Effectiveness ignorance has left American marketing lagging behind the rest of the world

Topic: Effectiveness ignorance has left American marketing lagging behind the rest of the world

America’s marketing influence is diminishing because of a failure to apply the concepts of effectiveness that have served marketers in other countries so well. All is not lost though, it’s time for the country’s marketers to come back and lead as they once did.

Thirty years ago I had three remarkable experiences. I finished the data collection stage of my PhD in marketing. I was offered a Thouron Scholarship to become a visiting scholar at Wharton. And I realised I was heading for mediocrity.

The three things were sequential. The PhD at Lancaster University required time to be written up. The scholarship meant I could head to Wharton and do just that. And being there led to a faculty seminar where I presented my doctoral research and arrived at my humbling personal conclusion.

The Wharton faculty back then was God-like. Paul Green, who invented conjoint. Barbara Kahn, one of the great consumer researchers of all time. Jerry Wind, the marketing strategist’s strategist. They all came to my lunchtime seminar and listened, attentively, to a twenty-something English guy talk about advertising and kids. At the end they were polite but dismissive. Pleasant but patronising. I don’t want to portray the department as anything but supportive and generous, but when I finished my talk they collectively and correctly exuded a vibe of “that was weird, back to work”.

Afterwards I sat alone in the seminar room in Philadelphia, crestfallen, and considered my options. I could take the hint, head home, and join a marketing faculty at a British university. Spend the next thirty years revelling in my brief time at Wharton and the abject mediocrity that followed it. I could lecture about marketing to hordes of uncaring 19-year-olds. Hide from the companies that did proper marketing. Marry a nice sociology professor. Wear cardigans. Worry about academic titles. Drink wine from Sainsburys. Become a legend in my own lecture theatre.

Or I could buckle the fuck down and work out why my PhD was not good enough. Use the astonishing resources and access that Wharton bestowed to improve my research, my thesis and myself. And try to become an American-grade marketing professor.

Topic Discussed: Effectiveness ignorance has left American marketing lagging behind the rest of the world

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