The emerging themes of marketing management in a new era driven by digital transformation and innovation: Philip Kotler’s lesson for the “Innovation Talks” in Bologna.
Philip Kotler in Bologna . Translated: Mr. Marketing under the Two Towers. It happened yesterday during the first of the ” Innovation Talks ” organized by Bologna Business School. The hot topic of the meeting was ” Emerging issues in marketing management “, ie how to address the emerging issues of marketing management in a new era driven by digital transformation and a new vision of business sustainability.
As per tradition, the dances were opened by Max Bergami, Dean of BBS, who introduced to the audience a man who has already been called the fourth marketing guru by the Financial Times (after Jack Welch, Bill Gates and Peter Drucker) and pioneer of social marketing.
Build, measure, learn… and be quick to fail
Kotler wears his years very well and has the enthusiasm of a young entrepreneur. He immediately quotes Edison, “ Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% sweat “, putting the dots on the i’s: to innovate you have to work hard . Citing Eric Ries’ Lean Marketing, Kotler pushes a formula for success: build, measure and learn . Adding a ” Be quick to fail “, which made everyone smile.
For Kotler, this avoids investing energy and money in something that doesn’t work. And then it starts again. You improve your shot, find an effective distribution channel and work until everything is ready for the final launch. The “guru” mentions Searle, a company that has well thought of asking him for his advice after having created a beta blocker “better than a second” and trying to enter an already saturated market (in eleventh place). His answer was clear: “Do something else”. Why waste time with a mediocre product that cannot bring real added value? I don’t think Searle took it well right away, but they improved afterwards.
Marketing management? A question of innovation
It may be that the intervention is within the “Innovation Talks” speeches or it may be that everyone is looking for it, but Philip Kotler often returns to the topic: innovation . He cites two far-sighted examples of people: Sir James Dyson , called the new Thomas Edison because he invents new things starting from the very normal ones. And Elon Musk , the “new Henry Ford” (to say, he is the one who made Tesla, Solar Cit, Space X), a man who cares about energy sustainability, to the point of designing a colony on Mars for humanity.
But it is very difficult to innovate alone. Especially if we talk about marketing management . He also mentions Shell Oil, in which 4 of the 5 great ideas that pushed the company to become market leaders were born together with their employees. It is precisely for this reason that Kotler proposes a system to innovate , identifying the six key figures that must be present in a company for it to be defined as such, an “innovative reality”.
Innovation in the company: the six roles that are needed
Also – and perhaps above all – in marketing management there is a need for innovation. And precisely for this reason , Philip Kotler’s AF model is applicable , which can be summarized as follows:
- (A) ACTIVATORS / ACTIVATORS: they are those who have ideas every day . It doesn’t matter that they are really practicable, as long as they exist. Their mission is to start the process.
- (B) BROWSERS / SELECTORS: they are the “analysts of ideas” and their task is not to produce something new, but to provide information to the working group. Are the ideas provided by the activators valid? Do they already exist? Can they exist?
- (C) CREATORS: they are those who test the concept and put the idea on the road, looking for new solutions in all parts of the process.
- (D) DEVELOPERS / DEVELOPERS: developers, essential for transforming ideas into products or services, giving shape to what was previously only in “hyperuranium”.
- (E) EXECUTORS / EXECUTORS: we can define them as “accounts” because they bring new solutions to the market.
- (F) FACILITATORS / FINANCERS: those who are ready to bet on the project and finance the whole process, facilitating the progress of the work.
There is a need for a link between ideas and marketing management
Philip Kotler does not send them to say: one thing is to have a good idea, the other is to bring it to the “mass market” or to reach a certain type of target. For this reason it is necessary that there is a relationship between those who have an idea and those who do Marketing : Marketing managers know how to read the market and their task is to create ” noise ” to identify business opportunities.
According to Kotler, there are three types of “buzz creators”:
- Mavens: they are the experts in the sector, people trust them;
- Connectors: those who connect, who know who to tell. A sort of PR, in short;
- Salespeople: we can roughly define them as “salespeople” who know how to identify the elements that create greater interest for the audience.
It is interesting to see that Kotler has talked about social media on several occasions , but never mentioned ” influencer “. I wondered if it was an implicit message (maybe for him they are divided into the three types of buzz creators) or if he considered the concept of influencer marketing already outdated . But whoever lives will see.
How to build a strong brand?
Kotler concludes his speech by talking about branding . He compliments the Italians because they represent excellence in the luxury and fashion market. I wanted to raise my hand to also talk about engines or Food & Beverage , but I didn’t want to argue. Let’s take these compliments and move on. For Kotler, however, a brand must be more than a name, a slogan and a logo, but rather:
- a brand must “trigger” associations(with characteristics and benefits outlined);
- must choose a process(like McDonald’s or Amazon);
- a great brand must arouse emotions(like Harley-Davidson);
- it must represent a promise of value(eg Sony);
- … But the best brand buildersare the employees themselves and the “operations”: it is performance that drives brand development, not marketing communications.
Brand building is like a pyramid. From bottom to top we have PRESENCE, RELEVANCE, PERFORMANCE, ADVANTAGE and LINK . When the company thus manages to create the connection with its target, “that’s it”. This is what Kotler defines as ” Narrative Branding “, which we can decipher as ” new storytelling “: you have to tell and involve taking measurements, effects and emotion into great consideration.