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| 2 minutes read

The discipline of marketing

At the start of his book "How Brands Grow" Professor Byron Sharp draws parallels between the world of early medicine and the marketing profession now.

In the early days of the medical profession, scientific rigour was hard to come by. For every Hippocrates, there was a shady shaman ready to dispense some sorcerous remedy. 

Over centuries, the medical profession progressed through the groundbreaking work of experts like Louis Pasteur and Florence Nightingale. We find a scientifically rigorous medical profession in 2021, the effectiveness of which is best seen in the way geneticists and virologist have been able to synthesise and roll out half a dozen pandemic ending vaccines within 12 months.

As Professor Sharp puts it, in many ways, the development of the medical profession mirrors the journey that marketing as a discipline is on right now. 

While the medical metaphor probably shouldn't be taken too far. There are a variety of lessons to be had for marketers.

Understand the core of the discipline first

The Hippocratic oath and the concept of "do no harm" are a bit of a myth, but the ideas of Hippocrates remain just as relevant over 2300 years after the physician's death.

Likewise, the core of marketing has remained the same over the last hundred or more years. As marketing channels and the focus of marketers have shifted, the basics of marketing have remained constant across industries and regions.

Understanding the basics, the core of marketing is more difficult for marketers operating at a level of execution within a particular channel or industry but is so critical to value in the long term. 

Executing well in channels is important but a deep knowledge of marketing core theory is essential, think: segment, target, message and product, place, price, promotion and awareness interest, desire, action.

Marketing will develop through measurement and communication

Understanding what works, what doesn't and why is the biggest challenge facing marketing. Moving from snake oil to DNA sequencing does not happen without fastidious measurement and open communications. 

Marketers are getting better at measuring within their function, but rigorous, industry-wide, marketing analysis of the kind needed to progress the profession is a rarity. The research in the last few years of the IPA in the UK, the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute in Australia and a handful of well-known marketing professors stands in contrast to the majority of vendor-led, less than scientific research.

Be on the lookout for this kind of research, even if it is not immediately applicable to your role. Theories like Excess Share of Voice (ESOV) represent marketing's most rigorous developments.

Marketing is a discipline

As the craft of marketing develops, new channels and ideas will come and go. As marketers, our job is to identify what works, to define best practice and approach marketing as a discipline.

Marketing is at the core of growth and value, it's a marketers job to understand that, to deliver growth and value and to progress the discipline.


e2e, professional services, marketing