Last week The Harvard Business Review Online published an article ‘Marketing Is Dead, and Loyalty Killed It’, which, due to its sensationalist headline was quickly circulated via social media.
While I normally wouldn’t respond to such content, the fact that it has been published on a reputable online platform, and came up in several conversations over the week, has led me to revisit how marketing does need to be redefined.
While the author claims that the Chief Marketing Officer should be replaced by the Chief Loyalty Officer, there is a failure to recognise that loyalty is created through a brand, which is executed through a marketing plan.
As a result, the premise is incorrect, given that the author defines marketing as “selling products”, and not the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large (American Marketing Association, Definition of Marketing, Approved July 2013), which is a viewpoint shared by the Australian Marketing Institute.
Furthermore, the case studies, which cite Chioptle and Apple, fail to recognise the role of marketing in creating the value proposition that fosters ongoing customer loyalty.
Apple has strong consumer loyalty, due to its disruptive approach to technology, which encompasses quality, design, ease of use, as well as an ecosystem that serves to cross-sell and support complementary products. This loyalty was fostered through a marketing approach that executed each of these elements in a consistent and seamless manner. What Apple has done well is determine its strategic marketing direction and follow this through with execution. The few times this execution has been underwhelming, there has been a negative reaction to its overall brand value. As an example, the replacement of Google Maps, with Apple Maps, which at the time did not meet the perception of quality, demonstrated how an inconsistent approach adversely impacted the brand and marketing approach.
Loyalty is not created, it is initiated through a strategic marketing plan that recognises the importance of customers. These customers serve as evangelists, and in turn stimulate repeat purchases, as well as support complementary products or services. Apple in devising its approach to the iPod and iPhone, would have recognised that its customers, and in particularly its niche in design, were an existing strength.
The narrow viewpoint of marketing is unfortunately far too common. What is unexpected, however is when a reputable platform, such as the Harvard Business Review, publishes such views.
Marketing begins with strategy. This strategic direction identifies the value proposition and the marketing mix that is required to achieve these outcomes. For many businesses loyalty is a direction that is part of this mix.
Marketing does need to be redefined, primarily because far too many people have been able to claim that they are ‘marketers’, without adhering to a professional standard. The author of ‘ Marketing Is Dead, and Loyalty Killed It’ is a clear example of this.