I spent all day Monday in Boston at the "Does Marketing Need Reform?" conference, and I think the question got a resounding answer: Yes. I was fortunate to share my table for the day with David Wolfe and Tom Asacker, fellow bloggers and smart men, as well as Philip Kotler (yes, THAT Kotler - the one whose name is on practically every marketing textbook to be found on the planet).
I will say there was a lot of discussion of the problem, and very little discussion of the solution, but I'm not discouraged. I think many solutions are on the way, given the passion of the people who were there, and the people who read this blog, and the many Decent Marketers I come across in my travels. It was disappointing that the audience was mainly academics, and that more companies (or marketing practitioners, as they like to call us) didn't show up to join in the discussion.
And now, some tidbits for your reading pleasure:
* Walker Smith of Yankelovich shared that the top five areas people feel need government regulation are 1. water pollution, 2. toxic wastes, 3. air pollution, 4. advertising, and 5. nuclear energy. He commented that 4 out of the 5 are things that can actually kill you ... and then there's advertising. I liked his point that marketing has become a game of wits against the consumer.
* Professor Jonny Johansson of Georgetown went so far as to say that American marketing is morally bankrupt and that we've had a hand in bringing American life to its lowest common denominator. He used experiential marketing (in addition to viral marketing, captive marketing and other types) as evidence for why marketing has gone downhill, which of course really bummed me out. As you know, the problem with experiential marketing is that it is being co-opted by a number of people who come up with entertaining ideas lacking in personal relevance or meaning. I won't give you my definition of what real experiential marketing is here, because regular readers might log off their computers at the mere possibility they might have to read it again, but you know where I stand. I think if Prof. Johansson knew how many Decent Marketers feel about experiential marketing, he might instead use it as an example of how marketers are turning the tide.
* Professor Raj Sisodia of Bentley College (sponsor of the event) made the interesting point that bad marketing is cheaper than good marketing. He wondered, for example, why it is that the US Postal Service charges its lowest rate for third class mail, thereby making it easier for direct marketers to bombard our mailboxes. Later in his presentation he made some recommendations for restoring marketing virtues:
- Forget all the old ideas about marketing warfare, customer conquest and capture, and aggressive marketing tactics of any kind
- Indeed, aggressive sentiments and mindsets have no place in marketing
- Marketing must be about pursuing desirable ends (delighted customers, undamaged societal interests, fair returns to shareholders) through desirable means.
* Dr. Jagdish Shesh, professor of marketing at Emory University, provided his thoughts on how to reform practitioner marketing, academic marketing and marketing policymaking, including establishing a national academy of marketing similar to the National Academy of Science and establishing certification and recertification for marketing professionals similar to what accountants must do.
I'll share more in the next post ...