What makes a bona fide marketing genius?

This week, at one of our regular information-sharing networking sessions, I met a self-proclaimed social media guru. To make matters worse, an associate, who should know better, introduced the newcomer as a marketing genius. (A marketing genius, really?)

You come across this accolade a lot these days—in the newspaper, on TV, on the internet. It often refers to an advertising, social media or publicity practitioner. Sometimes the press says it. Sometimes the would-be guru says it.

I know that advertising, social media or public relations practitioners can be geniuses in their own fields. It’s just that being a genius in one’s own field doesn’t make you a marketing genius. Each field is only a subset of the big marketing picture. Marketing is synonymous with marketing strategy not marketing communications.

Why is this important? 

This is important because these misrepresentations have diminished the meaning and value of marketing inside of many of today’s organizations. Marketing has taken on a meaning and a status that is far less than it is and needs to be.

By conveying the idea that marketing is synonymous with marketing communications rather than marketing strategy, these pundits and self-proclaimed gurus have done profound damage to the status of marketing and marketing practitioners within the corporate world. They have hurt the ability of these marketers to play a more meaningful role in helping their organizations to create value for shareholders and customers alike.

Marketing practitioners know that it takes a well-conceived and executed marketing strategy to build strong brands and businesses. This is about focusing corporations on creating, delivering and communicating compelling value for customers. The challenge for them is, in the eyes of their bosses and colleagues, that marketing has taken on a meaning and status that is far less than it is.  Marketing has become synonymous with marketing communications.

It’s no wonder that many marketers find themselves at odds with their colleagues in their struggle to play a more pivotal role in helping their organizations win in the marketplace.

A list of marketing geniuses – deserving of this accolade

So if marketing is synonymous with marketing strategy, who might we look to for guidance? Who are the bona fide marketing geniuses?

Here is a brief list of just some of the remarkable people that, in my opinion, are deserving of this accolade:

  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon
  • Steve Jobs, Apple
  • Ingvar Kamprad, Ikea
  • Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines
  • Arkadi Kuhlmann, ING Direct
  • John Mackey, Whole Foods
  • Howard Schultz, Starbucks
  • Isadore Sharp, Four Seasons
  • Fredrick Smith, FedEx
  • Meg Whitman, eBay

In every case these remarkable people are responsible for creating business systems capable of building strong brands and businesses.

They have done this by identifying customers that were seeking value not being provided by other organizations.  They conceived value propositions to meet these needs and innovated the necessary organizational capabilities and business models to create, deliver and communicate the desired value to these customers.

If anything makes a marketing genius in the business world – I’d have to say that does. This is the true scope and importance of marketing.

About ashleykonson

STRATEGY CONSULTING | EXECUTIVE COACHING | CORPORATE TRAINING | KEYNOTE SPEAKING | Ashley Konson is the Managing Partner of Global Brand Leaders Inc., a new kind of brand consulting company dedicated to making brands and their teams leaders across the globe. He is a Brand Leader, Business Consultant and Award-Winning Educator, and a recognized thought leader and fervent advocate of the premise that strong brands and businesses achieve and sustain their market positions because they are strong Inside out™.
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2 Responses to What makes a bona fide marketing genius?

  1. Good post. I totally agree. The interesting thing about your list is that none are marketing people. Rather, they are good business people. This actually underscores and supports your contention that marketing geniuses are those who understand strategy, not tactics. Good marketing is good business innovation. Peter Drucker once famously said that only innovation and marketing add value to a company, the other activities are costs. I saw a recent post by the CEO of Saachi who declared that marketing was dead. After reading the piece it was clear that he meant that traditional advertising was dead. We tend to equate tactics with the rubric. Advertising and branding become synonymous with marketing; PR becomes synonymous with reputation management. I wish we would recognize that marketing strategy is related to building perceived value through the development (product or service management), communication (branding) and delivery of customer value (service). When we do it well, we gain profits by attracting customers (market share) and retention of customers (increasing the cost of acquisition for competitors).

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