Beyond Efficiency

Great marketing is done efficiently—and creates efficiencies for the business at large. But we marketers also serve a higher purpose that shouldn’t be forgotten. Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

Way back in history, Peter Drucker—the father of business consulting—stated that the two most important functions in any business are marketing and innovation. Everything else is just costs. Times have changed. In the modern, spreadsheet-driven world, marketing has come down a few pegs. In this climate, marketing methods that are hard to measure can easily take a back seat to more spreadsheet-friendly activities. 

If you want proof, witness the enormous size of the digital advertising market. We are very keen on finding and targeting customers, but what about creating them? Over time, this focus on measurability can change the way marketing is perceived in the organization. If we’re not careful, Drucker’s view is flipped and we become the cost centre.

This development worries Rory Sutherland: “The framing of marketing as an efficiency driver, rather than a creator of opportunity, should be of concern to all marketers.” So what can a marketing leader do to reset perceptions and position marketing as creators of opportunity?

  • First: don’t come out swinging at spreadsheets and measurement. Instead, adopt a more balanced, holistic view. Mark Ritson calls this mindset “bothism”.
  • Second: here’s a fun trick—use numbers to push back on the dominance of numbers. The effectiveness work of Binet and Fields is a great place to start.
  • Third: brush up on your fundamentals. And encourage your team to do the same. The four P’s have been around since Drucker’s day, but they’re just as relevant today. And they’re a great reminder of the full toolkit marketing can use to create opportunities.
If this sounds daunting, take heart: after all, what department is better suited to change the narrative and reset perceptions? Here’s a handy seven-step plan for mounting an internal campaign on the full value marketing can provide. If you’re looking to give this initiative a codename, we think “Project Drucker” has a nice ring to it.
Issue #121
Jun 27, 2021

Further Reading