In defense of marketing

A few days back, I was in the midst of a heated political debate. A point that was repeatedly thrown around was how “X” is only a good marketeer whereas the others only failure is a lack of marketing. This is not the place for political discussions and I shall not delve into the merits or demerits of X. What I observe is that people often make this allegation that XYZ is only good at marketing—In the heydays of Apple vs Microsoft it was said that Bill Gates knows to market well whereas Steve Jobs doesn’t ( that argument has long been settled ) Aamir Khan is a better actor SRK is a better marketeer . What is implicit in this argument is that marketing at best overrides underlying faults in the product/ service or at worst is bad for the consumers. And that marketing is often equal to shouting from rooftops. For many marketing is many a times a slur.

In my opinion, this is a wrong interpretation.

The reason for such analysis is most people mistakenly equate marketing to advertising. Nothing can be further from the truth. The hoardings, the commercials, celebrity endorsements, reality show appearance is a small component of marketing.

Indeed few people do recognize this. Thus in the aftermath of a recent election, a lot of analysts kept saying that a particular consultant failed as he did not have a good product to market. Though true the statement is significantly incomplete.  Marketing is not shouting about a good product. In my opinion, it transcends almost all aspects of business. A good marketing strategy is not limited to deciding on a good product and then promoting it. It is about planning and executing every tiny nut and bolt of the business.

But many people don’t get this. In fact, even one of my professors had said that marketing and operations are often at loggerheads. It was only later when I took a class with one among many legendary professors at IIM Ahmedabad (Prof. Saral Mukherjee) did I realize that this statement is incorrect. He shared with us the famous Dominos Ad with Paresh Rawal- 30 minutes Nahin toh free (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lhq9jRnH_8E ). Many of us continue to remember the advert even though it aired many years back. In fact what it has done is cemented in our minds that Dominoes delivers pizza fast. (There are many other Pizza chains but how many such adverts do you recall?) An average marketer would have brought in the top rated celeb, at a huge budget, who would have stared into the camera and asked viewers to order a Pizza like He/she does. The consumers, on the other hand, may think—“Yeah right this perfectly chiseled Greek God/Goddess gorges on 12 inches of flour and cheese” This is similar to Hrithik Roshan endorsing Rupa underwear. You expect consumers to believe that a mega star who makes millions of dollars a year goes on a date with a Rado, a Canali suit, and a Rupa Macroman? (There are clear advantages of such ads and we will discuss that in a subsequent post)

Now coming to what a good marketer would do. He or She would get a character actor like Paresh Rawal and with a good agency create a script and jingle that connects. In the background, he or she ensure a stable network of kitchen and delivery centers such that despite Mumbai rains and traffic, you get pizza delivered within 30 minutes. We, consumers, are enthralled by the creativity, and rightly so, however, the genius lies in the entire execution creating a competitive advantage that still endures.

This brings me to my final insight on marketing for today which too was developed during my post-graduation. Good marketing invariably results in a strong and successful brand. A successful brand provides consistent, relevant value to the consumers (with value being benefit minus price) Look around and you will see this occurring in most products and services we repeatedly choose. Thus an Audi or BMW, as well as a Maruti Suzuki, works since both provide relevant consistent benefit (relevant being the operative word here)

It is believed that Mahatma Gandhi had said that “the customer is the most important person”. It’s marketing that gets him there, but more importantly, it’s marketing execution that will retain him/her. Yes, the means of communication will be in a state of constant change from print to television to digital to one-on-one influencers. Yes, there are organizations where marketing does not play a key role. However, it’s also true that only when marketing delivers value that businesses succeed and thrive. And thus you will often notice that marketing is the most important function for a CEO.

So the next time you think that marketing is all about billboards and advertisements remember that Xiaomi has had every single sale sold out in seconds whereas Micromax is struggling despite Hugh Jackman on billboards, newspapers, and commercials.

 

 

 

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