The Role of Marketing – Yesterday and Tomorrow

I come from the old school of Marketing – the 4 P's of Product, Place, Promotion and Price. In those days the Marketing department was the hub of the company. Marketing developed unit forecasts that drove manufacturing and/or supplier orders, Marketing set pricing that was used by finance to compute the revenue and profitability of the company, which in turn established budgets for all departments in the company, Marketing chose and trained the distribution channels that were carefully selected and modified as the volume grew (or declined) and the product positioning, branding and lead generation was handled by the Marketing Marcom group. In short, Marketing worked, and had to work well, with all elements of the company.


In addition, the Product Manager was responsible for the full product life cycle of products; introducing new products and sun-setting older ones. His/her cost estimates were integral to profitability and his/her actions played a large part in the cost of carrying inventory


In some companies where I worked the Product Manager was viewed as a de- facto General Manager, but without P&L responsibility…although this often played a large part of his/her evaluation.


Today, I am inundated with blogs, articles and info-graphics on “What will Marketing look like in 10 years?” or “The Future of Marketing” or “Marketing = Customer Service and Digital Marketing.”


These content generators start by focusing on their definition of Marketing, brought on by the changes in the last 10 years. And many things have changed; inbound marketing, ecommerce, CRM and Marketing automation, big data, etc. etc. Yet a few constructs remain, whether you are a B2C or B2B customer.


  • Somebody must understand the customer's pain points and take the responsibility to build/deliver a product that removes that pain, at a reasonable price. This has nothing to do with any of the new marketing developments, and it drives much of the R&D or procurement that takes place around the world. If this isn't being done in the Marketing department, where is it taking place?

  • While Zappos has done an enviable job in selling shoes and clothing, there are still a large number of retail shoe and clothing shops that are patronized daily. Not everything gets sold through ecommerce (although Amazon and Google would like this to happen). Getting the right product to the customer effectively (meaning channel selection and training) is a Marketing responsibility. If this isn't being done in Marketing, where is it taking place?

  • Pricing a product is a delicate strategy. If you price too low, you can leave money on the table. If you price too high, you might not get any demand. Also, the price of your product conveys its market positioning…where it fits versus competitors or the collection of others who might do the same thing. One of the first things a Product Manager learns is not to price based on cost. If there is not enough margin in the product, the PM has to be able to defend his/her pricing decision to the Management team as part of an overall strategy. Marketing should be responsible for pricing; leaving it to a clerk in the finance department is a quick end game.

  • Reaching the customer has changed. The buyer today, whether it be a consumer or commercial product, probably knows more about your product, its strengths and weakness and how it is ranked than most of your employees. The Internet and web have facilitated these changes. Out are broad commercial appeals (TV, Radio) and blanket direct mailings of catalogs (unless you are Restoration Hardware). In are attractive web sites, knowledge transfer, emails to specific target market segments and nurturing campaigns that lead to a sales closure.


Here are some suggestions for “evolving” companies who may be enamored with the new wave of digital activity.


  1. There should be one person responsible for a product/product line. If there isn't, you are going to have problems.

  2. That person must have responsibility to define the product, (feature, functions, benefits) and is responsible to declare it market ready. If Engineering or Management is making this decision, they are doing so with a different agenda.

  3. That person must have the responsibility to price the product, as this is integral to the product positioning, which impacts branding.

  4. There needs to be a person to train the sales force, whether it be tel-sales, direct sales, or distributors of the product. He/she must also convey this information to the content writers and people who populate the web pages. If there is no-one to do this, the product won't get sold, or orders taken.


My advice regarding all these articles that are appearing about “The New Marketing” is to ignore them. On the other hand, if you find yourself in an organization where the traditional Marketing responsibilities are dispersed, you might want to move on.





2 comments to The Role of Marketing – Yesterday and Tomorrow

  • Those of us schooled in strategic marketing think of marketing as the grand game, the GM of the business. Today's marketers predominately think of marketing as promotion, not strategy. Marcom has been equated with Marketing (thus the Promo "P"). In most cases today, product management is NOT part of marketing but part of development. Product managers are focused on only the Product "P"–not price, place, or promo–and not focused on the business issues. 

  • Cynthia Sheppard Lavenson


    I love this.  You summed it up perfectly.  Bravo!

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