UPDATE: Seth Godin just wrote an amazing blog about what marketing should be. Well worth a read.
The role of marketing in business has grown in prominence over time. Within marketing, advertising has had its rise and fall. Today it plays a smaller role than it did a generation ago. I don't watch very much broadcast TV, but one show that's definitely on my DVR is Mad Men. It captures what we all imagine advertising was like in the 1960s perfectly.
In that generation, advertising was the king of marketing. The creativity and ingenuity of being able to shape people's perception, and most critically, desire, in a world with limited access to the audience was huge. Companies paid top dollar to get the best advertisers, and it was worth it. The clip above from the season 1 closer of Mad Men is a great example of this.
Seth Godin, a brilliant marketer, also talked about this in a recent blog entry. But his piece is about more than that, it argues that marketing can and should be the place where innovation happens in a company. I agree.
I see marketing as the point at which customer insight, market trends, creativity, advocacy and the company's business and product strategy meet. If done well, it is where vision can help craft strategy, and where the product is shaped and messaged to accelerate desire, adoption and advocacy.
But sometimes marketing isn't in at the beginning and is forced to be creative in finding ways to wrest success from the jaws of defeat.
Here's my favorite example of this. Back in the 60s (I think), tomato sauce was called "catsup," and the definition of great catsup was its low viscosity (i.e. it poured really easily, was very thin and watery). Along came Heinz, whose tomato sauce was thick and highly viscous; it took a looong long time to pour (remember they had glass bottles back then - no squeezing). Problem - the scientists and product people had created something that was the opposite of "good" in the market's eyes.
The marketing team came up with a brilliant campaign (I'm sure they'd also read the Art of War, specifically where Sun Tzu says "if your enemy likes to fight in the valley, fight him in the mountains"). They created a campaign that began with the idea that slow was good - it was a shootout where the Heinz bottle outlasted the other, more watery brands. Then, the pièce de résistance - based on Carly Simon's Anticipation, they created a series of brilliant commercials like this one. Their tag line: "it's sloooow good" - brilliant.
The result - Heinz completely redefined the category, and everyone else was left in the dust. Their dominance over this market lasted decades, and continues today.
Now that's marketing...