For the best part of the next half century, television and brand management held sway over marketing theory and practice. The practice was based on a judicious blending of television and print advertising, direct mail, and trade promotions, supervised by managers trained to analyze (and base decisions on) measurements of magnitude (the size of the audience reached). These managers were abetted by sets of contractors skilled, by turns, in art and science. To this familiar recipe, modern marketers added a pinch of the Internet, a sprinkle of product sampling, and a dash of PR, but the basic model remained largely unchanged.
The marketing profession is currently undergoing its most significant transformation in more than 50 years. Driving it are massive shifts in technology and society (see “The Future of Advertising Is Now,” by Christopher Vollmer, John Frelinghuysen, and Randall Rothenberg, s+b, Summer 2006), which are converging to make the old marketing model obsolete. As the world changes, so must the capabilities of marketing professionals.
Marketers can read the writing on the wall. Many companies are experimenting with new approaches and techniques. But most of these experiments constitute mere tinkering with the traditional marketing model.
“Marketing communications in particular is stuck in the late 1980s paradigm of tactical implementation,” says Don E. Schultz, professor emeritus in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. “We keep planning on the basis of campaigns, looking for short-term returns, using measurement systems that don’t work. The real questions today are about how we can develop horizontal integrating processes and systems that work across disciplines, not just across communication formats. We need some new concepts and new approaches, not just rehashes of what we have been doing for the past 75 years.”
The transformation of media and markets has profound implications for the way in which marketing is organized, the skills and outlook required of professional marketers, and the types of training that marketers will need. Some features of the new professional model for marketers are already clear:
• More Diverse Skills. Marketing teams increasingly will address a broad, complex agenda for consumer engagement, through a wide range of communications media, including electronic, experiential, and nontraditional channels. Success will mean blazing new career paths that combine the sophisticated quantitative skills and the leadership ability needed to supervise teams working in multiple, rapidly changing markets, with traditional creative and management capabilities.
• Entrepreneurial Aptitude. The typical business marketing career has attracted gregarious people who operate comfortably within a familiar professional culture with well-defined techniques. But now marketers must not just select and purchase proven instruments. They must envisage, shape, and develop new tools for designing and engendering more effective consumer connections. This demands openness to experimentation, an inclination toward pioneering, and an ability to integrate marketing with strategy as never before. The new marketing team must do this while honing the number-crunching analytical ability that is needed to justify and fine-tune new strategies.