Школа Александра Репьева

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A book
by A. Repiev

 

Marketing
Thinking

or
Clientomania

 

 

TOC,
Abstract & Preface
in English

 

 

The book is
available at
Amazon.com

 


Paper in Word format (4 pp.)

 

Pseudomarketing:
scholasticism & bureaucracy

 

By Alexander Repiev, Moscow, Russia

 

There are now two types of corporation:
those with
a marketing department and
those with
a marketing soul… the latter are
the top performing companies, while the former,
steeped in the business traditions of the past,
are fast disappearing.

– Antony Brown (IBM, 1995)

 

Since the early 1980s, the literature has been brimming with sighs, moans and lamentations about a crisis, end, or collapse of marketing, and with suggestions that marketing needs badly a renaissance, rebirth, revival, or rejuvenation. Well, but... WHAT marketing? Real marketing (the creative process of meeting the Client's needs) is not to blame; the culprit is its ugly dark shadow – rampant pseudomarketing. Its financial, imagerial and other harm is hard to overestimate. Shall we face the music or play the ostrich game, gentlemen?

 

MANY BUSINESSES have largely exhausted their capabilities of improving their production, logistics, finances and other operations, so that it is getting ever harder and harder for them to ratchet a purely operational notch or two against competition. Moreover, this all would be of no use if your Clients would not buy your products. Competition has thus largely moved to meeting your Client's needs, to persuading your Client to buy. That is, it moved to marketing.

And here we bump into an amazing paradox:


Marketing grows in importance, but...
its practical yield and prestige are declining.


 

Why? Because real marketing is being actively ousted by its ugly cousin pseudomarketing, a stillborn child of the scholasticism of formal marketing education at universities and business schools and the bureaucratization of corporate marketing departments. Talks about a crisis in marketing are going on since the 1980s, and their tenor has not changed.

No wonder that according to Chicago's Spencer Stuart, "the average tenure for chief marketing officers at the top 100 branded companies is just 23 months." In apparel, it is only 10 months. Even in Russia I know of such examples.

Science, art, or craft?

This question seems to be of absolutely no interest to members of hundreds of respectable practical professions – to engineers, teachers, farmers, doctors, soldiers, piano tuners... But it is an obsession with some marketing scholars. They go overboard pretending to be "doing" science.

Let's take a closer look at their claims. It is believed that for a field to be a science it must include some universal principles that would enable some predictions to be made. In marketing we have nothing of the sort.

But WHAT do we have? A sea of nebulous definitions: marketing itself boasts upwards of 2,000 definitions; there are many definitions of "brand", etc., etc. The acme of marketing "science" is the gorgeous 4P! – some pundits would juggle with words like children to get precisely four P letters – product, price, place (?!), promotion. "Learned" marketers are said to keep coming up with further "valuable" additions to the P-zoo: probing, packaging, public relations, people, processes, power, partition, prioritize, position, performance, penalty, perception, preservation, and so on and so forth. And each "pee-pee" addition must be a PhD-able affair!

The content of marketing books is largely a compendium of quasi-knowledge (e.g., fast-dating distillations of motley experiences), pseudo-knowledge, or knowledge noise. Admittedly, there is a fairly good idea of segmentation, but different marketers would segment differently.

But even if we for a moment agree to refer to the content of marketing books as knowledge, this will make up just one percent of the knowledge body of physics. Not more. And its complexity is at the level of high school.

SONK-ing

Academics are working hard to compensate for the lack of real knowledge in marketing by obscure systematization of the obvious and a constellation of scholastic schemes, matrices, grids, paradigms, most of which are useless, to say the least. Some are absolutely absurd. This game of science in marketing has assumed such threatening proportions that Professor Andrew Ehrenberg of the UK even coined a name for it – SONK (Scientification of Non-Knowledge).

Since the body of non-knowledge available for SONK-ing is as good as exhausted, the SONK-ists are now going through a second circle. So, instead of the nearly useless scheme of the product cycle you are now offered the Boston matrix, with its dogs, cash cows, problem children, and stars. This replacement is good for nothing, but these funny names have to be remembered by hapless students. Woe betide you if you do not remember them, because at an MBA entrance test you may be asked such a nonsensical question:

"Cash cows" – is it a piece of:

A. Matrix _________________

B. McKinsey matrix

C. Porter's competition model

 

And if you do not want to litter your head with that junk, you have no place in marketing – off with your head!

 At the moment, many seem to be obsessed with the so-called Balanced ScoreCards. Emblazoned on the banner of that school of thought is "if you can't measure it, you can't improve it". As simple as that! I do not know whether or not you can measure everything in finances, production, logistics, and other operations, but every marketing sophomore knows that in marketing it's only rarely that measurements yield any sensible results. Nevertheless, the BSC scheme also incorporates a so-called Customer perspective, that is to say the Customer is also "measured". In the concept of the multi-attribute product they also "measure" the product, by assigning to it several attribute-numbers taken from God knows where.

Pseudo-academic patois

An age-tested trick of denizens of the ivory tower is to invent some kind of "closed-club" jargon. David Ogilvy, himself a 1972 Winner of the Parlin Award for marketing, admitted that he did not understand such cadaverous pieces of marketing writing:

"Though use of sample cross-validated correlations is acceptable, the infrequently used squared population cross-validated correlation coefficient (P(2)) is a more precise (although slightly biased) measure (Cattin 1978a, b; Schmitt, Coyle, and Rauschenberger 1977). It utilizes all available data simultaneously rather than bisecting the sample into arbitrary estimation and holdout components. Because of these comparative advantages, P2 is used in the present analysis. Though several versions are available Srinivasan's (1977) formulation of P2 is acceptable for models containing fixed predictor variables."

Ogilvy referred to this as "all Greek".

It's all Greek not only to the famous advertising guru. It's double Greek to all practitioners. Somebody coined the expression KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). But the stupid take no heed.

But why then produce texts absolutely incomprehensible and useless to practitioners? Perhaps they are needed and understood by academics? A funny answer is given by Scott Armstrong in his "Unintelligible Management Research and Academic Prestige”:

"32 faculty members were asked to rate the prestige of four passages from management journals. The content of the passages was held constant while readability was varied. Those passages that were more difficult to read were rated higher in research competence."

Armstrong also describes such a prank:

"Dr. Fox was an actor who looked distinguished and sounded authoritative. He was provided with a fictitious but impressive biography and was sent to lecture about a subject on which he knew nothing. The talk, "Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education," was delivered on three occasions to a total of 55 people... The audiences consisted of highly educated social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, and administrators. The lecture was comprised of double talk, meaningless words, false logic, contradictory statements, irrelevant humor, and meaningless references to unrelated topics. Judging from a questionnaire administered after the talk, the audience found Dr. Fox's lecture to be clear and stimulating. None of the subjects realized that the lecture was pure nonsense."

A mailing was sent to members of the Market Research Society of Australia asking them which techniques they (a) were aware of and (b) used. Along with Chi Square, multi-dimensional scaling, etc., the phantom "Scranton's Capper" was inserted. Something like 30% of all these expert researchers had heard of it and about 13% claimed to use it.

This all would be funny if it were not so sad. By the way, have you heard of "the Emperor's new clothes"?

Creative marketing

Well then, if marketing contains no scientific knowledge of note, is it very simple? To arrive at a reasonable answer, let us seek some suggestive parallels. For instance, we will not find much knowledge in versification and music. But that does not make poetry and music simple at all.

In most occupations, performance skills and talents are much more important than theoretical grounding. That is even true of sciences with formidable bodies of knowledge, such as physics; let alone fields with a negligible body, as is the case with marketing.

In the present-day economy of the spoiled, cynical Client assailed with proposals, fed up with advertising, and armed with the Internet, persuading whoever to buy turns into a Herculean task. And only the naive would expect any help from dusty marketing tomes, which by the way are also available to your competition. A remedy is your marketing thinking, marketing creativity and marketing inventiveness. Not by the book.

We should admit that:


Marketing is no theorizing, but rather
a complicated "performance skill".
It's creativity non-stop.


 

Says Prabhu S. Guptara:

“There is a distinction between the philosophy of marketing and the techniques of marketing. You can have the philosophy without many of the techniques, of course; but, surprisingly, you can also have the techniques without the philosophy. Under many circumstances, the first can make sense; but the second makes no sense in any circumstance”.

His definition of marketing:


Marketing is the creative process of satisfying customer needs profitably.


 

When shaping approaches to marketing, marketing education and marketing practices, it would be a good idea to analyze at first the rich experience of successful creative marketers, such as Zino Davidoff, Lee Jacocca (Chrysler), Akio Morita (Sony), David Kerns (Xerox), John Scully (Apple), and Bill Gates (who has no higher education, let alone marketing education). Some of them have authored books. Reading them is more rewarding than reading the dusty tomes produced by the academia.

Take, for instance, Akio Morita. He and his executive team at Sony followed the wisdom: carefully watch how people live, get an intuitive sense as to what they might want and then go with it. The flip side of their management philosophy was this: don't do market research. During the 1955-1979 period, Sony introduced 12 very successful disruptive-technology product lines, from the transistor radio in 1955 to the Walkman in 1979. Sony's Walkman, the most successful consumer product in the 1980s, was greeted by skepticism during prototype tests: who in his or her right mind would want to lug around a tape recorder? In the early 1980's Morita began to disengage himself from the company, and the company hired its first MBA's. The MBA's quickly began to conduct market research studies and base the company's strategic decisions on the data. The result did not take long in coming: Sony's famous marketing inventiveness dried up and it turned into another "good" company.

What is common among the above mentioned marketers? – Love for the Client, understanding the Client, inventiveness in meeting the needs of the Client. A born marketer, the cigarette king Zino Davidoff was wont of saying: "I've never practiced marketing. I simply never stopped to love my Clients." He is echoed by Japan's Mitsuaki Shimaguchi:


Modern marketing is love. Love for your consumers, meeting their requirements.


 

In his “Autobiography" Lee Iacocca stresses the ability to exercise creative intuition and to take risks. The importance of these qualities in business is understood by many outstanding minds. Back in 1885, the founder of Stanford University Liland Stanford wrote:

"The imagination needs to be cultivated and developed to ensure success in life. A man will never construct anything he cannot conceive."

Not that the idea of creative marketing was absolutely unknown in the profession. Its elements are available in the so-called guerrilla marketing and lateral marketing. These schools of thought preach cheap and efficient methods, or so they maintain.

Do creative marketers write papers? Of course. But only when they are needed for business. And should a rare creative idea occur to them, then... Einstein believed that really great ideas occur so rarely that they could easily be remembered.

Furthermore, creative marketers waste no time on developing algorithms of assessing their contribution, they just work hard. And results, I can assure you, will be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, marketing students are not taught creative marketing, marketing philosophy, and marketing thinking. Instead they are taught methods that "make no sense in any circumstance".

Scholastic education & research

I received an acerbic message from a person who, after 20 years in international consulting business, switched to teaching marketing at a university. Here is his opinion of that establishment:

"The university system is a self-sustaining political monster that has a limited interest in really preparing the students for the reality of the business world. So I am a frustrated business person inside an academic system that has little regard for practicalities and operational efficiency. Form is more important than substance and the system protects the mediocre while failing to reward initiative. As you can see, I have little respect for what man has done to the institution of higher learning called a university! I sometimes wish I could go back to the world of business, but since I got my PhD they think I am an academic and irrelevant – I guess you can't win!"

I, a practitioner-cum-teacher myself, went through similar experiences.

The ghettoisation of academic life from real-life practices does worry some marketers. But most academia, it seems, could not care less – everything in the garden is just lovely!

From time to time there occur abortive ELMAR discussions on the uselessness of current marketing "science" for practitioners. I treasure a contribution by Professor Ian F. Wilkinson (School of Marketing, University of New South Wales Australia):

"I wonder if animals and ants listen to what biology professors have to say or if atoms and chemicals listen to their physics and chemistry professors. Then I ponder who has a better science or understanding of biology, physics or chemistry – the professors or the animals, atoms and chemicals. Then I stop thinking and have a beer."

There was a "Note: Many of my papers are downloadable from www.impgroup.org." I did download, and as I was muddling through a couple of "papers" I was wondering as to how often Professor Ian F. Wilkinson would "stop thinking". And I felt I could use a couple of vodkas, to regain senses. I also felt sorry for companies that would hire Ian F. Wilkinson's "products".

Education is said to be what is left after you have forgotten what you learned. Well, but what is to be left then? Says Scott Armstrong of Wharton:

“Ask students to describe the most important things they learned from the textbook in a recent marketing principles course. I have tried this and few are able to think of anything. Those that do, say things like the 4 P’s, positioning, and segmentation.”

What should marketing education look like?

If I were to venture an opinion, I would propose the following criterion of the quality of any education (of what is left). It is the degree to which a graduate is fit for practical work in the respective profession. Even most of theoretical training should be viewed from a practical perspective: "Nothing is more practical than a good theory" (L. Boltzmann). But practice calls not so much for theory, knowledge and memory, but rather for skills and ability to think. There is no denying Immanuel Kant's idea that the student should be taught not thoughts, but thinking, that "he is to be guided, not carried, if he is to be able to walk alone in the future".

The "not-thoughts-but-thinking" wisdom applies to whatever domain, even to those with a huge body of "thoughts", such as physics. And it is an absolute must in practical marketing, where you cannot hide behind formal knowledge. A would-be marketer should be armed with an ability to think, to think from the Client's perspective.

If and when we understand this, the next thing we will have to understand is that marketers must be trained and even drilled, like musicians and artists. They must be taught performance skills, i.e., how to creatively handle unpredictable concrete problems.

They must be "intoxicated" with Clientomania and leonardesque marketing thinking, which would enable them to ask themselves dozens of relevant "client" questions and to perform emotional analysis of the Client and the Products in order to identify and use selling points of products and companies. They must be taught how to be protectors of the interests of the Client in the company, how to be skilled marketing "midwives" of new products, how to make inventive and productive marketing decisions, how to become marketing achievers and valuable contributors to the financial success of their companies. That's precisely what I try to do in both my MBA classes and at my own distance courses of marketing and advertising www.repiev.ru.

Simply going over dozens of "cases", especially as it is normally done in class, is as good as useless.

“Whatever be the detail with which you cram your student, the chance of his meeting in after-life exactly that detail is almost infinitesimal; and if he does meet it, he will probably have forgotten what you taught him about it. The really useful training yields a comprehension of a few general principles with a thorough grounding in the way they apply to a variety of concrete details. In subsequent practice the (students) will have forgotten your particular details; but they will remember by an unconscious common sense how to apply principles to immediate circumstances.”

Alfred Whitehead,
The Aims of Education and Other Essays

There is one well-known simile. We can give a hungry person some fish; or we can give him a fishing-rod and teach him how to catch fish – this way we would not need to give him fresh fish every time he is hungry.

But we can make a step further and teach him manufacturing fishing-rods and other implements, to make him fare all right on his own. Ideally, any education should teach how to make a wide variety of "fishing-rods" to suit every specific situation. This skill is especially valuable in marketing, since marketing deals with a zillion of unpredictable situations.

Hardly anybody needs to be explained that whereas specific techniques may date, the fundamentals and philosophy of a profession absorbed at college must serve a graduate throughout his carrier. Can you imagine a physicist, chemist, biologist, builder, design engineer, agronomist, doctor, mariner, pilot, etc., who would not employ in their practical work what they had grasped at college? I don't think so.

And now, dear reader, you are in for a surprise. In his paper "What is marketing knowledge?" the Australian professor John Rossiter writes:

"A largescale study by Hunt, Chonko and Wood (1986) demonstrated that neither the short-run nor long-run success of marketing managers, in terms of income received and title achieved, is dependent on having acquired a degree in marketing (in the first 10 years of employment, the correlation between possessing a degree with a marketing major and income is r = .04 and over the total career it is r = .00). Hunt et al. observed that this does not bode well for the validity of marketing knowledge as taught in academia".

Those with marketing majors had lower positions. Those with higher grades at school typically did worse on pay and title and they reported less satisfaction with their work.

In plain language, this suggests that modern marketing education is good for nothing, and has nothing to do with what a marketing practitioner will have to do in real business. And if we remember how fast dissatisfied companies fire useless "book-learned" marketers, this education... well, does much harm.

Something has gone seriously rotten in the kingdom of marketing – no kidding!

A testimony of that sorry state of marketing is this charming piece of reasoning by Professor Rossiter. Having found no examples of true scientific knowledge in marketing and having just supplied devastating evidence of the failure in the field of graduates stuffed with "marketing science", he, lo and behold, proclaims:

"Marketing knowledge is absolutely fundamental to our discipline. Marketing knowledge, supposedly, is what marketing academics and consultants teach and marketing managers draw upon in formulating marketing plans."

Suddenly things clicked very nicely: marketers are taught not to make money for companies, but rather to write nice neat marketing plans and other papers. Simply put, they are taught marketing bureaucracy.

Bureaucratic marketing

Business schools are churning out MBA's non-stop, with the result that marketing departments are manned by MBA-brats properly.

...After months of studying his ass off our wanna-be marketing guru is out to conquer the business world, an MBA certificate in pocket, fragments of cases, formulas, matrices, BSC and other fashionable stuff in head. But the most heart-warming thing about it is the expectation of a cushy salary. He is yet to learn that a marketer, in the final analysis, is paid not for his degrees and certificates but for his ability to contribute.

You can tell our hero from a crowd of self-taught corporate marketers (who compensate for their ignorance of schemes by a creative shine of their eyes) by his impeccable business suit and a languor from an excess of self-respect. He is a consummate master of CYA (cover your ass) technologies. He can create impressive slide presentations, hold impressive meetings, write impressive plans, reports and market research specifications. In other words, in the field he brilliantly converts his impressive scholastic education into impressive marketing bureaucracy.

Our marketing bureaucrat is especially comfortable in large companies, especially those with a huge marketing department and a host of regional offices and dealers. Here they spend tons of money on research, image advertising, corporate identity, exhibitions, press conferences...

Elegantly incorporated into the system of bureaucratic marketing are the many freaks concerned with the now fashionable branding. You can for years harangue about brand architecture, brand DNA, Lovemarks (a fresh freak), brand awareness, image, personality, viral somethings, and God knows what. And if, as is often the case, despite inflated ad spends improved awareness does not lead to improved sales – well, things do happen!

Marketing bureaucrats do not understand and, it seems, will never understand that real marketing is a creative endeavor, and that driving it into a Procrustean bed is silly, to say the least. Picasso maintained that "every act of creation is first an act of destruction." But this idea would abhor bureaucrats.

Their cozy world is reams of papers: reports, schemes, memos, and especially detailed marketing plans. These plans are of little use, if only because things in the market date nearly by the hour. But they look nice in thick folders to be presented to top brass – you can hardly imagine a better CYA-product.

Our pseudomarketer is a front-page figure. I cannot deny myself the pleasure of quoting from the book “Market-Led Strategic Change” by Nigel Piercy of the UK:

The MBA code of practice

–  Thou shall never smile again.

–  Thou shall dedicate thy career to being a boring, humorless jerk, for is this not how thy professors are molded?

–  Thou shall live by the dictum that those things which cannot be measured precisely and validly to six decimal points, simply do not exist (little things like customer satisfaction and customer value shall not trouble thee...)

–  Thou shall dedicate thyself to driving the creative and unconventional people out of thy organization, for do not they deserve to be in an agency somewhere, where they can do no harm?

–  Thou shall worship at the alter of bureaucracy, for is not the neatness of the organization chart a measure of thy true worth?

–  Thy mission is to attend meetings for the rest of thy life, for is not the number of such meetings a measure of thy productivity?

 

I bet you see many guys like that around.

What's to be done?

What’s to be done to replace stillborn marketing departments by a corporate marketing soul? If anybody wants to face the music, of course.

Understandably, I especially care about my Russia, that huge sparely-populated Eurasian landmass of eleven time zones, dozens of peoples and languages, a motley quilt of mores, religions, buying habits, per-capita incomes, distribution infrastructures, etc. It has been making a cumbersome U-turn to a market economy after several generations of command economy.

With its enormous distances and poor communications, it is a classical marketing country, which needs creative marketing savvy more than the West.

Down-to-earth survivors of the post-Perestroika box-moving "capitalism" are painfully coming to understand the importance of marketing in a hyper-competitive environment. Many Russian companies have established marketing departments. They are manned by a wide assortment of personages, ranging from "home-spun" marketing buccaneers who bite the bullet to languid US- and Europe-made MBA's, with the former spectacularly outperforming the latter.

Scholastic and bureaucratic marketing does not work in whatever environment, least of all in Russia. This year some of my consultancy's clients have fired their entire marketing departments. I do not blame them: they await inputs from marketing, and they are not prepared to finance for years a team of self-indulgent data-collectors and scheme-producers, generating no ROI. A vicious circle.

Is there a way out, gentlemen?

See also The Augean stables of academic marketing and

Kotler and kotleroids

 

Paper in Word format (4 pp.)

 

 

Other English-language articles by A. Repiev

Kotler and kotleroids

A glimpse of Russia's advertising and marketing

Lunatics have taken over the asylum

The Augean stables of academic marketing

The Soap Bubble of "22 Immutable Laws of Marketing — Review"— Review

"Physics envy" – physics abysmally misconstrued!

 

That it is not
knowledge
stored up as
intellectual fat
which is of value,
but that which
is turned into
intellectual
muscle.

W. B. Adkins

A delusion
does not
cease to be
a delusion
even if shared
by the majority.

L. Tolstoy

The aim of
marketing
is to know and
understand
the customer
so well
the product
or service
fits him
and sells itself.

P. Drucker

Russia is
a riddle
wrapped in
a mystery
inside
an enigma.

Sir W. Churchill

The Americans
will always do
the right thing...
After they've
exhausted all
the alternatives.
Sir W. Churchill

People aren’t
interested
in you. They
are interested
in themselves.

D. Carnegie

I prefer
the wisdom of
the unlearned
to the folly of
the loquacious.

 Cicero

Knowledge
without sense
is twofold folly.

Spanish Proverb

One pound
of learning
requires
ten pounds of
common sense
to apply it.

Persian Proverb

University
develops all
capabilities,
including
stupidity.

A. Chekhov

Knowledge
is a tool,
and not
an end
in itself.

L. Tolstoy

Imagination
rules the world.

N. Bonaparte

Facts do not
cease to exist
because they
are ignored.

A. Huxley

However
beautiful
the strategy,
you should
occasionally
look at
the results.

Sir W. Churchill

Think!
IBM motto

 

 

alex@repiev.ru 
+7 499 194-5221