Overstated headlines claim daily that “Social Media Has Changed Marketing – Completely,” or “Drucker & Kotler don’t matter.” I don’t think so. If the fundamentals in the 4P’s and 5C’s changed, someone or Kotler, at Northwestern University needs to publish the research-based proof paper. Don’t misunderstand my point; social media has increased the relevance of the broader Marketing Function, just as SEO did a blink of an eye ago. I do not see Marketing’s critical contribution being marginalized into the social-media-subset of “promotions” that headline hyperbole suggests.

Drucker & Kotler Uncover Professional Irony

How could marketers make the mortal mistake of unfounded predictions affecting their very profession when they struggle to eliminate misaligned marketing messages in their own organizations? When someone goes “off point,” marketers are the referees calling the play back to the research-based and proven-effective message line.

Marketers are the champions in their organizations for crystalizing opportunity, trends, economics, markets, platforms, products and customers into an effective business strategy. They use a broad spectrum of tools for business execution including the media, communication, and channels to build brands, differentiate product value propositions and drive sales. How could some marketers blindly miss-position social media such that it has rocked the profession?

Real Challenge

The C-suite knows they must leverage a hyper-evolving digital world. And they look to their marketing leaders and staffs for straight talk on social media.  Social media is one more in a long-line of exceptionally powerful business tools driven by advances in technology and marketing innovation. Marketers have been the most powerful force to build and leverage innovative solutions from it (SEM, Adwords, and other outreach forces to name a few). Marketers are the experts at the table, and these headlines have let our C-suite partners down, by overstating the impact on vast investment in past brand, positioning and messaging initiatives.

Again, don’t misunderstand me; businesses should invest in social media and digital marketing by creatively connecting with customers through this new form of liquid content.  However, the foundation of this liquid content must be grounded in core marketing fundamentals, around product value, selling propositions, competitive pricing, promotion value, and more.

Unchanged Fundamentals

Nothing about social media and digital marketing has changed the fundamentals of the broader business marketing process starting with Marketing Analysis, grounded in the 5C’s: Customers, Company, Competitors, Collaborators and Context. Nor can it replace the required rigMarketingProcessDiagramor in the marketing process of Value Creation through Segmentation, Targeting selected markets, Positioning products and services, and developing market Messaging.  And for the marketing process of Capturing Value marketing still uses the 4P’s, to define the Product and service, identify the Place and channels for distribution, and set a fair Price, all in concert with the right Promotion through traditional channels of advertising, merchandising, web presence, and yes, social media. And, of course, social media will play a critical part in the marketing process of Sustaining Value through Customer Acquisition and Customer Retention.


Deep Impact

I fully understand that social media will have a profound impact on marketing, and will demand new skills, people and tools.  This new demand fits well in extending the foundation that Drucker & Kotler have laid down for us. Investment is required in order to keep up, leverage, and convert social media into value for the enterprise – the unacceptable  alternative is to fall behind as competitors capitalize on the opportunity. I’ll further suggest that by its nature, speed, and reach, social media will have far reaching positive implications on driving transparency in business at a scale that we cannot yet imagine.  It will be a force to drive sustainable products, elevate quality of service, perfect truth in advertising, demand ethical business behavior and set new standards of care in delivery for both B2B and B2C businesses.

However, I am sure that social media and digital marketing will NOT change the fundamentals of the core marketing processes listed above. The marketing processes we learned from Kottler and the importance of marketing in business we learned from Drucker remain valid and steadfast. Without them, the economics of commerce, the exchange of fair value and the goal of driving profitable business would lose relevance.


CEOs and others in the C-suite have enough reason to doubt the credibility of many marketers today. How could some marketers make mistake of over-hyping the death of traditional marketing activities and process by social media, only to give others around the boardroom table more reason to marginalize Marketing?

The hyperbole about social media re-inventing marketing, and the sense of urgency to prevent the sky from falling sounds like cries for attention, but do not help. Where are these cries coming from?  How can some marketers suggest that marketing as we learned and practiced it yesterday and have championed it in our organizations is somehow suddenly dead? How can the addition of a new media channel for reaching identified markets with messages kill the need to go through the (traditional marketing) process of developing well-formed messages.

  • Have some of us lost track, or were we never trained on these fundamentals?
  • Have some agencies gone too far with a message of fear, uncertainty and doubt to land business from social media projects?
  • Has the sour economy driven too many good marketers into consulting and building new business on the value of their social media skills by exaggerating the relevance?
  • Have some marketers confused advertising promotion for the broader contribution of marketing, and simply made a mistake in stating that social media (spend) is replacing much of traditional advertising (spend).

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame for marketing to miss this opportunity to strengthen its relevance.

Marketing Imperative

C-level executives are getting confused and losing confidence in marketing teams that make unbounded claims as to the impact of social media.  As a result, one can expect Marketing budgets to be cut, not increased when asking to reinvent marketing via social media without a plan to tether it to traditional marketing and existing marketing investment and effort. CEOs are smart, and expect this from Marketing Leaders.

Instead, marketing leaders should rationally outline the potential, the investment and expected return from digital.  They should present clear objectives with metrics that will be used to ensure value creation.  Most critical, now is the time to reassure that past marketing investment in corporate brand, product messaging, and business development is the starting point for any digital campaign – and how that drives profits.

Social media and digital marketing is the obvious, undeniable rallying opportunity for Marketing to claim a role and demonstrate its value to the enterprise as equal C-suite and board contributors.

Marketers should NOT say “traditional marketing is dead.” Nor should they consider Drucker & Kotler irrelevant.  That doesn’t pass the test of least astonishment, and only reduces marketing’s credibility.

The Future

Digital technology and marketing innovation has created many waves of powerful, far-reaching and flexibly-targeting communications (media) channels.  The latest is social media. Others included the Internet, SEO, SEM, blogging, online commerce, interactive websites, microsites, location-based, and so on.  There will be more of these to come.

The future waves will require our reminding ourselves of traditional marketing principles and processes in order to best leverage the new wave. Digital ubiquity is an opportunity to make the agile role of marketing unavoidably relevant and pervasive in business in the future.

Note: I left out links to the hyperbole to protect the innocent…, Google can point you if you need the evidence.

One Response to Drucker & Kotler – How Could We Have Drifted From Fundamentals

  1. Sreeramulu says:

    Businesses that put money into social media and don’t make a reasonable ROI because of it probably shouldn’t be in business. Money makes the world turn and proven ROI on any social or web effort is a necessity. It’s great that social media changes the way we communicate, but at the end of the day companies look to social media to drive sales, not aimlessly wander as many widgets as possible to make people think they know what they’re doing. Failed or no social strategy with ROI in mind is like letting Hellen Keller drive you to work everyday and ordering your meal from the drive-thru.

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