The 4Ps Hinder Marketing Integration
Integration is clearly in the hands of educators, not practitioners or managers
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Integrated marketing and marketing communication should go hand in hand in order for companies to really benefit from integration. MBAs who are freshly minted should be immersed into this in order for them to be of value to companies in the short-term. One set of experts say integration should only be taught to graduate students because students must know the basics of marketing, promotion and communication before they can integrate them. The second school of thought wonders why teach separate functional areas when integration is the goal? Teach it right the first time -- to undergraduate students.
An experiment is on in one of the universities I work with. The thinking is that if they started with the brand - the perfect unifying element - integration of all functional communication and promotional elements would be much easier. The brand integration should take away the internal difficulties of integration, because if the marketing and communication managers focussed on the brand, they would also focus on the customer. Integrate the brand and you integrate the customer as well as the marketing and communication activities. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Marketing isn't naturally integrative, and neither is communication. There are major structural challenges in the way marketing and communication has developed, much of which has to do with academic theory and how marketing and communication are not just taught, but practised.
The subject of brand valuation focuses on how much the brand would be worth if sold, whether the brand is put on the balance sheet and so on. All these have little to do with the value of the brand to the person who reaches for his or her wallet and chooses one brand over another. Trying to understand the brand from the view of the customer will lead to customer brand relationships. If one considers the brand to be the relationship between the customer and the marketer, then many of the concepts of relationship marketing are very relevant. The problem with marketing is a lack of theory, or perhaps even the wrong theory. Marketing has become a discipline based on the management of Jerome McCarthy's 4Ps, which has little to do with customers or relationships or brands or anything else supposedly inherent in the marketing concept. Students are taught that marketing is the proper management and allocation of these resources, and that customers are pawns in the strategic use of those tools.
Almost every academic and most practitioners adhere to Michael Porter's competitive framework that stresses developing a competitive corporate advantage. That model should have been irrelevant some time back. There is nothing called sustainable competitive advantage. Most competitive advantages last for 5 months on an average. I think most consultants have known this for a long time now.
It seems as if competitors, not customers, seem to drive the strategy for most organisations. That is another reason why it is difficult to develop integrated marketing and communication programmes and approaches. Organisations focus prima facie on managing the 4Ps, which is why they have departments and functions responsible for each of them. Strategic planning groups try to determine and "out-strategise" competitors. But in most organisations, there are few people and resources dedicated to understanding and identifying customer needs and wants. Integration only works when it has a beneficial impact on customers and consumers. When viewed as a corporate initiative, integration offers no value to the 4P managers or the competitive strategists.
Most of all, marketers and educators need to re-consider how the customer fits into all this marketing and communication theory. Right now, customers are after-thoughts that have been tagged onto theory and added into marketing approaches when external focus was needed. In short, customers and consumers, and their relationships with the marketing organisation, just aren't terribly important for most organisations and educators! Who can change marketing theory? Who can change how marketing communications is taught? Who can research and revise current marketing and marketing communication practice? The answer is, those who teach marketing and communication.
Integration is clearly in the hands of educators, not practitioners or managers. It's time these educationists re-thought the concepts they research and teach. Maybe then they will be able to determine how and when and to whom they should teach integration. Don't wait till a Western professor tells the world!
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