The debate about whether people should be working in marketing roles without a marketing qualification is an interesting one. It's surely one of only a handful of professions where the conversation could even arise. When we call a local electrician or plumber, we assume they've learned their trade the old fashioned way. It's hopefully safe to assume that the nations leading architects, lawyers and accountants are also staffed by people with letters after their name.
So why would marketing be different?
In the age of the Gruen Transfer, everyone has an opinion on marketing and advertising. Thoughts on which TV shows are good and bad, why people buy things and what makes us more loyal to one product than another. Few people nowadays would struggle to define the different product positioning of, say, Audi and Skoda. And everybody understands that being able to buy a product from the States at half the price it retails for in Australia is a threat to our high street.
Because, of course, we are all consumers. We can all go through life without ever seeing an architects drawing or researching legal precedent. But everyday, we experience "marketing" in our day to day life. We know that it's cheaper to buy stuff from a supermarket than a convenience store. We understand why picking up a takeaway is cheaper than having it delivered. And despite knowing that we're paying more for the label, we continue to buy "prestige" clothes, golf clubs, cars and televisions.
So is it any wonder that everyone's a marketing expert?
I've worked in marketing all my life. It just so happens that having finished my Communications degree, I took a post graduate qualification at the British Institute of Marketing. In 1985. Before desktop publishing, before the Internet, before email and long before "digital". I learned the 4 or 5 P's of marketing and the work of Porter and Drucker. And since then I have run teams promoting and launching magazines and newspapers, run a product sampling and TV business and more recently spent a decade managing Government communications.
Much of what I learned at college 30 years ago is less relevant now. But then I've never been a fan of cookie cutter models and always treat each business challenge as unique. I struggle nowadays with the notion of "digital by default" as that's too much emphasis on channel. I struggle with the "freemium" model as that's too much emphasis on price. And so on.
I've sat in hundreds of meetings with creative types looking at different slogans and advertising ideas and had great fun experimenting with different ways of doing things. I've attached golf balls and tins of cat food to magazines (not at the same time) and paid someone to project an image of Kylie Minogue on public buildings. It's a fun industry to work in. But that's not the essence of marketing.
Something that my marketing education taught me is to have absolute polar clarity about the outcome I am trying to achieve. And to have a really clear understanding about how I'm going to measure it. I want to be that guy who does know which 50% of his advertising is working.
I learned the difference between strategy and tactics and the importance of understanding the part that each of the elements of a tactical plan play in creating outcomes. And the importance of understanding the relative value of each channel to help allocate funds accordingly.
I've since learned that logic and customer behaviour may not go hand in hand. How else to explain that during an "obesity epidemic", one of Australia's fastest growing franchises was Krispy Kreme donuts.
Or indeed to explain "Pokemon Go".
I've also learned that through review and analysis, products can be continually tweaked to better suit the tastes of the consumer. To give it an edge in the marketplace. Students of the astounding success of lads magazine FHM (funny, sexy, useful) a few years ago are always surprised to learn that the first five issues had a bloke on the cover. It's equally easy to forget as Hollywood releases the third Steve Jobs biopic, that for years Apple had just 5% of the world's computer market.
Sometimes, things just don't go to plan.
Do people in marketing need qualifications? Probably. but there's no denying the value of experience and there's no better way to learn than recovering from your mistakes. But one thing is for sure. Truly great marketing isn't half as easy as it sometimes looks. Anyone fancy a Cherry Coke?