Democratic Brands or Ivory Tower?

strategic_marketing_processOver the last few weeks one of my tasks has been to teach Marketing Planning – both in terms of commercial and social marketing. Much of it is, of course, very process-driven – almost feeling like a check list of “How to”-s  rather than something that requires a lot of strategic or creative insight to grasp. But what really struck me was the lack of customer focus in much of the literature. If we look at many of the successful brands today, they “inspire people to lead better lives” (we could get cynical here and say actually just give people the impression of buying a better lifestyle). Either way, they are about emotional connection and aspiration. Yet, this step is easily lost in much of the literature on marketing planning. Maybe in commercial marketing this is a little less surprising – but in social marketing that is very worrying. I agree that following the steps of the planning process is necessary to achieve a potentially successful plan, but that should not be an excuse to loose the focus on customer-driven insights, co-creation or even completely open-source marketing. I’m convinced that bringing these steps into the planning process would help to make sure much of the outcomes would be more successful than relying on expert opinion and interpretation in the crucial stages of strategy development and marketing mix design. Not a radical shift from what’s out there and what we teach – but definitely a subtle but important change in emphasis, and a large shift in self-image of (future) marketers: Away from an image of the “strategy setting expert” and emphasising the “enabling coach” qualities in future marketers.

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