Friday, 26 October 2007

Viral marketing vs Traditional Marketing- is the Facebook model destined to rule?

After you have sorted thro the messages, checked out your and your friends' feeds, bitten (vamipres, zombies), poked, superpoked, petted (fluff friends) etc, take a break to ponder on the phenomenon Facebook has become. Here is a social networking applications which, apparently is the second most " in" activity on US college campuses, tied to beer and sex. A website, that with very limited revenues (!) has hit a valuation of 11 figures, whose founder with all the mighty weight of his 23 years of existence is on the negotiating table with Steve Ballmer, the CEO fo Microsoft who is willing to buy a stake on facebook valued at $ 15 Billion.

So, what has this got to do with Viral marketing? Lets get to the same plate first in terms of semantics - when I say viral marketing, I mean the aggressive spread of awareness through recommendations from users, as compared to a top-down advertising led approach- the crux of the issue is- your users are responsible for marketing, rather similar to the way a virus spreads.

I wonder though, does this mean the early "end of days" for the traditional model of Advertising? This model relies on a budget led, planned approach has a specific purpose- expend all your energy on creating awareness- sort of a centralized planning model. But Viral marketing is, ofcourse, entirely different. Being viral, in many senses is about designing for aggressive propogation, but actually have no control over how this propogation happens. The fundamental questions in the approaches are diffent- the first model is about what are my outcomes, (TRP, GRP, awareness percentages etc), whereas, the second model's fundamental question is- How do I design the campaign so the user will recommend this to other users on an infinite propogation loop and trials happen through the user generated propogation.

The benefits of a viral approach seem to be very compelling- the biggest being you don't have big budgets for marketing, and of course, user engagement is, by definition very high- hence very loyal. But there are issues too- look at how rapidly MySpace seems to be falling out of favour- virus propogation is very spiky, and akin to a fad- here today, gone tomorrow…But hey, definitely a potent weapon in your arsenal…


Friday, 19 October 2007

What the Web 2.0 means to the enterprise

This is part 2 of my ruminations from the Web 2.0 event in SFO today. In an environment where the Web 2.0 buzz seems to float around a 19 something youngster (typically from Stanford, based in the Silicon Valley), I wonder how all of this would affect all those other entities and people that so obviously did not fit into the former category. Specifically, my quest was to find what the Web 2.0 meant to the enterprise…

Here are a few thoughts

  • It will probably mean an end to the packaged software industry as we know it today. Today's paradigm is too oriented towards organisational process or functions adapting to the way the software is designed, and yet it seems so blatantly obvious that no two organsations are really the same, despite similarities from the outside! Every organization has different work cultures, think and act differently, have different behavior and of course, do things differently. So why should they be asked to mould to one way of working, the best of breed way? Now, you might argue that this is old wisdom, so how will web 2.0 impact it. Well heres the thing, with the advent of web 2.0, u can choose to get a receivables management from App provider A that is spot on for your organisation, a general ledger from App provider B which gets accountant Tim worked up in ecstacy , etc… if you sort of see where I am going, even a single functional group can be serviced by a whole mashup of apps from different app providers . U get the picture… no need for big monolithic black boxes- the age of micro optimization is in.
  • It will mean creation of a "enterprise workspace" not bound by the limitation of physical devices or space. In an era of "clouds", where your access and work is not locked up in just your machine, your access to information, data and resources and knowledge is only limited to having a browser, and an interface to engage with-why do u need to carry your own laptop, pray? And come to think of it- can we do away with having come to the office everyday?
  • Finally, and this part is the one I find the most exciting- it will fundamentally change the meaning of the word "collaboration". For far too long has the system worked with a small group of individuals making the rules and decisions for a much larger group, and in the process a huge chunk of intelligence, innovation capability and talent basically goes unharnessed. Now, Web 2.0, with its ability to create online and offline collaboration, can help tap into this collective talent.

Fully played out, we are looking possibly at massive change…

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Do no Evil…

Whilst the web2.0 world is an exciting new paradigm, i am, thro this post, exploring a reputational risk posed to the leading brands.

I was in the web2.0 summit the other day and listened to Mark Zuckerberg (ceo- facebook) on how he saw the social graph evolving, followed by Marissa Meyer (head of search, Google) who spoke about Google's foray into health. Both are companies i really admire, and are leading the charge in an entirely new movement on behaviour on the web- whether it be termed social networking or context aware web or anything inbetween...

However, as I listened to them, i started to wonder about how they epitomised a key challenge, that many other organisations are confronted with- given the huge information that the individual inadvertently or otherwise puts up into these organisation's platforms, the enormous information power held by companies Google and Face-book poses a reputational risk to their brand in terms of how user information could be used for nefarious activities.

They have tried reassure with the "Do no evil" cache- by building a brand of trust and being seen as doing good, they seem to be successful in ensuring that the world continues to adopt their platforms. But huge lacunae remain. Particularly in platforms such as Facebook, which do not have an effective answer to how they are going to avoid their users (particularly the gullible) being targeted ?

A smaller challenge, albeit a plausible one is what is to stop an engaged employee of an organisation with a lot of information from doing more profiling than would qualify under the "do no evil" cache.

My view- this is a land mine, that will need to be tackled- and much more proactively, including things like proactive customer education, defining an industry code and enforcing it, putting together strong processes internally and externally to ensure this would not happen ,and of course, hire lawyers J!.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

China- the Masters of Marketing?

I was at Dalian, China the last week for the World Economic Forum's event there. It is really interesting the way China is portraying herself on the world stage. What China has done and is doing about attracting the world attention is worth observing as a masterful effort in brand and marketing.

Mind you, I am not for a moment arguing that "only spin" is going to do the trick. My personal moment of truth in China happened in Shanghai, (look at the photo I took with my cell phone) when I travelled at the highest speed I have ever done on land (432 kmph, though the photograph reflects 405 kmph, could not hold my camera steady at 432 kmph ) on the Maglev train from Shanghai city to the airport. That said though, the Chinese, I argue, have become adept at packaging very, very attractively what they have…

Think about it-they have a lot of challenges to work with… the lack of English (as compared to their neighbours down south) is a serious impediment, they have a very different business culture, etc., and yet, they have the world's ears, are on top of the charts for direct investment, and for a lot of businesses that are looking to grow.

I put it down to organisation- what I found incredibly interesting about china was, they run their country like a business- a small group of individuals take decisions, and the rest of the country executes… period. Works well for them, and they are reaping the rewards for it.

But the marketing part- the same group of strategists seem to be able to teach a thing or two about marketing. Green is important, ergo, all streetlamps in Dalian are CFL (you know, the green ones, good for the environment!), the roads and taxis work incredibly, the entire city had a scrubbed look (try scrubbing Mumbai!), and of course, the conference center, the hotels, the rooms in a "Tier 2" city were absolutely fantastic. This to me is a hugely marketing centric view, which is resulting in phenomenal success for China.


Saturday, 8 September 2007

Disproportionate influence: PR in Britain

On a long haul flight this week, I was reading The Economist, which had some very insightful articles about Russia and Putin's hold on it. Whilst reading it, something struck me. The British media have a disproportionate influence on the world media… and there is an opportunity for the marketer punch above your weight here…

Think about it. British media, such as the BBC, the Economist and other such august publications are very widely watched all around the world. Because of the respected publications and channels and their reach, I argue that the British media opinion has a disproportionate influence on the world opinion.

So what does this mean? I don't think it is possible to suggest that media / PR influencing in Britain is enough to influence world opinion (well, atleast the English speaking world) , but there possibly is the case to argue that media management in Britain has potential benefits beyond Britain for the global organisation. Afterall, as they say, perception is reality, and managing global perceptions is important.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Zero Budget Marketing

Zero budget marketing seems to be an oxymoron… and yet, in today's Web 2.0 world, it is more than ever possible…Let us just define what we mean here- this post is about how we create disproportionate impact from limited (or almost zero) budgets, leveraging the power of the newer forms of influence and reach that are made available to us?

Consider the following:

  • To build awareness, have you considered creating a profile of your company on facebook/ myspace- given that the accountants already consider a company an entity , this notion of looking at your brand as a "personality" is not entirely illogical, , so why shouldn't you consider? Particularly with the ability to customise platforms like facebook, you can pretty much endow your profile with exactly the right characteristics you are looking for. And it costs you nothing (well a little bit of time, perhaps?)
  • Brand influence is being built disproportionately thro non traditional channels…Did you know that, an automotive website, has more influence on automotive purchase decisions in the US than the combined budgets of the entire US automotive industry?
  • Have you really leveraged blogs enough? Having a blog is like having your own newspaper (I read that in a blog, interestingly enough)…and just think about the amount of publicity you could get if you had your own newspaper.
  • Have you thought about podcasts enough? Ever since the phenomenon called i-pod, and more importantly, the community called i-tunes came into being (not too long ago, as recently as 2003, and they have sold 3 Billion songs already), you can get your "podcasts" out to the audience…
  • You-tube, a Google property, reaches millions, and is probably the best channel to recruit fresh talent, and hey, do you really think you need to pay ad fees? Think again. If you could create a few videos of your workplace that you could publish (all they have to be is cool and trendy), you could start a movement on your own.
  • Do you really need to have all those events? Events tend to be resource and effort intensive, and take a lot of planning effort and time- rather than doing that, can you substitute a part of the interface ( it is never really possible to substitute completely for face to face), and move that online (eg an event on Second Life, or if you would like things a little simpler, a webinar), it saves you the effort, saves them the trouble of budgeting and planning for travel, and finally, is good for the environment. (compared to the cost of a physical events, you are looking at a fraction (say ¼ ) of the cost
  • Search engine marketing, a term that basically is about second guessing search engine rules with intent to get your website to be on page 1 of as many searches as you can get to can be not only done on very limited budgets (think £100 and multiples) but can also be sharply focused and be very effective, if you have thought through who you want to attract ,and who you don't.
  • You have something to sell? Why do you need to invest in bricks (or even in clicks)? In the initial stages, it is relatively simple enough to avail of free website creations/ free blog creations/ free (well nearly free) e-marketplaces to start your own store at zero cost.

What does the Green Agenda mean to Marketing?

As Martin Wolf from the FT argues, it is reasonably clear that the tide of the scientific argument has turned decisively towards mankind's culpability in creating climate change. What is not clear though, is how we move to reverse this. What this has pointed to is that climate change (and the green agenda) is a subject that is gathering steam, be it in the echelons of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, or in the coffee table conversations of countless meetings, and has become a serious agenda for business. I argue, through this post, that marketing is well placed to take actions on this front.

  • Your business has to be on the right side of green. In today's world, particularly in continental Europe, anything from 30-60% (depending on the country) of consumers vote with their feet if they believe your business is not acting sustainably- creating a clear business case for your green credentials. The best way to ensure this is to initiate business programs that aim at being carbon neutral, and tackle other parts of the sustainability argument as well- use of fair-trade commodities, ethics and sustainability audits etc
  • You may have opportunities to create newer products/servicelines that are able to bring this benefit to bear with your customers. Eg- if you are in retail, it is relatively easy to create products/brands/services that appeal to the green consumer- think Prius, think Fairtrade coffee, think BP's ultimate petrol.
  • Bring down the "carbon footprint" in marketing activities- eg- can you reduce usage of paper, can you look at your event venues that are "greener", can you bring down travel through your campaigns etc… (in many ways, this stuff actually reduces your costs, hence creating a double benefit)

Thought Leadership- What it is and how can you build it?

To me, the essence of thought leadership lies in the way the client sees you. Are you positioned as a "guru" to your customers or not? The line of reasoning from the customer's perspective is thus- if these chaps know more than I do about the problem I am faced with, I am more likely to believe that the solution they present to me will indeed sort me out- the "guru" positioning. Thought leadership is about being seen as the Guru.

This rationale works well with highly amorphous products or services (high intangibility) -the more amorphous, the more difficult to quantify the benefits, hence more the need for you to appear as the guru= you require to be seen as the "thought leader". Particular examples are high-expertise, intangible industries- eg business consultants, eg Public Relations consultants…

How do you build it though?

Most arguments at this point emphasise bringing out thought leadership through "thought papers"… i.e., create white papers that present a differentiated point of view on the subject to the audience. I would however argue, this is possibly not the best route to building thought leadership. There are not that many "different" solutions to a problem, after all isn't it all about common sense anyway?

To me building thought leadership is about having an informed and experienced view on most issues that vex customers around the subject, it is not about having a unique view i.e., it is not important to have an alternate take on every thing, but it is important to have a reasonably enlightened view on most things that matter on the subject. Think about how you would look at a Guru- it is not that the guru's solutions are totally different from other solutions out there, but it is that the guru will be the best placed to give you the right solution in the first place, because they know so much about the subject.

Take the example of a strategic consultancy- which wants to be seen as a guru of <say> business transformation- I would argue that it is more important for this consultancy to have an experience based view on all key elements – eg., business transformation through process improvements, through leveraging new technology, through portfolio optimisation, through mergers and acquisitions, through reemphasising competitive advantage, through restructuring, through building alliances etc… rather than have a unique take on any or all of the above.

In short, creating an entire library of white papers on the subject is more important than focusing on that "brilliant" prize winning article alone.

Marketing in the Context of Business

Rather than looking at what the boundaries of marketing are, the focus of this particular post will be on what do you leverage marketing for. Marketing folks have done enough self-promotion for business to believe that marketing is crucial to business (I agree, in principle), but some are not quite sure what to do with it- where do you use it, when do you need more of it, when can you make do with less?

Marketing is a force multiplier to business- having a great product (service) which can be sold at a reasonable price and still make reasonable margins is probably the most crucial thing for business, and nothing can substitute that, but what is also important is to be able to quickly spread the word to enable the business to capture all that revenue left untapped, and be able to create a "respect" that allows you to command premiums over competition (differentiation)- with the first, you accelerate revenues, and with the second, you improve profits.

Who owns marketing? That is an easy one to answer, and it is not the marketing department. I would argue, depending on which business you are in and what the specific leverage points are, that it is clearly a direct business leadership responsibility. Think of marketing as a way of thinking, and be cognisant of marketing's role in every single business transaction (many of which tend to be outside of the scope of the traditional marketing department)- every sales call, every hr presentation, every results presentation, every governmental interface- so please do not lock responsibility for marketing into a black box left to marketing people.

When do you need marketing? Why don't I focus on the easier question to answer? When don't you need it? A few circumstances, but the following would probably be important:

  • When you cannot scale up to meet current demand- now what's the point in creating further revenue demand if you cannot fulfil existing demand? But even in this, there are mitigating circumstances- eg in a services business, the crimp on demand is sometimes due to a non availability of employees, and hence the marketing emphasis is on building the employee brand.
  • When you have an absolute monopoly and are in no particular hurry to rival a certain William H Gates. The monopoly need not only be about governmental regulation (where you have been clever enough to get the government to shut every one else out of the market), it could also be because you have been frightfully clever and have created intellectual property ( patent/ copyright/ r&d led monopoly)
  • When you are a large business that has been consistently investing in your brand and have created a sufficient base of goodwill, so you can weather a couple of seasons of base-level investment, because you need to cut costs to weather the coming squalls. But don't make a habit of it…

But, please note, the key point is that marketing is a force multiplier- it cannot, make up for weak business fundamentals.

Marketing in a Flat World

As Tom Friedman puts it, the flattening of the world presents us with entirely new sets of challenges and opportunities- and he goes on to emphasise how nation states and individuals should react. I argue, in this post, that this trend has an interesting set of implications for marketing too…

Setting guiding principles straight- the integration of countries such as China and India into the global economy presents the marketing function with a fundamentally great opportunity to leverage the benefits those markets have to offer. Specifically, 2+ billion very competitive people has a way of filtering the very best of brains/talent to the top, and this talent is available at a very low price point. I argue that marketing is well poised to take advantage.

How? Consider the following:

  • Marketing innovation blowback- implementing marketing campaigns in emerging markets present challenges that are very local- presence or absence of media channels and resources mean that you have to think different about how you reach and influence. But, what has been built for emerging markets, can arguably be brought back to the home/ mature markets with little customisaiton required.
  • Leverage emerging markets for cost reduction in your budgets- look at your traditional campaigns- everything from DM, to emails, to database administration etc can be done out of one of these markets, at a fraction of the cost in these economies- what parts of your campaign can you move there? (the answer by the way, is not all!)
  • Focus on analytics and insight building in emerging economies- did you know that a significant chunk of McKinsey's knowledge management resources reside in emerging markets? Their job is to build and manage those insights for all of Mckinsey to benefit from, not just for those emerging markets.
  • Leverage those online assets more- with the emergence of a huge technology business, countries such as India have a very sophisticated technology talent pool- which can be leveraged to create newer forms of marketing value creation, with things like website analytics for instance, or with other forms of online outreach and accountability.
  • Creating more accountability- marketing, it has been argued, does not give a very good account of itself when it comes to results accounting- a part of this has to do with the amorphous nature of what marketing does, but a bigger part is due to the difficult in implementing accounting and measurement processes, which can be very skills intensive- which is where the emerging markets and the leverage they bring come in- put your accountability processes elsewhere…

Marketing: B2B vs B2C

Marketing to businesses and Marketing to consumers, are two different things really, aren't they? To my mind, there are 3 primary differences between B2B and B2C marketing, keeping in mind these could be sweeping generalisations, and may apply only in some cases. Inherently, the B2C business tends to focus on a large number of customers, and the volume/value of each transaction tends to be small, as compared to the B2B business. This tends to be different the following ways:

  • The relative simplicity of the message- In a B2C environment, one tries to influence customers in a very cluttered environment (one ad amongst 15 in that break) – hence the need for a simple message which becomes very important. Hence the entire notion of a USP and the statistical analysis and sampling techniques that sharpen how well it is communicated
  • The size and magnitude of "target audience" the business needs to reach and hence the implications -think about the FMCG business, owing to the fact that it is impossible for this business to physically reach all their customers, so they have figured out the best ways to reach them through other channels- hence advertising- and the specialisation of creating a 15 second or a 30 second ad that will do the job of getting a proportion of the billion customers to buy at the retail store.
  • The relative complexity of the decision making- in a B2B business, we need to figure out the main decision maker, the influencers, the end users etc… in a B2C business, things tend to be relatively simpler.

Marketing and Private Equity

It is a reality of today that hedge funds and private equity groups are building up portfolios of businesses, as the nature of the relationship between the owner and the manager changes in a capitalist society going global (please search for Martin Wolf on Global Financial capitalism). What does marketing have to do with this?

I argue here that marketing has the following specific roles to play in this context:

  • A big issue, highlighted in the recent UK debate on the private equity industry, is a lot of misinformation that pervades the market- eg, these groups have unfair advantages, which is exacerbated by a lack of transparency from the players. If the groups started to look at their reputation and their brand perception amongst key audiences, and started to take active steps towards mitigating this mis-information, I would argue they would not be subject to as much negativity as they are today. They need more marketing think.
  • I would also argue that just as you would integrate a portfolio of businesses along the lines of finance (cashflows, revenues, demand spikes etc), there is an opportunity to manage marketing across the portfolio as well- think about the cross- leverage between B2B and B2C businesses in your portfolio, and how a broader marketing footprint would be able to multiply the valuation across the portfolio- there are serious benefits to be gained.

Developed Markets vs Emerging markets : The difference(s) in Marketing to…

Fundamentally, marketing is about enabling behaviour change (you want your audience to do something differently than they do today), and that dictates that things, at an abstracted level, can be the same- after all you are dealing with one species. So the basics, such as market research, advertising, channels of reach and influence cannot be all that different. However there are major differences which fit into the following buckets:

  • The basic stimuli for behaviour change are bound to be different-depending on how society has evolved (religion, government, economic prosperity, openness and competitiveness of the economy, language, cultural icons are some different factors), the role models and the reasons why people will do things will be fundamentally different- for instance Green issues may dominate consumer behaviour in Europe, but may have less relevance in Japan. It is important that one gets to the insight that is going to drive behaviour change.
  • The channels may behave fundamentally differently- consider the implications of marketing to customers that have access to 3 government owned TV channels vs marketing to customers in a highly segmented 100s of media channels environment
  • The measurement and statistics may not be as your system is used to- the world does not have your AC Nielsons and the Gallup data available to back up your business/consumer demand case. You will need to think alternate "proxies" for measurement, and tracking
  • The broader ecosystem, that we tend to take for granted, may not be as used to working with our systems and processes (ad agencies, research companies, panel data, creative and production facilities etc), and will take a significant rethink, possibly a more strategic in-source/ or creation of the broader ecosystem, depending on how much your business is dependant on this
  • Finally, and this from the heart- managing your team is going to be significantly different- drivers of motivation in different markets are different- for instance, a pink slip in the US may not be as serious as in Asia. Make no mistake, in a high-skilled function like marketing, you need the best talent from that market to be successful.

Communities- creating and managing them

It takes multiple interactions, over a period of time before they can trust you enough to try you out -one transaction or interface with the customer hardly ever results in the outcome we are looking for However, the challenge is, how do you continue to engage with them and build trust whilst they are making their mind up? Through this post, I make the case for creating communities as a way to sustain this engagement.

Wikipedia says- "A community is a social group of organisms sharing an environment, normally with shared interests"

The benefits of building and managing communities are relatively easy to explain. If you can attract a group of your audience to continue to interact with you, you can learn from them about your products , your competition, and, as you build trust over multiple interactions, have a higher chance of influencing them to be more favourable towards you. Think of this as a club run by you- the members in this club are your audiences.

But the difficult part is, what's in it for them? For them to engage with you, you need to be able to give them something they are interested in. In general, this tends to be access to something - perhaps access to expertise they are looking for , perhaps access to other people who are in similar situations as they are in (your other customers), perhaps the feeling of belonging to an exclusive club (CEO/CIO conclaves), perhaps making them feel as if they were pioneers in something …

In general, your start-point tends to be subjects that are relevant to the audience that you want to be associated with, and create a "club" experience that brings some new insight (something they don't know already) to them. The criticality lies in your ability to invest in building this community- this is one of those, longer run, not immediate impact things, but the benefits over the longer run are apparent to see.

By the way, creating a community does not necessarily need to be a start from scratch. There may be existing congregations with high focus on your target audience that you could work with, and/or you may already have a community and not know it- the best place to look is amongst the users of your products/services- which is why customer forums tend to be so irresistible.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Working Marketing Qtr by Qtr- the reality of the 3 month budgets

Today, more than ever, as organisational p&ls are more and more subject to vagaries of quarterly flows, it is crucial for marketing to adapt to this change Traditionally, marketing's lifeblood has been its planning and hence, its ability to have budgets-remember the notion-marketing spending that is start and stop is worse than a low but steady flow of spending… … the following suggestions may help:

  • Rather than try and hang onto budgets, voluntarily contribute back what you can to the corporate kitty- it is really important that business success comes first, and if it means low or no marketing spends, so be it. hey, they will cut it anyway, and this way, you have the first right to propose spends when the going gets better.
  • Be prepared to move really fast- invariably it does happen that you find that $50000 that you need to spend but in 15 days. Please build in short term/ quick move plans that are able to leverage such opportunities that open up suddenly.
  • Look at these as "spring cleaning" opportunities- is it really important that you hang onto that PR agency in that obscure country that gives your business < 3% revenues? Is it really that essential that you be present in full force in a large event only because "what will others say if we are not there"?
  • Get creative- you will find more appetite for creativity and risk in these circumstances-afterall, it does not take much marketing brains to create traction from huge budgets- it is always tougher to do this with zero or little money
  • See what parts of your function you can offload to other functions- can some of the sales or the consulting chappies take on a part of the marketing function (Eg creating white papers? Eg creating own events rather than sponsoring them)
  • Hunker down and build infrastructure- if you do not have a lot going on outside, arguably, your team could be building other, more vital systems/ processes/relationships that are beneficial when things go full steam again? Put in place that collaboration platform, or that financial budgetary control system, or that database cleanse that is important?
  • Look for new value-add channels- I have already laid out a bit of this in an earlier post.

Monday, 9 July 2007

What is this blog about?

After 12 years of large corporate experience, listening to and contributing to various conversations, i am giving in to the temptation to talk, something deep rooted about me (hey, dont ever give a marketing person a microphone!)...

What do i intend this blog to be about?
there is more than enough infomation about marketing floating out there, so i cannot make this blog a generic "marketing" blog, but will have to specialise (how i wish i could travel back in time, not too long- just about 3-4 years ago, and have started this blog, and now be an acknowleged guru on the subject with sky-high technorati ratings)

So what will this specialisation be about? i am looking at the following areas:

1- marketing as it relates to business success
2-marketing's leverage from emerging markets

why the above 2?
because they were the first 2 that came to my mind...
Seriously, the first relates to how marketing links back to corporate strategy. I am a firm believer in the adage, business success (and in some cases, survival), is the sole reason for the existence of marketing, and unless what we do in marketing can link back to that, i would have serious reasons to worry about survival of that marketing function- this interestingly enough, means that marketing is first of all the business's job, and the "marketeers" exist only to enable, coax and bring the orientation out.
The second relates to marketing's changing paradigm -arguably, plenty already is going on with reference to onboarding Web 2.0 elements (conversations, podcasts, blogs, secondlife, third party endorsements, user experiences, etc), however, what is a potentially interesting area of exploration is the implications of emerging market leverage to the marketing function.