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It’s easy to get so bogged down in the day-to-day ‘doing’ of marketing that we forget the breadth and opportunities that our subject area offers. To celebrate its centenary the Chartered Institute of Marketing has produced a review of the marketing century – looking at the past, present and future of 12 disciplines (Strategic Marketing, Market Segmentation, Innovation, Digital Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Customer Relationship Management, Branding, Advertising, Public Relations, Internal Marketing, Marketing and Sustainability and, finally, Social Marketing). Each chapter (and therefore discipline) is viewed through the eyes of 12 different ‘experts’ – each with a different approach to writing about their subject.

The problem is it’s hard to work out what this book strives to achieve. Parts of it are fascinating (others, not quite so) and it raises a number of interesting questions. But it’s not a book of marketing theory – in fact it touches on few theoretical models – so what’s the point? As I approached chapter eight I wondered if, perhaps, the trick was to stop trying to ‘find things to apply’ from it and take it at face value… a snapshot of marketing in our century.

Looking at the world of marketing from so many viewpoints is a valuable exercise for any marketer – bringing perspective and an opportunity for learning. In essence that’s what the CIM aims to achieve through its professional development. It wants us to step outside of the daily grind and learn from the wider marketplace. When you recognise this, the book starts to make sense.

So, first – is this relevant to professional services marketers? In a word, yes. I have long considered the sector unnecessarily obsessed with its own case studies, when in fact there is much to be learnt from the wider marketplace. Whilst the book does not specifically reference professional services marketing (perhaps an oversight, given its recently launched courses with the PM Forum), it does provide some interesting commentary on the elements of marketing that we all employ.

Second, what did I find particularly interesting?  There were a number of sections that got me thinking. Chapter 1: “marketing strategy has to often been shaped by the need to imitate what worked in the past…” – well, yes… I think we’d all agree with that. Chapter 2: a clear and understandable explanation of segmentation as a way of “grouping people by need…” – frankly this chapter was a revelation for me in its clarity of thought. Chapter 4: a stark reminder that digital marketing is more than just social media – because, let’s be honest, we were starting to forget it. Chapter 6: an important point that “…recording and improving data is no good unless you subsequently do something with it…” – genius!

But the two chapters that really stood out, both in terms of excellent writing and usefulness were Chapter 7 (Branding) – which nailed the ‘what is a brand’ question in the first paragraph (and makes the book worth reading for that reason if no other) – and Chapter 11 (Marketing and Sustainability) – which was the only chapter to leave me with a sense of ‘looking to the future’ through its honesty and realistic approach.

As you reach the end you find yourself sitting back and reflecting on the chapters as a collection. I can’t say that I necessarily learnt anything from this book but I did benefit from taking a wider perspective on my work. It has been a century of pretty inspiring changes for marketing, and this book gave me a chance to recognise that my day-to-day ‘doing’ actually has a relevance for the future.

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