“What is marketing?” a question posed to me and an audience of business owners attending a seminar in 1986. Twelve people each delivered a completely different answer. This fed the lecturer’s premise that marketing was a catchall term for a loose array of business development activities.
Once upon a time…
Long before the Internet and email became omnipresent, it was mainly large corporations that practised anything resembling strategic marketing. TV; national press and magazine advertising were the only meaningful ways to reach audiences at that time and required big budgets. It was a period of huge waste as the broadcast media did not cater for precision targeted marketing. This was summed up by somebody once declaring “only half of my advertising budget works… if only I knew which half!”.
Marketing got its’ act together when technology enabled data to be captured and analysed. The embryonic discipline evolved from a disjointed group of loose activities into a structured set of processes and principles. The newly acquired data delivered specific results through more precisely targeted campaigns. Marketing’s centre of gravity shifted from the creative and intuitive space, to data and analytics.
The seeds of change
Marketing Directors on executive boards is a manifestation of marketing’s rise.
30 years ago, marketing directors were as rare as female CEO’s (still a shamefully low seven in FTSE 100 companies at time of writing). Now over 20% of FTSE 100 companies have CEOs from a marketing background. This rises to over 40% when you look at other sectors such as consumer and healthcare (source: Marketing week 2015)
Three decades ago business seemed a lot simpler. Companies had a comfort-zone in doing what they always did, working blinkered in vertical markets. Also, competitor threats were easy to identify and ring-fence. For instance, imagine the big banks carrying out a SWOT analysis and discussing the likely threats to their business. Building Societies would have been an obvious one on their radar. But back then who would have been challenged to think broadly enough to include Virgin (a record company at that time), Tesco’s, and Sainsbury’s as future direct competitors?
But as happened with the banks, whole sectors are being sideswiped by technology. The exponential pace of emerging technology means that those businesses with a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mindset are simply biding time!
It is usually someone from a different sector with a fresh take on the issue that wins. Think Uber, the world’s largest taxi company and it doesn’t own a single taxi! Constant dramatic change is the new status quo.
Process Driven Innovation. The new kid on the block
Prigogine’s theory of chaos states that out of disorder will come a new and higher order. I contend that Process Driven Innovation will become the new order for business.
Currently, Process Driven Innovation is where marketing once was; something flaky and not perceived as relevant to day-to-day business. But it is through applying Process Driven Innovation that a business can make the step changes needed to move up to the next level of performance. This would not only help them meet consumer needs, it has all the potential to drive them. Process Driven Innovation has the ability to keep a business relevant to its’ customers and prospective customers.
But Process Driven Innovation is not just about meeting and surpassing consumer needs, it’s true power lies in its ability to set the agenda. This is something that marketing alone is finding harder and harder to do.
A new standard?
There is now an imperative for Process Driven Innovation to become a standard business discipline just like marketing. The good news is by adding Process Driven Innovation to its business armoury, a company does not have to go through the usual upheaval associated with internal culture shift. With the right facilitation, Process Driven Innovation can be turned on and off like a tap.
Using the FTSE 100 benchmark, you would be hard pressed to find one CEO with a background in Innovation. Whilst most in commerce would site Apple Inc. and James Dyson as ‘beacons of Innovation’, very few companies could claim to systematically use innovation within their businesses. The dichotomy is further reinforced by the well-worn cliché “I want our company to be the ‘Apple’ of [insert industry/sector]”.
But as happened with marketing, we are going to see more innovators take leadership roles.
Innovation, innovation, innovation
The selling of mediocre products and services propped up by big marketing budgets (or even worse, inertia and apathy), delivered through narrow channels controlled by vested interests is being superseded by dynamic, integrated social media platforms. Today, effective marketing starts with innovative thinking and is no longer down to the size of the budget. Now a great idea or product can attract and be driven by the opinion formers, influencers and crowd funders that are fast becoming omnipresent. The business landscape has been truly liberated by social media
I believe there is a new and clear business hierarchy emerging. Marketing has settled into a role of developing and nurturing opportunities for sales. In the past this was enough to ensure business success. But today’s marketing processes and methodologies are poorly equipped to provide the step changes businesses now need to make to survive and thrive. This is where Process Driven Innovation comes in. By preceding marketing whenever step change is required, Process Driven Innovation will reveal and create the unique, inspiring opportunities for marketing to move forward.