Marketing is Dead?: Response to Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts’ bold as brass declaration that ‘marketing is dead’ has induced a nationwide disappearance of eyebrows, as they spring into industry hairlines everywhere with the kind of shocked skepticism that only a true radical can achieve.

Roberts’ general stance is hung around the changing face of brand communication, where the low-cost immediacy characterising the digital age is fast becoming a major challenger to the former effectiveness of the ‘big idea’ – the dedicated and costly marketing campaign designed to hit wide audiences with one perfectly executed, strategically honed message.  His suggestion is that brands scrap strategy and instead embrace the power of the people – effectively letting the public decide what they want to interact with by releasing a ‘little-and-often’ supply of creative ideas.

“To win today you need a culture and an environment where the unreasonable power of creativity thrives.” 

A creative bunch ourselves, we can appreciate what he’s saying.  And you only need to look at junior singing sensation Sophia Grace, Charlie’s brother with the bitten finger, or Ben- sorry Fenton the dog, to see how effective social media can be for distributing popular ideas.  But scrap strategy althogether?  As one Drum reader points out:

“Try telling that to Apple. Their strategy of delivering a great user experience while locking people into iTunes hasn’t done them too badly. Just because you need vision doesn’t mean you can run a business without a plan!”

Ignoring strategy altogether does seem like an outlandish idea, and in actual fact that’s just what Roberts has put out there.  It’s a radical view.  Just as politicians work on a spectrum of right wing to left wing, with everything positioned somewhere in between, polar opposites strategic planning and creativity do much the same.  Creativity is a most valuable currency in the world of business success.  But can it act alone?  And does it make sense for it to do so?

Having a dream for your brand is wonderful, but without an understanding of the market, or a realistic plan of how that dream can become an actuality, then surely you’re running the risk that that is exactly how it will remain -  a dream.  Strategy and creativity aren’t separate entities, they’re intrinsically linked at opposite ends of a continuum, and effective business is balancing somewhere between the two.

Laura Moulden

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