Ask people around you “What does the word Marketing means to you?”, and you’ll hear people describing the advertising / communications and other Promotional areas of the Marketing discipline. Very few (mainly people who are formally educated in Business / Marketing) will know about the 4 P’s (Product, Pricing, Placement and Promotion), and the intricacies of the Marketing profession at a fundamental level. And that’s ok. Most people don’t know about the intricacies of many other professions and disciplines, unless they are, or working with the people who are working in those disciplines.
Then, you’ll find that people will refer to themselves (or worse – get others to refer to them) as Marketing Gurus / Ninjas / Experts, yet have no real or deep enough understanding of what the Marketing Discipline is. I meet these people everyday: The Web designer, the SEO expert, the Social Media guru, the PR specialist, or the “creative”, who decides one day to expand their area of activities, and now refer to themselves as “Marketers”. Unfortunately, in many cases, they are not. When you ask them simple questions relating to the marketing profession, beyond their own expertise (such as pricing methodology, product development cycles, international branding challenges, etc…) they are likely to develop an instant stutter, or worse – make stuff up!
Unfortunately, this isn’t new, nor limited to the marketing profession: Lawyers may take on cases in fields they are unfamiliar with. Engineers will try to apply their knowledge gained in their field of engineering on other fields, etc.
This is obviously harmful to the reputation of the real, qualified and experienced professionals. But it’s even more harmful to their clients, or the receiver of the “experts advice”. Those unsuspected victims will suffer the real consequences of the ill informed Guru / Ninja / Expert’ advice.
Unlike Prof. Mark Ritson, I’m not trying to sell “formal qualifications”. Don’t get me wrong – University qualifications are great as a starting point, but should only set you up for a lifelong journey of learning. I realise that in the marketing profession, like in many other disciplines, what you’ve studied in University can become obsolete very quickly. As I can attest from my own business studies – I’ve graduated in the mid ’90 – my profession has significantly changed in the past 20 years. If I were to only apply the knowledge I’ve formally gained in my day-to-day, I’ll be doing a great disservice to my clients. Instead – in the past 20 years I’ve read hundreds of books, attended seminars, participated in MOOCs, dialled in to webinars, listened to dozens of audio books, watched YouTube videos, subscribed to blogs, and followed marketing and business thought leaders on their social media channels, to gain up-to-date knowledge. In addition, I’ve worked in the profession, I’ve learned from every client interaction and from every supplier interaction, and have conducted my own research, to better my professional capabilities.
When you look for an Expert / Guru / Visionary in any field, it’s important not only to look at their own title, their formal qualifications, or their own claims-to-fame. Ask around – talk to the people they’ve worked with, the people they’ve managed, and the people who’d managed them.
Don’t fall for the logos of their former employers, or the “formal qualifications” attained in the distant past – seek the substance, and find the real value they’ve added to others, in a similar situation as yourself.
In my opinion – Marketing as a discipline hasn’t changed. The tools have evolved, the methodologies have somewhat changed. Technology and world-events have had profound impact in recent decades on the way people and companies communicate, and their expectations from each other. Technology and world event have had a profound impact on many other professions too – medicine, engineering, music, arts, and politics amongst others.
Feel free to agree / disagree