Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)

For many CMO’s and leaders in marketing, there has been a litany of proclamations about what marketing will become. During the past few years, urgent bell ringing to dive into new definitions of marketing has besieged marketers:

    • Social marketing
    • Social media marketing
    • Inbound marketing
    • Digital marketing
    • Search marketing
    • And, most notably – content marketing

Without question, many marketing leaders today must feel like they are being pulled into every direction possible. Despite the average tenure of CMO’s increasing, it is reasonable to believe many still feel at risk due to constant changes in the dynamics of marketing.


Content marketing has been the latest to join new proclamations of redefining marketing. The call has been for the reinvention of marketing to become publishers with their own editorial staff. As with most new business concepts these days, this one calls for its’ own chief. Suggesting Chief Marketing Officers should be replaced with or have a peer relationships with Chief Content Officers.

This idea appeared to peak in interest late 2012 and early 2013. Heading into 2014, many marketing leaders are gaining perspective. Much needed perspective in fact. Here is the voice of a leading CMO, who requested anonymity, recently interviewed:

“The notion of creating a newspaper like publishing staff is an interesting idea. But, let’s not get carried away here. Customers have changed and want more information and we need to provide it. But, we are not in the newspaper business. Our job is marketing. We are here to promote and get things sold.”

Return to Marketing

Other recent conversations have pointed to an emerging perspective we can call – return to marketing. Content marketing, as in all the terms mentioned above; deal with the “how” of marketing. Changes in how people and businesses buy do require new developments in how marketing is done. Let us not though, lose sight of the fundamental purpose and “why” of marketing. In my humble opinion, the best definition of marketing in my lifetime as well as standing the test of time is by Peter Drucker:

“The aim of marketing is to understand your customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

3 Purposes Of Marketing

This definition by Peter Drucker is a simple sentence but profound in being the guiding purpose on the role of marketing. There are three major points, which serve as a compass:

    1. Understand your customer so well. To gain a “so well” understanding of customers means the role of marketing is to research and gain deep as well as profound insights into buyers and customers.
    2. The product or service fits. A guiding purpose of marketing is to identify the specific goals and needs of customers and to guide the creation of products or services to fulfill them.
    3. And sells itself. Marketing must be able to communicate as well as provide information, which enables buyers or customers to make informed decisions in such a way – it is self-evident.

What content marketing and the other new terms have in common is they pertain to point three. Which is, how to communicate and provide information to buyers and customers. CMO’s and marketing leaders today should be adapting to changing buyer behaviors and identifying new ways to fulfill this important third element of marketing. However, prudent perspective is needed to not lose sight of the first two important elements. Marketing is not solely about spreading the news.

Without excelling at the first two elements, the third element fails to click with buyers and customers. And, this offers a simple explanation of why much of content marketing today, as several surveys have indicated, is ineffective. If marketing fails to understand their customers deeply as well as guide the creation of products or services to fit the goals of buyers – then whatever is communicated will not be self-evident to buyers.

Marketing 2014

The right perspective is to view content marketing as an important component, one of several, of the third element of marketing mentioned above. It is not the definition of marketing in of itself. As CMO’s and marketing leaders look ahead to 2014 and beyond, they can be guided by these three strategic principles:

  • Implement formal and ongoing customer and buyer insights research to gain the deep and profound understanding needed
  • Gain the right level of insights needed to be the guiding voice to product and/or service development on how to full the goals and needs of buyers
  • Develop a multi-channel communications and information provisioning plan which encourages dialogue with buyers and makes the brand fulfillment promise self-evident

A Seat At The Table

An aspiration for many marketing leaders is to gain a stronger voice and seat at the table. To do so, marketing must return to marketing. Fulfilling all three strategic elements as offered by Peter Drucker several decades ago.

As 2014 looms ahead, marketing leaders will need to put into perspective rapid changes in buying behavior with an eye towards the purpose of marketing. Taking care not to be solely defined by ever changing tactical tools of the trade. But, to be defined by understanding customers so well, the product or services fits and sells itself.