Conversations with Marketing Masters
by Louella Miles & Laura Mazur
Title published Jan 26th 2007
Buy the book, listen to the podcast or read the review
Listen to the Podcast with the authors
(25MB) entire audio interview with Louella and Laura – March 20th 2007
Review of Marketing Masters
This kind of book comes along all too rarely. Because it’snot that hard a concept. Go and have a series of conversations with people whose names you know, and whose books you’ve read but who you’ve never heard speak. Ask them questions. Write it down. But I can only think of one other book which does the same – the Advertising Age interviews with Bernbach, Ogilvy and co. And did so a generation ago. You may not have heard of all the interviewees, though you probably should have done. But you can’t help using their thinking which has so permeated business practice that we think their thoughts – even when we claim to be original. Ever talked about one to one marketing? Ever used the term integrated marketing communications? Thought so.
Well this is an interview with the ‘old guys’ of marketing theory. They’re all Americans with a couple of exceptions who moved to the USA and made their name there. But the USA is still the natural motherland of marketing so fair enough. Where shall we start? The bookend interviews are with living legends. Kotler to begin and Lester Wunderman to close. When I got married there were 2 copies of Kotler’s marketing management in the house. Now I confess there are none. Two surprises about Kotler to me. First that he’s called Phil – often referenced as Phil by the other interviewees. I’d never thought of him as a Phil before. And that he’s a lot less dull than his books. What Kotler set out to do was to make marketing scientific – the unrelenting detail of his writing aimed to stop marketing being some pixie dust applied before the next sales conference but a tool for CEOs to drive their companies forward. We may rant against the overrational application of marketing to business but this interview was an interesting reminder of what things were like before Kotler got systematic.
Aaker follows and explains how he build up a theory of brand management. Like all of the interviewees he is mildly mystified by his success none of them seemed to have a grand plan. And was generous in giving his thinking away. Though it seems that his thinking is more applied in Japan than it is in the USA. Larreche built market modelling systems. Quelch who wrote so many case studies that you can’t study an MBA anywhere without using his work.
For me the interviews which worked best were those where the personal came through. Which worked better in certain of the interviews rather than the others. Where the interviewees came from an agency background there there was a little more gungho wideboy talk – Jack Trout and Don Peppers fall into this category. Its clear Martha Rogers doesn’t take Don that seriously – and having a gury regurgitate their CV isn’t interesting – finding out what makes them tick does. And some really seemed to be struggling with the question of why for the most part – most of them are still working past retirement age. Though Patricia Seybold seemed to have found some kind of equilibrium between her work and the rest of her life. And this is what an interview really can bring out that even semibiographical articles doesn’t – the interviewee needs to be put under some pressure to say what they hadn’t intended to say or hadn’t necessarily thought of before.
I enjoyed the Peppers Rogers interview – having read the 1 to 1 future – I was intrigued by what made them tick because the principles of 1 to 1 marketing are absolutely clear from the book but what is unbelievable is the way they worked it out for fax machines – as if CRM was ever going to work at a practical level with people filling in forms and bunging the answer back in the fax. Of course when email followed as the killer ap the whole thing became viable but the interesting thing is how they spotted it before email was available.
I was particularly interested in the Don Schulz interview because of my background in integrated comms. Schulz has been the guru in this area for as long as I’ve worked in it. And you do get the impression he was hoist with his own petard – there was an interesting comment about how he was fed up with being brought in to unscramble client messes when of course the whole point of integration is that it needs to happens at the deepest level within the client company and if it isn’t, then an integrated campaign isn’t going to bandage over the cracks.
Other highlights – well Ries annoyed me as he always does. Focus narrowly enough and you can’t fail. Well actually you can – if it isn’t what the customer wants. But that’s what I wanted from the book – opinions I could take issue with.Someone as magisterial as Lester Wunderman has covered so much ground that its hard to drive down and see where he struggled – it all looks rather inevitable now that direct marketing would become established has it has. There must have been a point when it really wasn’t like that and most clients didn’t get DM.
So you can see what I wanted from the book and what I wish there had been more of. If you know these authors then this is a rare twitch of the curtain to find out a little of what is going on. Interesting also that all of these gurus are for the most part academics/consultants rather than working marketers. Regis Mckenna was the closest interview to a hands on marketer with his background in Silicon Valley but the majority came across as system thinkers who had had a theory which they had plugged endlessly – applied marketing – that’s a different bag of tricks.
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