Saturday, September 12, 2009

Under- and Over-theorized

Reading a quote from the very likely next prime minister of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, reminds me of a dilemma that most marketing executives are not able to escape: Ignatieff says that his transition from intellectual professor and writer to a politician fighting for majorities included a very important element of moving to a state of being “Under-theorized”. He is expressing the belief that a politician needs less critically reflected and elaborated theories but rather a drive for faster decisive actions that are less theory bound. He says that his current political career is more about “you have got to show fight” than the ability for deep pensive intellectual concepts.

Executive marketers, at least the good ones, are continuously oscillating back and forth between the stages of “Under-theorized” and “Over-theorized”, always mindful of the dangers of both zones. It is extremely difficult to remain in the right space of “right-theorized”.

Unfortunately I believe that the majority of executive marketers are constantly in the zone of “Under-theorized”. There is a profound lack of theoretical foundations that can be the guidepost of marketing decisions, giving marketers and marketing organizations a framework in which it can act and breathe without constant micro-management.

Some of the most recent relevant theories that executive marketers should attempt to dive into are:

  • Behavioral economics: The theory and science of understanding of how human beings are making decisions as not purely rational driven individuals. Human beings never act purely rational, the border zone between rational and emotional decision drivers is much murkier than most theories assume.
  • Brand engagement theories in a Digital world: The purchase and engagement paths of today’s consumer are getting more and more difficult to understand without a clear foundation of how they interact within their individual and fragmented worlds. Every brand needs a theoretical foundation of how consumers are making purchase, usage, and advocacy decisions in its particular category.
  • Integrated Marketing: The understanding of how different media channels, moments, and messages work together to achieve a particular marketing goal is getting more and more critical and complex to understand, shape, and predict.

Maybe the character of being “right-theorized” could become an additional requirement of being a successful senior marketing executive in any organization.


Blogger Steve Schildwachter said...

Excellent post, Michael. Some marketers remind us of what Ronald Reagan said about economists: They see something actually occur and wonder if it would work in theory.

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6:38 AM  

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