Writing can be one of the loneliest tasks imaginable. Even when you write publicly, you often sustain long stretches of silence when you wonder whether or not anyone even reads. Responses to writing, even blogging, are few and far between, and often the responses that do come are not of the encouraging variety. But every once in a long while, someone responds to something you say in a way that makes everything worthwhile.
As a dedicated academic poser, every few months I download a big batch of articles on business and marketing from various academic journals and go on a reading binge. It can be a huge slog to get through the often opaque writing, grand theories, and rigidly defined methodologies that in the end, produce little more than the slightest philosophical tweak on what 20 other scholars have been saying for 50 years. But in the middle of what seems a big pile of academic deadwood, there are some incredible diamonds–ideas that shed light on the kabbalistic structures of market strategy, and change the way you think about business.
Victor Cook, Jr., now Professor Emeritus of Marketing at Tulane, has produced a number of those diamonds over the past 35 years. His papers on marketing strategy for the Journal of Marketing (e.g.: Understanding Marketing Strategy and Differential Advantage, 1985, Vol. 47, Issue 2) gave me my first clues to the financial underpinnings of marketing, and what financial equations can reveal about market strategy.
So imagine my surprise at getting an email from Victor Cook. He was just dropping me a courtesy note to let me know he had published a new book, and he had used a quote from a BusinessWeek Column I wrote years ago about marketing’s ironic inability to package and position itself as a profession. I just about fell out of my chair. Okay, I know academic marketing is the ivoriest of towers. But this wasn’t some doctoral student whose only contribution to the literature was a rehashing of 40 years of competing theories; this was someone with a history of forging important ideas. He not only read something I wrote and quoted it, but he took the time to let me know and sent me copy of his book. Well, it made my day, and my week.
So I got a chance to spend some time on the phone with Cook, discussing the future of marketing. His new book, Competing for Customers and Capital, lays out an explicit framework for tying marketing performance to shareholder value. This is the holy grail for the next generation of CMOs, who are sorely lacking a key to the corporate boardroom. I’ve just gotten the review copy, which I’ll be pouring over and discussing here over the next few weeks. But for all the heady discussion about theory and frameworks, one story Cook told me has been ringing in my head. He developed a course to teach these financial theories of marketing to actual marketing students, but the course was challenged on the grounds that it didn’t belong in marketing, but in finance. Who challenged it? Other marketing faculty.
This revolution may take longer than expected.