The Marketing Staff: strategic enemies of your business

The Marketing Staff: strategic enemies of your business

The information available from open sources indicates that Jobs was no engineer, not much of a manager and quite a mediocrity as a leader. A capable manipulator at best. But, beyond doubt, he was a marketer of genius, one of the greatest ones in the history of business.

"The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself."

Peter Drucker

The essence of Marketing can’t be described more accurately than in the epigraph. Do not even look at volumes like Kotler’s; these boil down to less sense than what fits into that couple of lines.

And now a tricky question: Do you think that the marketers you employ actually do quite the opposite to what the epigraph says?
Well, if you come to think of it?

That’s it.

So they are "marketers" in inverted commas only. They are rather advertisers. That is, people who spend the money of your company’s shareholders on goods promotion. We are convinced that money spent on advertising (like on any other things) without payback measured in Dollars definitely go down the toilet.

Once your "marketologists" will hardly be able to explain the practical benefit of their activities to you, so the only thing that they do is… wasting money (which is 99% probable).

1% accommodates such really useful employees as contextual advertising managers (if you really can measure their efficiency) or those responsible for using marketing budgets supplied by vendors.

But even the activities mentioned above have nothing to do with marketing: in the first case, it is mainly painstaking technical work of a subject-matter expert. In the latter, a mixture of creative accounting and corrupt connections in the media that enables minimum advertising expenses and a maximum reimbursement and thus generate quite a measurable profit.

The quality of the advertising activities themselves are of no matter for are not taken seriously by anybody as a sales booster.

And rightly so.

Let us leave your "marketing experts" alone for now, and look at the top. There is a 100 years old debate about what the head of a company should be: an expert in the manufacturing of its product or a competent manager. A competent manager, some say, can manage anything, as the principles of management are the same everywhere. There is a wealth of reasoning behind both viewpoints.

But neither is correct.

The company head is to be a marketer, first and foremost. We are no way talking of qualifications. No, a company’s head must be a born marketer.

A load of books about Steve Jobs, especially those published after his death, are dedicated to studying his leadership skills. Only a great leader could create a great Company, they say. It’s hard to say whether Apple is a great company, ones there are not any measurable parameters of "greatness", but there is no doubt Apple makes incredibly successful (= super-profitable) products.

Interestingly, no book about Jobs" leadership says anything specific or sensible about that "leadership". No wonder for all the information from open sources indicates that Jobs was no engineer, not much of a manager and quite a mediocrity as a leader (a capable manipulator at best). But, beyond doubt, Jobs was a marketer of genius, one of the greatest ones in the history of business.

A bit of history.

Henry Ford’s success was not based on the conveyor assembly line, as the general public tends to believe. Rather, it was based on the strategic positioning of his product as a cheap auto FOR EVERYBODY.

That was his real and revolutionary innovation. And the conveyor was a secondary, very technical means to keep the cost as low as needed.

Other car manufacturers could do without a conveyor perfectly well, as they made expensive PIECEWORK or small-series high-end cars. Just the way both Rolls-Royce and Morgan have always done perfectly well without a conveyor.

Let alone the fact that Henry Ford was not the one who invented or the first one to use it.

Akio Morita was known to be a brilliant engineer. However, Japan in general and Sony Co. in particular still have lots of brilliant engineers. Well, what of it? As soon as it leads to nothing the number of engineers as well as their genius means nothing either.

Sony owed its incredible success to Akio Morita who was Japan’s first marketer. And its last one — judging from the sad trash that Japanese corporations (not only Sony) have been producing over the last decades.

Alfred Sloan, the actual creator of General Motors Co., was one of the most successful managers of the 20th century. But, much more importantly, he was an exceptionally far-sighted and talented marketing expert who formulated the principle of an ascending ladder of brands, from Chevrolet to Cadillac. It was thanks to Sloan’s marketing excellence that both under Sloan and, by inertia, for a fairly long time after him General Motors would earn exorbitant money, to eventually become the world’s first company whose annual profit exceeded one billion dollars.

A billion of those weighty dollars of the 1960s, Carl! Not today’s ones. When GM marketing became the exclusive domain of hired marketers — while the CEO, with his Board of Directors, was interested in nothing but EBITDA and equity price movement, then the notorious badge engineering set in, and the value of most GM brands, once so glorious, was annihilated with the brands themselves. The world’s once most profitable business was driven bankrupt.


The company head must be a marketer in the true sense of the word, focused mainly on forming a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and a differentiation strategy (which is generally the same but differently worded).

All the rest — 'leadership', 'team', 'spirit', "mission" and similar mantras from business consultants — is at least secondary, if not gibberish.

The main evil emanating from marketers on the staff is not their sponging or frittering exorbitant sums of money away. The main marketing evil lies in their very existence: if a company has a Marketing Division, the top manager is strongly tempted to believe that he has highly competent specialists in charge of all the marketing issues.

Believing himself to be a progressive manager, he delegates and does not to bother. Meanwhile he is busy doing something else, looking at the expenses, for example. Only a few, like the abovementioned icons of business, can overcome this temptation.

Even if you are fabulously lucky to have a true marketing expert on the staff, it will not help, be it Steve Jobs in flesh. Why is that?

Beyond doubt, before Steve Jobs with his iPhone similar ideas were born in other companies — but they were all buried..

It is easy as ABC — an individual marketer, other than the head of his company, has no chance in the intra-corporate fuss against all those technicians, engineers, businessmen and financiers.

Only being Apple’s CEO was Jobs in a position to tell his engineers, "the phone must have one button — end of!’" — and thus stifle all squeaks that it was "impossible". What if he’d been merely an employee in their marketing department? Xerox is a wonderful illustration of the what would have happened.

The story so far. From the aforesaid it is crystal-clear what we recommend that you do about your marketers. Do it now.

P.S. Sceptical readers might query: "and what do you think companies like P&G should do about their dozens, if not hundreds of brands in all sorts of consumer areas and niches?" No CEO will ever cope with such a volume of marketing efforts.

Right you are. True, a crowd of professional marketers can’t cope either — that is why giant conglomerates like P&G and alike regularly kill their brands, even after decades of exemplary service.

Here’s what should be done: each brand or at least a group of brands of the goods category should be unbundled into separate companies with their own CEOs. The manufacturing/logistics should be separated into specialized companies that will work with all the brand companies on market outsourcing terms.

Incidentally, GM was organized in a very similar way under Sloan; each brand was a separate company, and the role of the headquarters was reduced to control and funding. What is damn specific, each brand would earn good money.

They lacked either imagination or technical capability, limited at the time, to unbundle the manufacturing enterprises from the brand companies. The price of that was colossal additional costs resulting from the inefficiency of their manufacturing business. However, even those enormous losses in their manufacturing units could not keep General Motors from remaining the world’s most profitable corporation.

That is the strength of true Marketing.

July 21, 2015