marketing orientationRead any of the marketing text books and you’ll hear talk of companies having a marketing orientation.  This approach basically says that rather than producing a product and then trying to sell it to the market, companies instead have a strong sense of what it is the market wants and then provide that.  The role of social media in that process should be an obvious one, yet so often we see social media being used in a product orientated way.  This approach sees social media being used primarily to advertise rather than engage or listen.

That the principle role of marketing is to constantly collect data upon which the organisation can respond is a philosophy that has been around for a good 50 years, with a generation of marketers educated with that philosophy.  So why do so many fail to abide by it?

Last year IBM conducted arguably the biggest study of Chief Marketing Officers there has ever been.  We’re talking in depth interviews with over 1,700 CMOs from around the world here.  They were asked which parts of the traditional 4p’s marketing mix they felt they had the most influence over.  The results are quite telling.

They reported that they had most control and influence over the promotion part of the marketing mix, reporting an influence score of 4.2 out of 5.  That’s not surprising given the anecdotal evidence suggesting that many marketers still regard their primary role as one of advertising and promotion.  What of the other three parts though?
Interestingly ‘product’ came next on the list, albeit with a less impressive 3.5 out of 5.  Place comes in 3rd with 3.2 and price lags behind in last place with a paltry 3.1 out of 5.  A hefty chunk of respondants reported no control over either place or price.  It’s worrying stuff, because marketing could, and should, be so much more than mere promotion, and the lack of a true marketing orientation is significantly hindering social media deployment and effectiveness.
It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that those respondants that revealed high control over the marketing mix also reported the highest success levels with social media.

Does it matter?

If you’re not in the marketing team, or maybe even if you are, you might ask yourself if it even matters if you’re not a ‘pure’ marketer.  You seem to be doing ok, muddling along and still making some money.  You can probably already guess my own feelings on the matter, but the survey supports this, revealing the areas where a lack of marketing orientation causes real pain for companies.

#1 Dealing with complexity

Firstly when it comes to tackling change and complexity, those companies with a high level of control over the marketing mix, and in particular with the collection of data upon which to make decisions, handled things considerably better than their non-marketing led counterparts.  On the whole it was reported that marketing led companies were better prepared for future threats and marketplace risks.

#2 Outperforming the industry

The survey also compared the marketing orientation of companies with their success in the marketplace.  They found that those with a marketing orientation were significantly more likely to outperform the industry than their non-marketing peers.

What’s stopping us?

Well if the IBM study is any indicator, it seems the makeup of the board is the main hurdle to overcome.  They found a direct correlation between the success of the company and how highly the senior management team rated marketing’s contribution to the business.

The effectiveness of marketing and social business seem so intertwined.  Both rely to a large extent on achieving company wide buy-in so that the relevant behaviours form part of the corporate culture and enfuse how everyone in the company behaves.  This requires breaking both marketing and social business out of the silos within which they often fall.  Unless both can be freed from the shackles of a focus purely on promotion it will undermine rather than underpin success, both of marketing and of the organisation.  It’s sad that 50 years after this became standard theory, it is still far from widespread.  Hopefully it won’t take another 50 years to see progress made however, as companies try to integrate the goals of marketing into a larger, more encompassing vision of markets and consumers.