According to Philip Kotler, a foremost marketing academic at Kellogg Graduate School of Management, “marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires”, not just assists in selling manufactured products or services. This quotation goes a long way towards capturing his contribution to the field that is now often associated with his name and the book he penned in 1967 “Marketing Management: Application, Planning, Implementation and Control”. Now in its tenth or more edition, it remains the most important reading for students of the trade, having been updated and revised as marketing has undergone a spate of massive changes in the past decades.
His beginnings were not as glorious as many people would want to believe. In one of his speeches he quipped that when he first talked at a conference he addressed the audience of no more and more less than one person. Incidentally, the man turned out to be the second speaker in the session, rather than an interested attendee. Now, his insightful presentations about the role or the future of marketing attract crowds, whether they are university events or accompany corporate training sessions.
Kotler has proved adept at modifying and extending his theories to incorporate and predict ongoing development in the area of marketing. His research and theorizing did wonders to expand the discipline and change a dominant mindset among business people who wanted to see marketing efforts as a primer for selling things and little else. It was also Kotler who did a lot to apply marketing techniques to individuals, cities, countries or institutions, even though they were originally invented with products and services in mind.
He remains extremely acute in his analysis of the trends that are likely to shape the future of marketing and contributes his findings on a regular basis to leadership training programs and academic discussions. The main three forces that shape the face of business and marketing at the moment, in his opinion, are hyper-competition, globalization and technology. They are closely interconnected and, together, put a massive pressure on prices as well as the ability of companies to satisfy customers in the long run.
Intense competition results in more products and services being offered than can be possibly bought and consumed. It means that companies, and that is the point worth being included in leadership training curricula, need to think twice about their ability to retain customers and less about manufacturing or selling itself. At a time when anything can be replicated within days, designs, technologies, business solutions, companies have to create a unique relationship with customers as a buffer against this competitive pressure.
Globalization and technology add to his pressure as producers and distributors can access global markets more easily and customers can use sophisticated tools to compare prices and offerings from their homes. Leadership development experts should be able to respond to these changes by incorporating proper marketing techniques, from market research to branding, into their toolboxes.