Marketing 3.0: Puffery so extreme it is unreadable

I recently had the misfortune of reading a 20 page excerpt of Philip Kotler’s Marketing 3.0.   You’d have to pay me far more than my standard hourly rate to induce me to read more of it.

Kotler is one of the most famous marketing professors at any business school.  His text book Marketing Management is not only in the standard today (the 14th edition is on my shelf for instance), but was also the text book of many of today’s marketing professors when they first studied marketing.  If this man is the academic standard bearer for marketing, I’m starting to understand why people have such a low opinion of marketing.  Current thought about marketing, by marketing’s most famous experts, tends not to be rigorous or practical.

Apparently, this begins with a lack of understanding of what marketing is for.

In Part III, we share their thoughts on several key implementations of Marketing 3.0 for solving global issues such as wellness, poverty, and environmental sustainability and how corporations can contribute by implementing the human-centric business model.

I’m as much a believer that corporations can change the world as anyone, but marketing as a discipline discovers and stimulates demand.  Period, full stop.  Corporations can have a good effect on society and have done a great deal to improve the human condition.  I’m  glad that marketers slinging sugar water or floor wax can feel good about themselves, but for those of us in emerging industries that really will change the world, we need our marketers to have a laser focus.

The confusion continues when he discusses actual products.  Apart from shameless promotion of S.C. Johnson (Kotler is the S.C. Johnson and Son, Professor of Marketing) he seems to be quite confused about the real market drivers of products.  He goes on at length about Timberland’s social responsibility program.  I don’t know if this had any impact on Timberland–perhaps it did.  However, I’ve never heard anything about this, but I have seen tons of earned media for Timberland based on catering to gangters, rappers, and wannabes. Nary a word about this.  I’ve seen maybe 1-2 actual outdoorsmen wear Timberlands in my life, but hundreds if not thousands of wannabe toughs wearing them–admittedly not a scientific survey, but it is at least more than anecdote.   You know what would be useful in this discussion?  Data!  Kotler and his co-authors do not provide that though.

If you’re interested in creating demand for specific robotic products, please skip Kotler and his disciples.  You would be far better served to read someone who comes out of the start-up world and has a rigorous, measurement driven approach to marketing.   Steve Blank, Eric Ries, and Geoffrey Moore all tackle marketing challenges in a much more practical and implementable fashion.  They are also concerned primarily with keeping businesses that really do have the potential to change the world in business long enough for them to do that.  To them, marketing doesn’t need to be a special calling with magic thinking about how the discipline is going to change the world.  To them, marketing needs to fulfill its business function, discovering and creating demand, at a minimum of cost and as quickly as possible.

No finance or operations professional would tout finance or operations 3.0 as being fundamentally different from all that came before it.  These disciplines have highly measurable results in the world that they can easily explain to stakeholders outside the discipline that take the time to understand.  Marketing should be no different–be very wary of anyone who says that it is about the human spirit.

About Robert Morris
A robotics businessman working to make the economy more human.

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