Philip Kotler meets Bologna Business School

6 October 2017

On Thursday, October 5, the father of modern marketing, Philip Kotler, met Bologna Business School. Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Kotler was named by the Financial Times as one of the four most important “marketing management gurus” of all time (together with Jack Welch, Bill Gates and Peter Drucker) and universally acclaimed as “the greatest living expert in marketing strategies“. At Bologna Business School Kotler explained how Digital Transformation, along with hyper competition, has revolutionized the way enterprises are called to think about their business.


Chronicle of a day dedicated to marketing, but also to a profound reflection on the socio-economic changes taking place.


12.00 pm – The arrival of Professor Kotler at Villa Guastavillani coincides with a clear autumn day and a particularly fervent atmosphere, between lessons and didactic activities. To the welcome meeting with the BBS management and the visit of the villa, followed the shooting in the hall called Sala del Ninfeo.

“Sustainability is already, but it will become even more so in the future, the focus of every good marketing strategy. Always keep in mind the three Ps: the people, the planet and the profit. In this exact order,” says Kotler during an interview with the BBS staff. The Professor’s research is always focused on the person, on listening, on the needs of the consumer. “We do not sell a product but a value, and the only one who can tell us what is of value to him is the consumer.”


14.15 pm – The Aula Magna of Villa Guastavillani is full of sales and marketing professionals and managers who have come to BBS to attend the Philip Kotler’s Master Lecture about the past, present and future of marketing management in the new evolutionary scenarios. For many, an opportunity to interact with one of the world’s biggest marketing experts, but not only. There are many who have found on the podium the author of the books encountered during their academic path, while others have even met, decades after graduation, their own marketing professor.


“Those who work in Marketing are the closest to the future. Marketing should be guided by value creation, otherwise you cannot expect any earnings. But be careful to set up a marketing strategy that drives the company’s growth, not just sales,” says Kotler.


“The society is changing. Millennials, for example, no longer want to possess things, but enjoy them for short periods. In more developed countries, the birthrate is falling while the world’s population has a steady growing life expectancy. It is also changing the role and position of women in society. These phenomena create problems to the traditional concept of production, but open the door to so many other scenarios. Opportunities are everywhere, in the old as well as in the new industries, in foreign markets, in specific industrial sectors. The marketing strategy must be born from research and be modified based on experience.”


At the conclusion of the Master Lecture, Philip Kotler dedicates time to an exchange of views with the participants and the signature of the latest Italian edition of the famous Marketing Management book, which brings his signature alongside with important co-authors such as Kevin Lane Keller ( Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College), Fabio Ancarani (Professor of Marketing at the University of Bologna and Associate Dean of Bologna Business School) and Michele Costabile (Professor of Marketing and Management at LUISS University, “Guido Carli” in Rome).


18.00 pm – Philip Kotler met the BBS Community during the first Innovation Talk of the new Academic Year, organized by Bologna Business School and Philip Morris Italia. The chosen location, that hosted the more than 300 participants, is that of the Salone di Palazzo De’ Toschi, in the city center.


“It is a great honor to have among us a person like Kotler who has influenced, with his thinking, the development of businesses and the growth of the economy,” says Massimo Bergami, Dean of Bologna Business School. “We are very pleased to collaborate with Philip Morris Italia, which will allow us, also this year, to propose a high-level path to our Community.”


Kotler explains the evolution of marketing through concrete examples: Nike, GE, Shell, P&G are just few of the international companies analyzed. “Who gives meaning to a product? Who is the storyteller? Marketing,” he says. “There are no commodities but only products that no one has ever been able to describe well enough.”


“In the communication-mix that we all have studied, in my opinion, is missing the Storytelling. Revlon’s co-founder Charles Revson said that his company produces lipsticks but sells hope. This is the true sense of marketing.”


Innovation, according to Kotler, can be found anywhere, in any context. Innovators and marketers often collide. “Innovators are the masters of the possible, while marketers are the masters of valuable. It’s not always easy to find a meeting point.”


Philip Kotler ranges from Lean Marketing to the process of innovation and to new technologies. It immediately becomes clear that the focus of marketing, according to the professor, is the person. Inviting consumers to co-create products, sustainability, leveraging the Sharing Society, is the key to project companies into the future.


There are many questions coming from the audience at the end of the event. One among all struck our guest. “How have you built your own brand?” asks a student from Georgia. Philip Kotler, with the fine irony that we have enjoyed throughout the whole day, replies: “I would have liked to be the conscious builder of my brand, but I have to admit it was just incidental. The truth is that our brand emerges when we give our best. The passion for marketing has led me to do my absolute best. And here I am, with you. “



Professor Kotler is co-author of Principles of Marketing and Marketing: An Introduction. His Marketing for nonprofit organizations, which came to its seventh edition in the United States, is the best-selling text on the subject.

He has published over 150 articles in the most prestigious industry magazines, including Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review and Business Horizons. He is the only author to have won for three consecutive years the Alpha Kappa Psi Award for the best article of the year, published by the Journal of Marketing.


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