In My Opinion: Graeme Atha: Why we need to shout about marketing

ON Monday, a festival about marketing is taking place in Edinburgh. It’s called Amplify and is being described as a day at the Edinburgh Festival to shout about marketing. But, why the need to shout? Surely, most enlightened minds understand that effective marketing is central to business growth and organisational success?

Sadly not, I would suggest. Too often, marketing is seen as a short-term discretionary cost to business and not a long-term investment. To be fair, marketing has not been great at marketing itself.

As a relatively new business discipline, with no definitive and legal qualifications, it has been difficult to gain credibility with the accountants, engineers and lawyers around the boardroom table.

Similarly, bright students at school are rarely directed to study marketing or follow it as a career option. And yet, as marketing plays a central role in many organisations (and, as a discipline, is part art and part science, where innovation and creativity are critical), it can be a very rewarding career choice/ path.

The problem might be the lack of a clear definition of what marketing actually is.

For many, it is only known for the promotional communications of an organisation and not for a more holistic approach which would also cover the development of the product or service in line with market opportunities.

The Marketing Society has recently updated its Manifesto for Marketing which helps define the role marketers play in today’s society. It also recognises that marketing of all business disciplines needs to change and evolve in the context of the increasing social values of the digital age.

It provides a definition of marketing as “creating sustainable growth by understanding, anticipating and satisfying customer need”.

The Manifesto asserts the role of marketing in making our society vibrant, democratic and innovative. It also confirms the requirement for organisations to orientate their resources in line with the requirements of their customers.

Marketing means thinking about what we need and want as people with problems to solve, dreams to fulfil and personalities to express.

It also means finding better answers to these needs – sometimes in new and innovative ways; for example, the way Prêt A Manger has reinvented the sandwich shop or Apple has made technology beautiful.

Marketing brings value to life in ways that get noticed, remembered and talked about.

The Manifesto outlines the current challenges to marketing:

* To help rebuild trust customers have in organisations and their leaders;

* For organisations to be ever more open and transparent in everything they do; and

* To ensure a sustainable approach to consumption and growth.

It also suggests three areas where marketing needs to take a lead:

* Pursue a Purpose – defining the organisation’s purpose which relates to a brand mission where sustainable growth is the central aim and where there is a positive legacy;

* Champion Customers – anticipating customer needs, shaping their experience and finding creative ways to engage; and

* Mobilise the Organisation – marketing needs to collaborate effectively with peers to ensure the whole organisation and its senior management are fully aligned with its customer’s needs.

Critically, marketing needs to quantify its cost and value. Marketing metrics and measurements need to be understood and agreed across the organisation.

Marketing needs to be marketed to more than marketers.

Graeme Atha is director of The Marketing Society Scotland. The Manifesto for Marketing is being launched at Amplify, at The University of Edinburgh Business School on Monday, August 19. Also taking place at Amplify are various events and speakers, including Sarah Speake (marketing director at Google) and Ellis Watson (CEO of DC Thomson). It will conclude with a ‘Mad Men’ drinks rception. For more information, visit