Well this is a bit of a work in progress and I want to flesh this all out with a solid body of references in a separate piece. However, in the interest of getting started I'm writing this in more of a "blog" format. I will say though that this is a mix of my personal observations, material from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science and John P. Jones (especially Advertising: strong force or weak force? A dilemma for higher education.)
Often I encounter two points of view on marketing:
It is a massive mover in the cultural landscape: A Strong Force - Two camps take this view, the bigger camp are counterculturalists; feminists who feel that ads ingrain unrealistic expectations of the female body on the masses, the politically left and spiritual types who think it keeps the masses mesmerised with consumerism, etc. Then there are a small group of advertising enthusiasts within the industry who wax lyrically about classic ground breaking campaigns and quote Ogilvy like he's Buddha.
It doesn't do anything - This comes a lot from the very practically minded (engineers, those who make things with their hands etc.) and those who perceive themselves to be inoculated against marketing hype. It also comes from #DirectDigitalMarketers and from those who come from a business school background (that illusive C-level that agency's always want to reach for a "seat at the table").
The thing is, both points of view are mostly based on opinion (and yes I see the irony of saying that in an opinion piece but at least I have a nuanced point of view...) the funny thing is sometimes people will even flip flop between these two views.
Marketing as a Weak Force
What about marketing as a marginal force though? A Weak Force that can give you a competitive edge when you have the rest of your business under control and apply it properly? That's where I see marketing. It's that little nudge that gets some people to grab a coke instead of a pepsi when they're making a quick decision at the counter, or google Mitsubishi instead of Toyota when doing your car research.
And to do that it needs to be applied at a mass scale, with lots of consistency and creative spark. Note that the creativity shouldn't be applied to speculating about things like research, target audiences or influencer programs (research HAS the answers to those things), it should be applied to the crafting of the communication pieces. Surprise, delight and excite your audience so that the brand sticks better and sells 5% more goods. It's really that simple.
Why this knowledge gap is BAD
In a worst case scenario:
-It bleeds money out of businesses. At the end of the day these are also peoples' livelihoods and resources that could be used in all sorts of positive ways.
-When there is no clear measure of marketing's impact, the indicator that clients start to apply is "effort". Unless their agency team isn't running around being busy 24/7 and looking visibly exhausted and flat, they aren't doing their job.
-The pay (at least for juniors) has stagnated since the 80's because the value proposition isn't clear