Most Marketing Academics are Reporters.
“Don’t you love reading about ourselves in the marketing magazines? We sound so smart. Like we knew all the answers.” I was in the middle of a global conference for a multinational fast-food giant. The brand had come out of a near-death situation a few years ago. And the turnaround was generally being celebrated as one of the landmark marketing cases in history.
The strategy team leader and the CMO were sharing a laugh at their newfound superhero status. Having witnessed the turnaround journey for many years, I knew the pain, uncertainty, and many failures and pitfalls on the journey to success.
It did read like a superhero movie. But none of this was being captured in the case study. The entire story of the human journey of building belief within the complex organization and having the human endurance to see it through is lost. Instead, we have neat four-quadrant matrices and choice-making frameworks that academia loves.
Pick up any marketing gospel book. Or articles by academics. They are full of these frameworks. Frameworks help understand strategic choices only if there were no human beings involved in creating and implementing strategy.
But any strategy process deals with human beings. And their hopes, dreams, anxieties, feelings, desires. By this, I don’t just mean that of consumers. They are essential, of course. But equally important are the human aspects of all the people involved in creating and implementing strategy.
And this is a messy human process. The principles in academic books don’t prepare you for the chaotic real world of creating and implementing strategy.
Most academics in marketing are like reporters. You can read what they report. But you can’t learn a lot from them. Most of them have never actually done marketing.
And when you are not in the trenches doing the human work of marketing which includes all the missteps, you will find a large gap between theory and practice.