Upstream Marketing in Transition
Twenty years have passed since that initial best practices study. Revisiting the findings from that study today strikes me that it was a good start. Many classic, textbook examples of growth principles were identified and cataloged.
Still, the study has its shortcomings. That project occurred before the “new economy” emerged, which of course, is now just the economy. Business growth occurs at a faster rate today. Technological innovations, like the Internet and new forms of digital marketing, have emerged. Apple, Amazon and Google, leading companies today, were in their infancies. Many of the management principles that drive these companies, including their approach to brand management, product development, organization design, and culture, weren’t well understood.
Certain processes and principles, like a stage-gate approach to product development, are less relevant today. Now, practices like minimally viable products (MVP) are proving more effective. Twenty years ago, customer input came at later and more discrete stages in the product development process. Today, it occurs much sooner, and in an ongoing fashion. Leading companies use iterative development, rapid prototyping and other methods to grow.
Marketing as a concept has also changed. Marketing was viewed more in organizational terms, often as a functional silo. Today, it’s seen more holistically, from a process perspective, intertwined throughout the organization Delivering upstream marketing requires coordinated, cross-functional involvement from traditional marketing, product development, and other areas, regardless of which functional department leads.
The way companies and consumers interact have also changed. Historically, marketing communication was essentially one-way, from companies to consumers. Now, it’s interactive – real time marketing, including multiple streams of ideas, with continuous strategic strikes. Rigid strategy development, that occurred periodically has been replaced with agile planning, incorporating continual listening, learning, and adjusting.
Finally, that 20-year old effort resulted in a listing of growth-focused principles, though didn’t integrate into a single theme or idea. A list of principles is nice, though it’s still just a list unless the ideas are incorporated into a framework or model.