Marketing Students guilty of negligence?

Marketing BooksAs a marketing graduate I read with interest David Meerman Scott’s views on how many marketing professors could be guilty of malpractice in the way they teach the subject.

Part of me agreed, I remember in a tutor group session explaining Chasm Theory to my fellow students and the lecturer. But then I thought ‘how come I knew about Chasm Theory and other students didn’t?’

The answer is simple – and this advice holds for students of any subject: read around your subject. Voraciously. Find online discussion groups (this was 1996, I was on Guy Kawasaki’s Rules for Revolutionaries mailing list and the contact with real-life tech-savvy marketers was invaluable and inspiring to me). Nowadays there are many more forums, mailing lists and groups to get involved in. Authors, like David and Seth Godin have blogs so you can keep up with what they’re thinking about in-between books. Not that one has to wait long for something to read these days; it seems there’s a new ‘New Marketing’ or Social Media Marketing book published every week. The biggest problem is keeping on top of all this material.

For this reason I would have to disagree, marketing professors shouldn’t be sued for malpractice – they teach to a course, a curriculum set well in advance and based on a course prospectus. I get that the text books are long in the tooth, I think it’s great that David’s New Rules of Marketing & PR is on the reading list for a number of marketing programmes, it should be on more. So should Purple Cow. And How to Drive the Competition Crazy, because the marketing set texts are dry and stuffy. The practice of marketing on the other hand is not – it’s the lifeblood of an organisation. Books that encourage you to try something new, be remarkable and give recent real-world case studies prove that.

Is there still a place for Kotler?

Absolutely. A lot of Marketing Management is just common sense couched in academic terms, but it needs to be ingested. Some of it just begs to be overturned (one of my favourite essay approaches was using contemporary case studies to prove a particular assumption wrong) but for a book like ‘New Rules’ to make any sense, don’t you have to know what the old rules are? Don’t you need an idea of what kind of predictable moves the competition are likely to make? (Admittedly an assumption on my part – that the competitor’s marketing team are still running on Marketing 1.0.)

Shiny object syndrome

The presenters of the marketing podcast Marketing Over Coffee often refer to ‘Shiny object syndrome’ – the way that some people obsess over the latest new toy/social network/location-based game. There’s a danger in pursuing the shiny object too fervently. if marketing lecturers had spent a semester teaching Second Life, a few years back, how would those students feel about that module now? I was taught basic HTML as part of my marketing course. It was somewhat superfluous for me, but for the rest of the class? At least they understand the difference between H1 and P tags. If the lecturer had taught Pagemill (yes I’m that old) instead, how much use would those lessons be now?

What to do?

I was impressed to learn that my alma mater now includes real-world marketing experience as part of the course. Students are, under adult supervision, given a small budget to market a local business. Assignments like this will favour students that read around and are familiar with the more efficient methods that Marketing 2.0 brings. Universities could provide recommended reading lists, but that takes away the initiative from the student. Marketing students ought to be mavericks, railing against the hegemony of Kotler et al. Anyone who isn’t is doomed to play by the old rules. Any student that doesn’t take their education seriously and relies on their professors for all their learning is themselves negligent. So what’s the answer? Drum home the message READ AROUND YOUR SUBJECT!

Image credit: Hubspot via Creative Commons on Flickr.

Good Enough and Chasm Theory

crossing the chasmThis recent article in Wired, which suggests that now technologies just need to be ‘good enough’ to be a mainstream success. Examples given range from the Flip video camera, Skype and MP3. Another piece in the same issue discusses the Craig’s List phenomenon to which similar logic can be applied.

It reminded me of Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm (wikipedia summary) where he analyses the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and propounds the existence of a chasm between the innovators/early adopters and the early majority – where the real money is made by any technology product.

The reasons given for the chasm’s existence is that whilst the innovators and early adopters will be happy with the rough edges of a disruptively innovative product (citing the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule) the rest of the market want something that offers ‘the whole product’. Apple’s iPod is a perfect example of this in fact. The iPod was a disruptive innovation that keen Mac fans flocked to but very few other people – you could make it work with a PC but it wasn’t easy. At launch it was a standalone product. One of the things that made the iPod a mass-market success was the whole product offering – Apple’s own iTunes and the enormous eco-system that exists around it offering cases and all manner of accessories.

That was the early part of this century. Have things changed so much that ‘good enough’ is fine with more than those on the bleeding edge? Or are the examples in the Wired article successes because they get the the very core of what is important to everybody and not bother with the unnecessary parts that cater purely to the aficionado? Perhaps we could even question whether some of these products have even reached the early majority stage of their lifecycle yet. Plenty of people use Skype but the potential market is many times larger.

How has the Flip camera changed since its introduction? Has it added in-camera effects? Are there 12 models to choose from? No – that’s what a traditional consumer electronics company would do. The Flip has avoided feature-creep as much as possible and continuing to address a core need, only increasing specs when this could be achieved without significantly altering the value proposition of the product.

It seems to me that true mass-market commercial success nowadays comes not from winning the specifications war but in having the easiest-to-use product and this can only be a good thing.

Photo credit: karenwithak