“I think it’s a stretch to say that “marketing might think of its task as resolving the conflicting needs and interests of stakeholders..” That’s the responsibility of the chairman and the CEO (or in a multidivisional company the division general manager). Attempts by marketing people to claim such a broad scope would disperse efforts and by perceived by many as a territorial grab.”
Very interesting. First, let me say that I don’t claim the rights to say what marketing means, and different people quite fairly use it to describe different things. And yes, I think my suggested definition would be a stretch and is more ambitious in its scope.
David’s comment focuses on the politics, and other people’s anxieties. I hope that marketing does its job tactfully and openly so that it doesn’t create undue fear; but getting some organisations to act with integrity means scaring some people. I’m not arguing for a “land grab” by marketing; but I’m asking for it take responsibility for the promises it makes to customers by making sure that the company delivers sustainably, in a way that works for everyone.
I agree with David that ulitmately this IS the CEO’s job, in which case, the CEO is the top marketing guy. That’s fine with me. Hey, at a stroke we no longer need to listen to those industry hand-wringers who say it’s terrible that marketing doesn’t get enough representation on the board; at a stroke every organisation is headed by a marketing guy. Less facetiously, I think that any function in a business has to get better and better at cooperating with its neighbours, and to do your job really well, you need to be collaborating and overlapping well with other functions.
Jennifer goes on to give an example of a Health education agency whose stakeholders don’t have conflicting needs. I think maybe we’re using different interpretations of the idea of conflicting needs, but I think Doctors and Patients often have conflicting needs – at least in the Health Service over here. Doctors are overworked and need to get through appointments quickly, patients want personal attention and to be listened to. A doctor’s needs for information about eg drugs will be different from those of most patients. I assume this agency has funding needs, so it has to reconcile its target groups thirst for knowledge with the capacity of fund raisers to pay for it all. But I may be mssing the point here… hope Jennifer will forgive me!
Jennifer considers focussing marketing on communicating and that’s an interesting variation, one that I guess makes marketing’s job a bit simpler. Mind you, once you start getting really clear communication between groups, I think you are getting into resolving conflicts. My concern is that marketing people who see it as their job only to “communicate” might interpret this as an excuse to pass on half-truths and say, hey, don’t shoot the messenger. And as Jen says, there’s stuff like pricing to think about too.
Reflecting on this, I want to emphasise the need to recognise and deal with stakeholder conflict skilfully, rather than sweep it under the carpet and spin too many plates. My beef with so much marketing is its tendency to spin wild fantasies by simply avoiding internal conflicts and indulging in wishful thining.
I don’t really mind the label we give to that conflict resolution process providing it’s done; my disillusionment with a lot of marketing is that it really fails to deal with conflicts and often no-one else steps up to the mark.
Or am I getting all too theoretical and pedantic? Maybe. In which case, let’s end on Tom Asacker’s comment:
If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying, “Circus is coming to Fairgrounds Sunday,” that’s Advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him through town, that’s a Promotion. If the elephant walks through the Mayor’s flower bed, that’s Publicity. If you can get the Mayor to laugh about it, that’s Public Relations. And, if you planned and coordinated the whole thing (including naming, pricing, events, location, concessions, souvenirs, spin-off products, licensing, etc.) that’s Marketing!