Professor Malcolm MacDonald’s view of marketers Strategy | Kiran Kapur | 28 May 2015

And he's not impressed!

The College’s radio show interviewed Professor Malcolm McDonald and he gave his frank views that all is not well. In his two part interview, he firstly outlined the current state of marketing and in part 2, gives his views on the future of marketing.

He is concerned how marketing is viewed by other management disciplines. A 2007-2008 study of what CEOs think of marketing, found that marketers are not trusted and seen as wasteful. Research by Cranfield Business School showed that Marketing viewed by senior directors and managers as slippery, expensive and unaccountable.

He argues this is because marketing has forgotten the importance of bottom line profit. Instead, we have become obsessed with relationship marketing, which he describe as “happy, clappy, touchy-feely, muesli and open sandals, all talking about delighting customers…. Delighting customers is the  quickest way to go bankrupt.”

If this sounds surprising, it is because of his views on segmenting your offering. He argues that there is no such thing as “a customer”. Customers must be segmented because without this, you marmalade your offer across a mythical consumer, and risk not delighting any customer. But he is critical of the ways that marketers have chosen to carry out segmentation because marketers use “the garbage of socio-economics, demographics and geo-demographics which are about as useful as a bird of prey with a squint.” For example, he pointed out that under socio-demographics, the Archbishop of Cantebury and Boy George are both socio-economic group A, but apart from wearing dresses and singing a lot, they don’t behave the same.

His solution: World class marketing needs proper Needs-based segmentation. But less than 15% of companies do this.

He is equally concerned that marketing has become relegated to digital content creation, which pushes marketing further away from the Boardroom. When lecturing, he uses a cartoon where the Head of Marketing is saying to a Board meeting, “It’s a pity our earning per share are down 40%, but the good news is that our likes on Facebook are up 50%”. CEOs are not interested (he used a far more earthy term) in Facebook likes. Boardrooms are only interested in the bottom line.

Of course, digital is important. Once you understand segmentation you can use digital brilliantly, but you have to do the basics first, or digital is an expensive waste of time.