‘Marketing ideal’ or ‘marketing real’?

I am currently teaching a four week marketing planning module to a lovely group of Chartered Management Institute students. 

Last night one of them said to me: ‘I’m starting to think that marketing is much more of a central function than I’ve ever known it to be before’.  He asked if what they were being taught was really the reality or simply the ideal situation for organisations.

In the past I’d considered that the reason that some students found it difficult to apply marketing theory and concepts, was because their job levels simply didn’t allow for it at that time.  With a fresh perspective I am starting to think that indeed, many of the marketing theories are in fact the ideal situation rather than a reflection of the truth.

For example, let’s take the aspects of marketing orientation. This concept is about the customer being at the heart of every decision your organisation makes.  Simple.  But it also makes claims that your marketing department should be represented at board level, you will have a team that influences corporate strategy, Marketing will hold information centrally to serve other organisations, and much more.  In some organisations this is the case but in many that I’ve worked at and my colleagues and students have worked at, this is simply a dream.

The key to teaching marketing, therefore, is to enable students to develop the skills to identify the current and ideal situations, and close the gaps accordingly.  And for students, it’s about having an open and questioning mind that challenges what you are being taught in a reflective way.  Theorists, academics, teachers, wise owls… can be wrong sometimes.

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