Marketing Management: there is something new again

25 October 2022

Fabio Ancarani, Professor of Marketing at the University of Bologna and Director of the Executive Master in Sales and Marketing at Bologna Business School presented the new edition of the Kotler, Keller, Chernev, Ancarani, Costabile –Marketing Management Manual.

The world’s best-known and most widely used marketing textbook gets a makeover by following a dutifully hybrid direction, as much in the analysis of competitors and consumers as in the definition of marketing strategies, contextualized in the framework of new technologies. A necessarily inevitable update, in a world where businesses, and also individuals and organizations are witnessing increasing fluidity, where boundaries are being blurred, virtual reality and the real world coincide, and it even becomes difficult to trace the differences between roles, industries, services and solutions. The event’s discussant was Elena Alberti, managing director, CFO and board member of Penske Automotive Italy.

She was the one who introduced the themes of the new handbook and brought focus back to the strategic role of Marketing in determining business decisions at all levels. In this sense, Alberti pointed out, it is not the discipline in its essence that has changed, but the tools, channels and ways in which the market is approached. “Marketing has not changed. Its role, its function, are still the same. However, markets, logics, tools and technologies change. So do the people to whom marketing addresses itself change.” And we must be able to adapt to these changes, while relying on a solid understanding of the basics.

Now in its sixteenth edition, Kotler’s Marketing Management, which over time has been joined by Kevin Lane Keller and Alexander Chernev of the Kellogg School, as well as, of course, by Prof. Ancarani of BBS and Prof. Costabile of LUISS, is much more than just a textbook: it is a true cornerstone text on international marketing. A widely used book, it is also considered a reference in Italian universities and business schools, for Master’s degree students as well as for MBAs and PhDs. Faced with such a text that has been renewed for so long, it is therefore natural to ask, “what’s new?” and it is precisely this question that Fabio Ancarani answered both in the preface to the new edition and in his talk at Bologna Business School last September 15.

In a nutshell, there are the fundamental changes in contemporary society that affect content and marketing models. And these changes are neither few nor trivial, given the times we are living in. Times in which it is easy to have two diametrically opposed reactions: “on the one hand everything has changed, on the other, the opposite trend that leads one to say that basically nothing has changed,” as Ancarani summarized. The new Marketing Management yields to neither temptation and remains a lucid analysis and reflective tool to lead managers to consider only those real and fundamental changes that tangibly impact society and the corporate or institutional realities in which we live and operate.

The invitation for managers, then, is to keep the rudder straight on the things that will never change and focus on those that can and must change course by adapting to new contexts.

Among the most obvious contextual changes is the blurring of traditionally established boundaries among traditional marketing players. Competition is becoming hybrid, fluid, competitors are emerging from unpredictable sectors, product and service marketing is discovering new points of contact, mass media is weakening while the strength of the relationship between people and between people and companies, products, and objects is growing. A relationship that is increasingly based on values of social and environmental responsibility. And on top of all of this: big data, performance measurement and artificial intelligence that help us not only nurture customer dialogue but also understand the needs of people who want an increasingly direct dialogue with companies and organizations and an increasingly customized response to their needs.

In this reality, “in order to avoid the realization of dystopias, and economic inefficiencies, human-centricity will have to be kept firmly in place and the distinctive natural intelligence traits of consumers and marketers enhanced.” The Marketing Science Institute outlined priorities for the next two years in this new and challenging environment. The first is Delivering Customer Value, the second is NPD innovation and commercialization, and the third is promoting inclusion and diversity in marketing and society. Comparing them with the directions of the past two years, not that far from the current ones, what emerges are the constituent elements of the innovations and which Ancarani summarized as:

  • A post-pandemic and “war” marketing that puts the individual, the person, and their well-being back at the center
  • The centrality of technologies to support the processes of interaction between individuals 
  • The growing relevance of virtuality (Metaverse) in everyday life and the growing relevance of reality in virtuality
  • Marketing no longer as a function, but as an endeavor that involves the enterprise as a whole
  • Marketing integrated in a holistic view, consisting of the development, executive design, and implementation of programs, processes, and activities that acknowledge the scope and interdependencies of marketing, inside and outside the organization.

In this volume we find companies’ responses to these changing needs, whereby they move from a customer portfolio to a relationship portfolio, focus more on listening and distance themselves from the excesses of mass marketing. Indeed, great relationships, are generated by great brands and great products, but what makes the difference is the ability of companies to engage customers in dialogue with each other, listening to them and offering great content. In all of this, the importance of measurement: how much is the relationship worth? Measuring profitability is the key to understanding whether you are going in the right direction, and this is where big data and measurement tools come in again.

In this perspective, the sixteenth edition of Marketing Management enhances the content related to the themes of Evolutionary Marketing Management and the essential strategies for its success, reaffirming the fundamentals that remain at the core of the concept of marketing itself and integrates the themes of the Digital Transformation that pervades the lives of individuals, companies and society.

Finally, Ancarani recalled another seminal text by Kotler that integrates and complements a contemporary approach to marketing: the volume H2H Marketing: The Genesis of Human-to-Human Marketing, which we discussed here


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