Our Purpose as Marketers

I recently commented on an editorial piece in a marketing publication that opined the rise of ‘purpose’ among well-meaning brands stating that it eclipsed the true reason for marketing, which according to the author (Professor Mark Ritson) was to make money and profit, period! That’s what excited him when he pushed for new consultancy work and projects. However what also ‘pushed his buttons’ was the increasing focus on ‘purpose’ and wider impact on society, which he thought was a distraction from what a marketing professional should be focusing on.

I disagreed, and see this as siloed thinking, only giving an incomplete view of the full picture, and in my view only perpetuates conflict between disciplines and agendas within an organisation, blocking beneficial engagement internally and externally with the world around us. The functions, processes, outputs, and commercial results may be the focus of the task at hand for many marketing professionals, but these alone do not satisfy the rationale for what many marketers are trying to achieve. And equally, limiting marketing itself to just an engine for generating revenues and profitability is overlooking its contribution and capability as a unifying principle and process. In short, it’s not just the enjoyment we might receive from implementing and applying marketing practice that makes us get out of bed in the morning and do what we do, but it’s the impact and difference we strive to achieve that excites and fulfils us. This in my view aligns better with ‘purpose’ and ultimately the human, societal, and environmental outcomes it generates. So here’s my succinct take on what I think is the purpose of a marketer:

“I do not disagree that ‘making money’ to drive profit sits at the core of the marketer’s remit. BUT ever ask yourself why? I have on many occasions, and how do I reconcile that with wider and societal agendas, and look beyond the silo of my own business function ‘marketing’?

Ridderstrale and Nordstrum with their newly published book ‘Funky Business’ in 2000 prompted me with their insights to consider the ‘bigger picture’ and my responsibilities within business to the global population, economies, communities, and natural world.

For me it’s simple, and constantly asking “Why?” eventually led me to answering the question; What is the true purpose of a marketing professional? Our purpose as marketers is to create prosperity, that’s the end game. Prosperity of the global economy, of communities, of the planet, of our business, brands, and ourselves. We achieve this through creating ‘relevance’, something that people continue to ‘buy’ and subscribe to – levels of compliance, advocacy, sales, and profit are purely the measure of our success, and mechanisms that help us judge if we’re getting it right, and not the end game in themselves. That’s what differentiates and defines us and our chosen profession of marketing.”

Mark Batchelor, May 2017

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