For more information about Royal Holloway, please see this promotional video. To see a promotional video for the MA Consumption, Markets & Culture see here. To see a promotional video for the Royal Holloway School of Management, click here.

For more information about the Royal Holloway MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing and the application process see here.

To get an understanding of the unique values that underly the MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing programme please read these blog posts: Value of Scholarly Values, Importance of Reading and Morris Holbrook and Business Interest in Education.

Monday, 30 March 2015

What is Marketing? A technology of discipline that wants to render everything.

Marketing, according to traditional definitions, is a matter of discovering what consumer needs and wants are, anticipating how they are about to change, and then orientating the entire business outlook so that it directly responds to, and preempts, these needs and wants. This conventional understanding dominates the study of marketing.

There is nothing erroneous about approaching marketing in this way, however it may reduce the scope through which we understand what marketing is and the role it takes in our daily lives. Adopting this conventional approach assumes that we are managers in corporations, or are about to be managers, and we need to learn a series of practical techniques that will allow us to set about these tasks. However, if we step back from this urge to think of marketing as a practice for us to master, and instead ask what difference marketing makes to the world, what kind of lives we can lead when there is so much marketing logic, then the subject becomes more interesting and even more relevant.

Marketing, to be sure, is everywhere. To look at an urban street is to see advertisements, people wearing branded clothes, branded cars, shops that beckon us to go and purchase things. In this sense, marketing is like an oxygen that we are always breathing. As we breathe in marketing, we absorb marketing logic. Marketing, therefore, is not just outside of our bodies. Marketing is also, I argue, inside us and increasingly becomes not just something that we do, or that is done to us, but also something that we become. For example, we might think of ourselves as a type of brand that must survive in competitive markets, we would therefore want to invest in ourselves whether it be in the form of wearing good clothes so to stand out, investing in our education in the hope of further reward or exercising our bodies so to look attractive to prospective employers and lovers in the marketplace of daily life. Of course, we might have always have wanted to do these things; the point is that marketing gives us a new vocabulary for making sense of these tasks, a new sense of urgency and sense of risk as we pursue them, and a new grid of value as we order them as priorities.

Marketing is part of government too. Observe how, in the current British election, politicians seeking election must stay "on message" (reads as maintain a consistent brand narrative), engage in advertising and other forms of promotion. Knowing the political will of the nation is also a type of market research and those politicians who know their market best of all are promised the spoils.

Marketing, then, is everywhere and marketing is everything. Or, put more cautiously, marketing is something that is seeping its way everywhere and increasingly looking like the logic that underpins everything. Marketing, therefore, is a process of saturation. Marketing ought to be thought of as a technology. It is a technology because it is a tool that transforms and renders whatever it is applied to. Marketing, we might also say, is a process of disciplining. It tells us how to act, how to see the world and, just like any business that fails to maintain its customer focus, assures us that we will be punished for failing to cohere our practices and our bodies with the unforgiving logic of competition. Marketing, therefore, is the term that we give to the process through which we adapt ourselves and become rendered according to the so-called "reality of the marketplace". Marketing also determines our sense of time - if you ignore marketing and refuse to be disciplined, then you live in the past and for this you will suffer. Marketing, then, is a process through which we can catch up with time and, if we are very good at it, marketing will allow us to access the future and to shape it before our competitors get there. Consequentially, imagine marketing as a machine in which you input a variety of outdated ideas and concepts and then they come out the other side, in a new realm of time in which everything has become re-defined according to a different logic. Marketing is a technology that renders us; it is a technology that re-shapes and re-defines the meanings through which we understand the world and adjusts our sense of time.

As we study marketing in a university, we can observe how the university itself is actively re-shaped and re-imagined in marketing's image. Below are examples of traditional university terminology as they become rendered by the technology that is marketing:

Pre-Marketing Logic                           Post-Marketing Logic    
University                                            Brand
Student                                                Consumer
Education                                            Service Experience
Lecturer                                               Service Provider
Tuition Fees                                        Career Investment
Degree                                                 Career Asset
Student Social Events                           Networking Opportunity
Fellow Students                                   Competitors or Co-Producers
Student Presentations                            Corporate Pitches
Campus                                               Knowledge Hub
Research                                             Innovation
Intellect                                               Knowledge Worker
Subject Content                                    Transferable Skills
Study                                                   Employability Skills Investment
Alumni                                                Brand Community

Does this technology result in an improvement or dis-improvement of education? Is it desirable, or even possible, to step outside of the logic of marketing? What other terms become transformed by marketing technology?