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5 Things I Know about Marketing - David Poltrack, Chief Research Officer, CBS

In this series, we ask MSI marketing leaders to share some of their core beliefs about marketing. Here, David Poltrack offers his thoughts.

1. Marketing drives the economy

The U.S. economy is as vibrant and as diversified as it is today because of the art of marketing. I don't think that people understand this to the extent that they should. You don’t hear a lot of support for advertising. But if you look at the strength of the U.S. economy over the last 20 or 30 years, it is built on the ability to create great brands and then to propagate those brands internationally.

Whether it’s Coca-Cola or Starbucks, creating iconic brands is a function of marketing: figuring out how to make a product that meets the consumers’ needs, and then using advertising to sell that brand, as well as promotions and event marketing: all of these elements are what has built the iconic U.S. brands.

If you took away the stimulus of advertising and marketing, the economy would probably collapse. I believe that the communication of product and/or service benefits and the consumer information that is provided through marketing is critical to the economic strength of the country.

2. Marketing is both a science and an art

There is a growing and definitive science of marketing built on research and analytics. But the scientific approach takes you only so far. There’s a whole creative element that captures the imagination. That’s what makes marketing such a great career, because you bring science and creativity and art together.

When a marketing person finishes their MBA program and walks into a company, there is a significant learning curve about that company’s products and services and customers and where they fit in. There’s a lot to learn before the graduate can be truly productive. That reflects the uniqueness of marketing. You can learn the procedures, the practices, and the tools. But as you go from company to company and product category to product category, you have got to be steeped in that particular aspect of the consumer’s life and the relationship between the product or service and the customer before you can use the tools that you gained in the academic world.

3. Creativity can’t be taught

I have devoted a good deal of my career to evaluating television programs, using all the qualitative and quantitative tools at my disposal to inform my management as to whether or not a television show will be successful, and what elements should be added or subtracted to help the show gain acceptance. I can be fairly articulate in what those elements are, and for any given television program, what its strengths and weaknesses are.

But with all that, I could not write a successful situation comedy. I would be lost trying to construct a really great television program. People who can pull those elements together are unique. Truly creative people, it seems to me, have that gene since birth—the ability to explore different approaches and be bold and innovative, but also organized and structured to create a cohesive whole. What makes for really creative success is being able to combine that with the artistic discipline that’s required to put it all together and the patience to go through the process.

4. Great marketing draws from all fields

People think of marketing as somewhat superficial, but inherently, marketing encompasses the whole person. With marketing, you are trying to tap into the culture and the individual’s wants and needs and desires and aspirations. Marketing has to encompass the individual in totality and also in their social context. That’s what makes marketing such an interesting field. It encompasses sociology and psychology, the arts, music, math, and analytics.

I have read that one of the characteristics of a creative organization is cosmopolitanism. You've got a group of people working together who have diverse interests: one person’s love is opera and another’s is painting and another’s love is mountain climbing. When they come together in an organization, that diversity of interests creates the fertile atmosphere for creative expression. It’s very fulfilling.

5. We are all marketers

We think of marketing as selling products and services, but marketing has universal applicability to all aspects of life. Marketing is understanding the person that you are interacting with, understanding their needs, their desires, their wants, and what you can do to make their life more enjoyable. Then being able to demonstrate to them that the benefits that they seek are being offered by what you're selling. That could be the product you're selling that meets a particular daily need or something that adds to their life.

All aspects of our life need a marketing component to be successful. If a religious organization is going to achieve its aspirations, it’s going to have to understand marketing. If an individual is going to rise to their full potential within an organization, they have to understand how to market themselves. Marketing is universally applicable. We are all marketers. It’s not so much selling yourself as allowing people to see the good things that you have to offer. Why being your friend and hanging around with you is going to add to their life.

David Poltrack is Chief Research Officer, CBS Corporation and President of CBS VISION, a research unit exploring emerging technologies, media consumption patterns, and advertising value in the media marketplace. He has been a Trustee of MSI since 1986 and currently chairs MSI's Executive Committee.

Five Things I Know About Marketing Series

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