While Mark Twain called rumors of his death exaggerated, those who say that Marketing is dead may not be exaggerating. Is Marketing merely a transient fad in Business?

The Supply driven approach to business dominated for so long. When goods and items were hand made, wars caused shortages, or recessions led to lack of purchasing power, Marketing had little relevance. It seems to have happened in cycles.

Following WW II, shortages of everything led to pent-up demand even for poor products. Returning troops were establishing families, homes, getting jobs, and buying houses and cars at a rate that did not allow them to be too fussy in a supply shortage. As goods became more available, companies had to try harder. They had to improve products and advertise more. These were the prevailing conditions in the 70s and 80s. They allowed Japanese and other imports to break into the US market as many US companies had become complacent.

Over the past few years, there is yet another transformation that has been created by quite another shift. This is not a supply change, unless you count oversupply in variety and quantity as such a shift. All the evidence shows that too many choices lead to worse decisions than a moderate number of choices because the purchaser is overwhelmed and unable to process all the information.

While there is greater transparency and less “friction” in commerce today, the ability of technology to create and manage one-to-one relationships changes the game. Customers and Consumers do not want to be “sold.” They want to, and can, control the relationship. Self-service is what they want.

Often businesses attempt to gain advantage by overwhelming or confusing customers. As noted above, research has shown that more choices lead to worse decisions by buyers and fewer purchases. So, in the long term, business will become more and more like an online exchange. Companies will be forced to offer quality, value, and convenience.

Look even at the tendency of people to not read instruction manuals any more. Companies are being forced to make products and services that are intuitive, even as the technology grows more complex. BMW’s “iDrive” interface was sneered at when it came out, so BMW had to simplify it. Apple has benefited by both driving and taking advantage of this. Expectations are high. Web sites and retailers have had to streamline their processes. The User Experience is a gating item in purchasing anything. Tesla gets it.

In this environment, what we have traditionally thought of as “Marketing” has become obsolete. However, when Peter Drucker said, “the purpose of a business is to create a customer,” this means that Marketing is now the responsibility of all functions and the CEO is the Chief Marketing Officer.

The key takeaways from this are:

  1. The Marketing of the 20th century is dead.
  2. Marketers who trained in the 20th Century have to change or die.
  3. Customers have as much control as they want to.
  4. Millennials will be far ahead of most companies as the pace of change accelerates.
  5. CEOs will have the real Marketing responsibility.