Professional Studies for Screen-Based Media
Foundation Degree South West
Defining Marketing

The future of marketing


Marketing is a dynamic discipline. It responds to changes in society, technology, the economy and political pressure. Given rapid changes over the last 40 years, there is no reason to believe that future changes will be any less dramatic. Two areas in particular stand out: new communications technology and increasing environmental and social concerns.

New communications technologies

Jon Weaver, Marketing Manager, Bournemouth Borough Council

Stuart Perl, Regional Director of Marketing (EMEA), Cunard Line Seaborne Cruise Line.

The marketing that we are generally familiar with developed in an era of mass communication (TV, Cinema, Radio, and newspapers). Marketers exploited these media to increase awareness of the products and services, and more recently to build brand images. Communication was from a few organisations, to many individuals. But new communications technologies (the Internet) allow for consumers to more easily communicate directly with organisations and with each other. See figure 2.1

Figure 2.1 Changes to traditional communication models

The implications of the new interactive media environment are still not well understood.

In addition, the physical distance between organisations and many of their customers resulted in large numbers of intermediaries (agents) who made money (and added value) by aggregating (collecting together) a wide range of goods and/or services, then selling them on to a large number of buyers.

Retailers do this of course, but there are also wholesalers and distributors and in service marketing there are financial, travel and insurance agents. The position of these intermediaries is in question now that many organisations have direct access to their customers via communications technology.

Environmental and social concerns
Marketing sometimes has undesirable outcomes (see critique of this section). Most extreme might be damage to the environment caused by non-biodegradable packaging, petrol fueled cars, increasing air travel and tourist resorts in sensitive areas. But also significant are concerns about job losses as corporations move to countries with lower wage costs (and less employee rights) and concerns about health caused by the ingredients of many packaged and convenience foods, for example.

For some then, the future challenge of marketing is to incorporate social responsibility into the system of meeting consumer needs profitably. Indeed, if marketing is to continue to flourish and concerns over the concept are to be reduced, marketers must take a longer term and broader view about their activities.

Marketing aims and objectives: a critique
It is easy to find criticisms of the outcomes of the marketing process. Most of us will have had experiences of poor service at a restaurant or hotel. Many of us will have been disappointed with a product that we have purchased. There are also numerous legal and self-regulatory bodies that we can turn to when dissatisfied with organisations marketing activities. For example you can complain to Trading Standards if an organisation has ‘ripped you off’, or to the Advertising Standards Authority about a misleading ad. There are also ‘support websites where you can share your poor experiences and get advice about how to complain, for example Holiday Travelwatch. So marketing is certainly not universally successful.

However these criticisms are usually about individual instances – a failure of one organisation to successfully meet our needs. We can console ourselves with the fact that the good thing about marketing is that there is always choice – we can take our business elsewhere next time.

Some critics note however, that the objective of many organisations seems to be the elimination of competition – thus reducing consumer choice. Worse than this, because organisations select the markets that are most profitable, they can be accused of failing to act in the broader interests of society (especially those in society without money). There are now organised anti-brand and anti-corporation movements, for example see the Corporatewatch website.

And some observers are even more critical of the overall concepts that underpin marketing. They highlight a central problem with the idea of ‘need satisfaction’ – the fact that consumers are never fully satisfied and that it would not be in the interests of marketers to fully satisfy them (because they would then stop buying new products and services). Marketing then, is all about the endless creation of ‘false needs’. Because marketing dominates the media and much of our physical environment, anti-marketing discourses (discussions) seldom take place. We are therefore trapped in a world of marketing, with no real choice but to participate as consumers.

As a marketer, you need to be able to answer to these criticisms on a personal level if you are to remain comfortable with your actions. Why does so much marketing fail to meet needs? If marketing has been successfully meeting needs for decades, why are so many needs still unmet? If marketing is about meeting the objectives of organisation as well as the consumers, is it not likely that the organisation will tend to put its interests first?