The (new) Marketing Revolution

Is marketing that makes business sense.

Pillsbury-doughboyFirst a short trip down memory lane to an article by Robert J Keith — who was then Executive Vice President consumer product area and a Director of the Pillsbury Company — published in the Journal of Marketing circa 1959. [hat tip and link Mark Earls]

The revolution Keith talks about is based on a change of philosophy (in business), and one of its effects will be the emergence of marketing as the dominant function in American business.

It is a fascinating article especially due to the clarity of thought and simplicity of presentation. Also, see Pillsbury history.

What is this revolutionary idea?

The consumer is at the center of the business universe.

Just like when in science Galileo put the theory that earth was at the center of the universe to the test and demonstrated it worked, Keith takes readers through the evolution of the consumer at the center concept at Pillsbury.

The four eras at the company mirror the marketing revolution:

  • 1st era, production oriented — with product manufacturing at the center: we have wheat, and we have water power. Let's make flour.
  • 2nd era, sales oriented — with product distribution at the center: dealers, wholesales, retail channels as well as the ultimate consumer matter. Let's find out more so we can sell more.
  • 3rd era, marketing oriented — with consumer business at the center: we have market research from selling and the ability to make lots of different products. Let's figure out what to prioritize.
  • 4th era, marketing control — with marketing setting operating policy for the short-term: with consumer research, technical research, procurement, production, advertising, and sales getting all the (short-term) action. Let's keep working what we've got now.

As Keith writes, the marketing concept proved its worth in sales at Pillsbury. But it upset many of the internal balances of the corporation. Decisions based on marketing resulted in peaks and valleys in productions, schedules, labor, and inventories

It worked though. And it worked better and better as maverick marketers became motivated toward tonnage and profit.

The future vision was for marketing to become the basic motivating force for the entire corporation. As in aimed at satisfying the needs and desires of the consumer.

Are we there yet?

Center_of_the_universe_tshirtIt's been an interesting journey down memory lane.

Today, marketing is the predominant selling value in many direct-to-consumer corporations — at scale and in the short-term motivate and influence implementation strongly, if not exclusively.

Digital media and social technologies are a marketing puzzle to figure out in all organizations. Even as in many firms it is the communication group who drives.

Has marketing in control failed to attempt, or has it attempted and failed? Are we doing marketing that makes business sense?

As Stephen King points out in his book, there is a persistent gap marketers feel a need to fill between theory and practice.

Many of the questions we're still grappling with are a dare to go from strategy to implementation, from program launch to measurement of results.



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.

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