The latest phase of my career is taking an interesting new direction. I am trying to get a more holistic look at “marketing” as a discipline and a practice, and analyze how all the elements of “marketing”, such as marketing research and brand management, fit together with management as a field. I’ve been thinking about this for over a year, and last year wrote an editorial for Canada’s national business newspaper, The National Post, on the topic. I originally titled it rather dramatically as “The End of Marketing” but they published it more positively as “Marketing’s Evolution.” Here is the original article, if you are interested.
Talking with the brilliant and insightful marketing researcher, consultant, professor, and author Shira Nayman about some mutual interests about six weeks ago, I was struggling with a term for what I was trying to say. “Consumer-centered marketing” was clumsy, but it was all I had. Wordsmith that she is, she suggested the term “People-Centered Marketing” and it really fit.
So when Ruth Bolton and the Marketing Science Institute came calling and asked me to present to their Annual Trustee’s meeting in San Francisco, this topic of “People-Centered Marketing” came to mind immediately as something I definitely wanted to introduce to their high-level group of academics and practitioners, in order to get their feedback and have them help me develop it.
The presentation was great, and the comments I received were extremely helpful. I thought I would share the introduction to the presentation with you, my beloved blog audience, in order to give you a flavor of this work and share some of what is to come.
As an anthropologist, I am drawn to the history of marketing-which likes in face-to-face, interpersonal exchange. It’s an aspect that lives on in service encounters and in marketing throughout much of the developing world, accounting for perhaps eighty percent of all exchanges.
Modern marketing, marketing as we know it, has moved away from face-to-face encounters, of course. That has happened for very good reasons of scale. But in this move away from the face of the consumer, something has been lost. Something vitally important. Marketing as a field has become increasing distanced form the consumer and her world.
The consumer has become less and less of a person, and more and more of an abstraction. An object, if you will.
In this presentation, I will propose that marketing as a field is in a state of slow decline. I will speculate that an important reason for this deterioration is because we have been following almost exclusively one somewhat limited model of understanding the consumer. This is a model which abstract, distances, and objectifies not only the consumer, but the marketer and the very act of marketing.
Acting as a bit of an agent provacateur, I will provoke more questions rather than propose answers to this dilemma.
Overall, I will suggest that we need to rethink how we think about consumer understanding. How will we seek to know our consumers? In our difficult and dynamic environment, that intensely philosophical examination is actually an extremely urgent question with immensely practical ramifications for how we do marketing and how we do business.
So, using and proposing the term “People-Centered Marketing” for the very first time, here, I will propose a more relational, conversational, lifeworld-centered style of both understanding and interacting with consumers as we go forward in these changing, challenging times.
- I will begin with a high-level look at the field of marketing as it currently stands
- Then, drawing on my own experiences as the founder of a new marketing research approach, I will reflect on why I think marketing must deal with these issues
- Then, the presentation takes a turn into philosophical terrains—into phenomenology and the “conservative wing of Heideggerian hermeneutics” to be exact—in order to unpack the meaning of understanding in relation to “understanding the consumer”
- From there, I explain three ways of understanding consumers which show how we need to refucos and balance what we do as marketers and marketing researchers
- Finally, I offer a few examples and some very cursory ideas about first steps towards strategically implementing these changes in the practice of day-to-day marketing and management.
And, yes, I did it all in a 35 minute presentation! I can’t quite believe that myself.
And if you want more, as *they* say, “Ya gotta buy the book.” Except it isn’t written yet… Comments from you, Gentle Readers, are always welcome. Thanks for listening, and for “understanding”….(see how subtle my patented fractal-segue-conclusions can be?….).