories (another multiplicity, this one created by the fragmentation of definitions of class, lifestyle, region, family type, gender, etc.)
5. as a result of best methods and most illuminating research contact
6. in the creation of greatest value on several registers
7. all of this changing in almost real time to respond to the dynamism of contemporary markets and cultures.
7. for the extraction of greatest price
Now to answer the question. I believe that the business schools have pretty much disqualified themselves. They continue to use an economic man model of the consumer and it is precisely this that is now under challenge. The designers are making a very interesting challenge to the branding world, and they are strong in the matters that the MBA graduate is weak: what is the visual language that allows the brand to define itself. Neither one is especially good, in my opinion, in summoning the social scientific theory that should help us understand who and what the consumer is becoming, what and who the brand must be capable of coming, and what theories can help us make real contact with the consumer. Academic social scientists continue to be hostile to the market place and to marketing. B-school "importers" of social scientific theory and method continue to borrow and retrofit when they should in my opinion be working much more from the ground up.
In sum, none of the would-be claimants appear to have a very good claim. The future of marketing has got away from us. It has become suddenly and vastly more complicated. Products and services must deliver many, sometimes subtle utilities to consumers who are now evidencing an internal and an externality complexity they did not have before. How to talk to the consumer, how to discover what these many values are, how to define them, and most important how to harvest them, these are new questions for which we do not appear to have ready answers.
I know this is a little too summary to be useful. I will have another go tomorrow.