What is the value of marketing?

Marketing professionals are always under pressure to add value to an organisation’s brand or identity.  But what does adding value look like?  The answer is that the definition of value depends on the type of organisation and the developmental stage of that organisation.  If you are going to measure the success of your marketing activity on the addition of value, you need to define the measures of value to be used from the outset.

For many businesses the sole measure of marketing success is financial return on investment.  Such a measure is important but you should consider the wider aspects of value in measuring marketing success.  That could mean a wide range of results including increasing consumer advocacy, the expansion of your product or service range, increasing the number and types of distribution channel used by your organisation or even by changing your organisational structure.

In the latest edition of Catalyst, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s quarterly magazine, several different organisations give examples of the value of marketing to their business:

  1. The first example is a small family business which makes curry sauces.  For years the owners of the company were wholly focused on getting their products into shops.  The focus was on the place and product elements of the marketing mix and other mix factors such as promotion, price, process and physical evidence were all but excluded.  In 2016, the firm’s proprietors decided to take a wider view of their marketing activities.  They wanted to develop a brand identity and grow beyond their existing distribution chain.  To develop the brand, they found they needed to tell their brand story more effectively and they needed to develop a consumer focus.  By analysing the response from their customers they found that their business was seen as a fun, family brand with a tasty product.  To engage with their consumers, the firm developed a range of promotional materials focused on their fun image.  They were also able to use the responses from their customer survey as evidence in achieving a distribution deal with a major supermarket chain.  For this business marketing success wasn’t just improved financial returns, it was a closer link to their customer base, increased distribution and the creation of a brand identity.
  2. The second example was a major arts and entertainment venue.  This venue contained museums, a theatre, retail units, bars and coffee shops.  Each of these activities were used by different customer segments. Each group of customers had different value expectations.  Using strategic marketing plans, the venue was able to develop distinct strategies for different groups of target customers.  The management of the venue had the perception that customers came to their venue to see a particular piece of art or a particular show.  Market research showed that there was a commonality between different customer segments, that they wanted to go out to the venue and have a good time.  Marketing value to this organisation was the development of closer ties to its varied customer base and the development of feedback systems to ensure that what was offered by the venue met the expectations of visitors.
  3. The third example given in Catalyst was a publisher of academic textbooks.  Marketing told this business that their client base differed from its consumer base.  The firm marketed its books to academics and saw itself as part of the academic community.  However, it was undergraduate students who were the consumers of its products and services.  The firm therefore had to produce texts which academics would refer as standard texts for their students but which also met the educational expectations of those students.  The organisation found that different marketing channels were appropriate for different academic sectors.  Marketing value to this business was the ability to widen their communications strategy and to match the communication expectations of different recipient segments.
  4. The final example is a firm which produces virtual reality software for industry.  for many years, this organisation saw its success as the success of its customers.  However, management realised that they were good at telling other people’s story and not their own.  By applying strategic marketing, the firm was able to redefine itself in the market.  It was able to focus on the critical parts of its business and to discount areas which were no longer relevant.  This led to a complete reorganisation of the business’s structure to better match its new priorities.

The above examples clearly show that marketing value and success are not simply a matter of financial return.  There are a wide range of non-financial measures which define marketing success.