If some of you are wondering who Doc Searls is, I suggest you take a ride in the Cluetrain Manifesto — one of the seminal works of our times that serves as an operations manual for businesses operating in this newly connected marketplace….
Doc Searls is one of the four authors of the Manifesto, who “assert that the Internet is unlike the ordinary media used in mass marketing as it enables people to have “human to human” conversations, which have the potential to transform traditional business practices radically.” (Source : Wikipedia)
What drew my attention to Doc Searls’ opinions towards marketing was a recent article he published on Linux Journal (that I found via Scoble’s blog), where Doc explains how to teach marketing to those who hate marketing. There is some validity in many of his key thought, but I’d like to clarify a couple of his ideas that I don’t necessarily agree with:
1. As markets become truly free, we don’t have much, if any, need for marketing.
The basic premise behind this statement is the presumption that marketing serves two purposes: “decide what to make, and provide infrastructure to support transferring info from people who make stuff to people who are trying to decide whether to buy it.” But I believe it’s a simplistic way to look at marketing’s functions in a corporation.
To clarify my rationale behind marketing, let me re-phrase one of Drucker’s oft-repeated aphorisms in new light (via Forbes):
Because the purpose of business is to solve a customer need, the business enterprise has two basic functions: marketing and innovation; all the rest are costs.
You may have noticed, I replaced the purpose from ‘creating a customer’ to ’solving a customer need’. However, I still see marketing in the above equation because marketing is called to fulfil a key need. The need to evangelize the benefits of such a solution to the millions of prospective users who may not know that such a solution exists. Of what use is a solution if it’s hidden in the depths of technology?
I believe the sole purpose of marketing is to humanize technology and translate the benefits offered by products and services to plain-speak, stripped off all tech-jargon that can then be presented to a prospective user. (Think Apple.)
2. Advertising is going to die. PR is already dead.
I don’t believe advertising and PR will necessarily die, but rather I think they will undergo a sea-change that will redefine them. As Doc himself states:
When it (read transformation) is complete the result won’t bear any resemblance to PR as we’ve known it.
What we are going to see, is more honesty and candor via the respective advertising and PR machines. I recall the fervor with which Jack Welch used to advocate candor in the workplace, and I believe the future will see a lot more candor in a company’s relationships with its customers and prospects and this will manifest itself through their respective ad and pr campaigns.
That can only be good, since as we all know, candor breeds trust and inevitably that’s integral to a healthy relationship.
In conclusion, I’d like to quote David Packard (of Hewlett-Packard) who said “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people” (via Forbes). Today we see the evolution of marketing to evangelism but the buck doesn’t just stop with marketers. Each and every employee of a corporation and user of the product should in essence be an evangelist of the product or service that his organization provides. And, I believe, the onus of rallying the troops (both internal and external) lies with marketers.
Thanks, Doc, for the reality-check. It maybe time to take the bitter pill and upgrade to the next level of marketing, as the pioneers envisioned it.
What do you think of the Doc’s diagnosis of marketing?
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