Of course a marketing consultant is not going to admit that the profession is dying as proposed by the now famous article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review blog, titled “Marketing Is Dead.”

This particular marketing consultant is certainly jealous of the controversial title of the article and the publicity it has received but has to disagree vehemently with the proposition that marketing is dead, not just to defend all marketing consultants and our profession, but because the claim is simply not true, especially when you examine the small business segment, which is yet to get a handle on the basic principles of marketing in general, let alone the more complex issues.

Firstly, lets recap the main points made by the article and then look at the so called evidence, to see whether I personally and my fellow marketing consultants in fact died on the fateful day of August 9th when this outlandish claim pronounced us dead.

Proposition 1:
Studies have confirmed that buyers are no longer paying much attention and  traditional marketing communications (Traditional marketing as defined buy the author — includes advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications)

Buyers are checking out product and service information in their own way, often through the Internet, and often from sources outside the firm such as word-of-mouth or customer reviews.

Rebuttal 1:
You don’t say! Wow, we marketing consultants have had our head in the sand all this time!?

For SME’s, based on the 2011 Hubspot Study, Inbound Marketing (prospects find you; Social Media, SEO, PPC and Blogs) has a 62% lower Cost Per Lead than Outbound Marketing (Direct Mail, Trade Shows, Telemarketing).

The situation is similar at the top end of town, with more and more companies investing less and less into traditional media and more and more into online and social media marketing, where dialogue can be had with their customers and prospects.

And whether the author, Bill Lee, likes it or not, all of these in-bound efforts still need skills of advertising, PR, and marketing communication professionals, albeit skills that now need to be upgraded through ongoing professional development, but again this is nothing new, it’s called change!

Additionally, Mr.Lee needs to be reminded that ‘branding’ is not a ‘traditional marketing communication’, but the result of them. Here are 2 articles on ‘what is branding’ – the most misused and misunderstood term in business today!

Proposition 2:
Studies show that CEOs have lost all patience with marketers and say they lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and are sick of all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.

Rebuttal 2:
Marketers are losing out to the bean counters in the boardroom, however assuming brand equity can not be linked to organisational success, which it actually can be: and
the CEO’s and their distinguished consultants do not have anything to replace the old world marketers with!

Additionally, and especially after the spate of recent global meltdowns, everyone is questioning the value of these overpaid CEO’s. So who cares what they think? Let them like sheep cut their marketing budgets which they regularly do during every economic downturn and they can then watch their competitors who keep investing into marketing pass them by:

1. A number of studies conducted since WWII showed something that marketers have known all along – keep marketing through the downturn. The following quote is from Professional Marketing, Oct-Dec 2008 – article titled “All Hands On Deck”: “…companies that increased marketing spend (relative to market size) during a recession, increased their return on capital employed by 5% in the recovery, compared to a 1% decline for the budget cutters”

2. Recent UK research, “Values of Design FactFinder by the Design Council” has shown that:

  • Rapidly growing businesses are nearly six times as likely as static ones to see design as integral.
  • Shares in design-led businesses have outperformed the FTSE 100 by more than 200% over the past decade.
  • For every £100 a design alert business spends on design, turnover increases by £225.
  • Businesses that add value through design see a greater impact on business performance than the rest.

And design is an integral part of the brand communication process, the very process that Bill Lee proclaims as a dead discipline.

Proposition 3:
In today’s increasingly social media-infused environment, traditional marketing and sales not only doesn’t work so well, it doesn’t make sense, because organization hires people — employees, agencies, consultants, partners — who don’t come from the buyer’s world and whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned with his, and expects them to persuade the buyer to spend his hard-earned money on something.

Rebuttal 3:
This one is the simplest proposition to shoot down. Obviously the problem is not hiring the right marketing people! Part of being a good marketer is the ability to get into people’s minds and hearts. Regardless of whether the marketing consultant is a user of the product or service they are promoting, the value of a marketing consultant is to be able to see challenges from the customer perspective and bring new solutions to the problem. If Apple asked their customers to design an MP3 player and a new phone they may have ended up with better products rather than the revolutions that were the iPod and iPhone. Great marketers have been able to give something of value to customers that customers didn’t even know they wanted.

The author then proposes solutions that every marketing consultant would certainly agree with as they have always been the backbone of successful marketing such as building passionate communities or tribes around your brand, targeting customer influencers, looking after VIP’s and assisting them to become advocates.

Marketing is evolving!
In conclusion, let’s put things in perspective – Marketing is not dead or dying, it like most other professions has some problems in the board room, but at least we don’t have a problem of image in the bedroom, as marketing is still seen as a sexy profession, albeit probably for all the wrong reasons.