Marketing, The Challenge of Understanding

The following series of articles will describe the different stages I went through before I developed my approach to convince my higher management to adopt my views about marketing. The combination of management style along with the lack of knowledge about marketing as a whole made the adoption of its processes a long task. These articles are based on my personal experience and may but do not necessarily reflect the process in any other company.

When the higher management lacks the view of marketing as an essential function you cannot as a lower level manager apply any of its principles. Although I will not go into the details or arguments to support one management style or another, it will be useful for the reader to have an idea about the management styles applied by my higher management at the different stages and their impact on my ability to apply the marketing basics.

Scientific management: Where the decision making was in the hands of the headquarters’ managers using a standard method to do the job while providing full support.  This style was applied during the first years of my employment as marketing and sales manager for one of the operations. Although the support of the headquarters was essential, it only came within the line of the standard method they developed and thought to be applicable in all markets. Among the standard applications they had is that the local market managers do not share in the budget input, they are solely responsible of executing it. The major issue however is that none of the HQ managers believed in marketing as a function. At this stage the supported approach was the view of the technical team. (This will be clarified more in the next article where I will discuss the type of product and market nature at that time) Process Approach: Although improvements were made at this stage to enable local managers to have more authority in the markets, the decision making was centralized. Consulting others, one of the basics of the process approach management style, was not always applicable. Marketing approach was still resented and dealt with as a sub sales function. Objectives Approach: Management by objectives (MBO) was introduced where motivation such as including employees in goal setting and bettering the communication and cooperation level were established while SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound) objectives were not always set clearly. The better communication and involvement allowed each market manager to have full responsibility and authority over their budgets. To managers like me, the communication process made it easier to get our marketing ideas approved and adopted.

During those stages not all of the marketing mix was treated the same. The product was to be defined at the early stages although with minimum to none input from the marketing into the price, the place or the promotion. At a later stage, we were expected to define the product, and develop the place (distribution) while the price and the promotion were set in the head office.

It is only by the introduction of the third management stage that we were able to have the full marketing mix thought of and applied. This does not bind the application and success of the marketing principles to the objectives management style or any other management style. It is rather the lack of understanding and knowledge of marketing on the management level that lead to the delay of applying its principles. The reader should keep in mind that my article is based on personal experience and does not imply that the aforementioned conditions are true for all companies.

The next article will discuss the initial phase in my marketing career, a stage where the word marketing was used without any real knowledge of its principles.