The Death Of Marketing, The Rise Of Innovating

July 29, 2006

In another example of how conventional wisdom about business is being upended, many companies are apparently jettisoning from the traditional function of “marketing”. In today’s New York Times, the results of some recent research by Strategy + Business suggests that the practice is being rethought, and recast as innovation:

[from Falling Short Of Greatness by Paul Brown]

The consultants note, however, that there is hope that the situation will improve.

Last year, Coca-Cola said it was eliminating the job of chief marketing officer and would be combining marketing, innovation and strategic growth into a single job.

The consultants wrote, “Coke followed Pepsi, Intel, I.B.M., Samsung and other pioneers in explicitly linking the marketing function and the growth imperative.’’

The erosion of traditional marketing — the end of conventional PR, the replacement of broadcast messaging with conversations, and the growing need for companies to be nimbler and more adaptive — is accelerating. This is perhaps more evident in small companies, where marketing has long been an afterthought: “We’ve built the product, I guess we better get Marketing involved and print some slicks for the trade show.” Rethinking of the functional organization is long overdue, and its time to get rid of the silo of marketing, divided from other functions, and move over to an organization that mirrors the critical processes in the business.

My experience is that marketing in many companies — as the researchers at Strategy + Business discovered — is lamentably bad. Let’s just put a bullet in it’s head, and focus on what should be pushing our businesses forward: innovation. It’s unlikely, however, that someone that has been acting as a “marketer” for years will be the right person to push innovation. The skills needed to be the head of innovation transcend marketing, and likely incorporate product development, strategy, and business development. In a large company, this innovator may be responsible for research, and handing off promising ideas to the larger company to turn into fielded products.

But no matter how this shakeup of the conventional organization is realized, one thing is for certain: the days of marketing are numbered.

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