Marketing practitioners have long followed a time-honored formula — the marketing mix — to guide planning and execution. For years, marketing mix components included product, price, promotion and place. More recently, experts added people, process and physical evidence. While these elements continue to impact an organization’s overall marketing activities, it seems to me they are more accurately part of an audience encounter infrastructure. Here’s what I mean.
I propose that modern marketing professionals must look beyond creating a positive environment for short-term sales and even longer-term brand building. Any organization is judged by achieving those things and must do so successfully to be sustainable. Still, only engaging a target audience under the mantra, “Sales overnight and brand over time,” may prove myopic. In a marketplace where audiences are empowered with instant choices through an array of decision-facilitating conduits, thinking only in a process mode, as embodied by even the expanded marketing mix, could be corrosive to long-term growth, if not survivability.
Accordingly, I urge marketers — from coordinators to CMOs — to expand human behavior knowledge and to pragmatically analyze the trends that behavior generates. I’ve found that such a knowledge adjustment extends critical thinking strengths, including problem-solving, which I suggest is quickly becoming a broader responsibility for the marketing discipline.
You may ask, doesn’t consumer research analyze customer behavior and needs? It does, but in a siloed way. For example, astute marketing professionals will understand it may be more important to determine what people don’t like about cars than knowing if they want cup holders or heated seats. At some point, we may not buy as many cars because we may not like what automobiles represent — pollution generators, expensive service-demanding maintenance, even the idea that we are slaves to our cars. This may be an extreme example. Still, I suggest that marketing professionals have a grasp on what motivates people.
I’m not suggesting marketers become social sciences professors. However, we have a responsibility to our profession and those we serve to grow intellectually and strategically. If we address our professional growth from a perspective of using science to anticipate human behavior in addition to honing our communications, business and management skills, we strengthen our leadership and innovation opportunities exponentially.
For future marketers in college preparing for a marketing career, I recommend taking courses in psychology and other behavioral sciences, including anthropology. Critical-thinking-focused activities, such as debate, and logic-deductive and inductive practices will also prove helpful. Clearly, strong oral and written communications proficiencies are essential for every career path.
There is no intent here to diminish formal marketing education — most of it is well-researched, practiced and proven — nor do I intend to reject conventional marketing mix canons. I do hope to stimulate expanded thinking among marketing professionals, advising us to reconsider the contributions we can make to our organizations by escalating how we view and fulfill our roles.
After all, as written in The Marketing Book, “The marketing mix refers to the amounts and kinds of marketing variables the firm is using at a particular time …” We marketing professionals should challenge ourselves to define “marketing variables” beyond conventional meanings so that we remain mentally and creatively agile and ultimately of continued value to the organizations we serve.