As I have suggested, I think marketing should be seen as something historically and intellectually inseparable from mediated communications. Much of this chapter is a moan that in spite of the superficial attraction of marketing communications texts and courses they don’t give the field this broader aspect. In fact I’ll argue that marketing communications as a whole tends to reproduce mainstream marketing ideology in constructing a theoretically grossly under-substantiated yet carefully crafted text of managerial expertise and technique. But in spite of the mainstream’s relentless sales pitch for marketing management’s imaginary codified body of technical expertise, lay understanding of marketing stubbornly clings to an altogether different impression of the scope and nature of the subject. For most new marketing students, and for that matter most people who have evaded marketing’s professional and academic manifestations, ‘marketing’ is a pretty loose term carrying lay associations with things like advertising, selling, products, and shopping. In its everyday usage ‘marketing’ can mean more or less anything to do with consumption. If I’m phoned up at home by a canvasser, that’s a part of marketing. If I take my children to a fast food outlet, that’s the result of marketing. If I’m persuaded to exceed my new car budget by the attractive finance terms, that’s marketing. The architecture of shopping malls, the cinematic style of television advertisements, the helpful vocal tone of telephone canvassers, all these things are aspects of a persuasive, and culturally constitutive integrated marketing scheme. For academic authors who want to create discursive space for their own quarter of marketing’s farflung textual empire, marketing is, in fact, communications: ‘marketing communications is communication and communication is marketing’ (Schultz et al., 1994, p. 46, quoted in Shimp, 1997, p. 4). For those outside the academic, professional, consulting and publishing interests of marketing it does indeed seem to be so because every aspect of marketed consumption can be reduced into a communicative act. The managed production of consumption also entails some activities which are less easy, on the face of it, to conceive in terms of communication. For example, when a manager decides on the distribution channel or the price, the
communications dimension seems elusive from a managerial point of view. But much of the marketing management tradition of writing is produced by academics who, as marketing people, had some production and operations responsibility in 1960s’ organisations in the days before the growth of media channels and the ultra-specialisation of organisational functions. Their writing reflects this in the ‘two cultures’ of, on the one hand, marketing and strategy, and on the other, those woolly and frankly rather strange people in advertising and communications. The multi-faceted communications dimension of marketing clearly doesn’t cohere with many academic writers’ ideas of organisational roles and hierarchies. Some are designated as creative and some not: creativity (and or innovation which may or may not be a different thing altogether, at least in textbooks) is roundly lauded and promoted, but as an extradisciplinary adjunct to marketing expertise rather as an intrinsic component of professional managerial judgement. Notwithstanding all this, it is clear to see that the distribution outlet (exclusive distribution in a few elite outlets for Rolex watches, Rolls Royces, or intensive distribution for chewing gum) has a semiotic influence over the consumer’s experience of the brand. Exclusive outlets promote exclusive goods and services to consumers who like (and can afford) to buy a feeling of vicarious social exclusivity (what other kind is there?). Retailers are well aware of their psychological positioning in the consumption peckingorder and tailor their shop design, store layout and the rest to be consonant with their place in the competitive order. The surrounding context of purchase is part of the consumer experience. Even the price communicates something of the brand’s positioning against similar products in terms of high or low quality, niche or mass market. The themed displays in retailers which encourage you to buy ensembles of products rather than just the one you went in for, that’s all marketing too, to the lay person. If my favourite sports or movie star endorses a product or wears a sponsor’s logo, then that’s marketing. ‘Marketing is everything’ indeed, but not in the narrow managerial sense referred to by Doyle (1995, p. 23, following McKenna, 1991). Marketing may be everything (in Drucker’s, 1954, sense) for people trying to say something about how successful organisations organise: marketing discourse in this sense has passed into the vernacular (Brownlie and Saren, 1992) and is at work in countless organisations as a discourse of organisational excellence and managerial control.