Two things make marketing difficult: theory and practice. Of the disciplines around the boardroom table it can be the stickiest in study and the thorniest in application.
What makes marketing theory so tormenting to grapple with is its diffuse and protean contextual backdrop: the swirling chaos of markets combined with mercurial human behaviour. Where are the enduring truths?
People sometimes say, ‘Well, marketing isn’t rocket science’. If only it were. It would have hard edges and irrefutable laws. It would use Xs and Ys and weird mathematical squiggles that are meaningless to the layman but would mean something precise, and precisely the same thing, to each of us.
Actual marketing theory, conversely, is replete with comfortingly familiar terms such as ‘relationship’, ‘target’, ‘conquest’, ‘promiscuity’ and even ‘love’, which are bandied about by professionals who forget they are using metaphors.
The result is not just that the listener interprets the term differently from the speaker, but that the fuzziness eats into the mind of the one up there with the slides holding forth. ‘Loyalty’ gets depicted with frequent-purchaser data one minute and logo-tattooed biceps the next, as though there were no implied difference between them.