marketing is everything… everything is marketing – Can “objectivity” and “profit” sleep in the same bed without getting naughty?

Hong Kong skyline -- Dec. 2010

This past week I was in China — hence a quiet week on the post front. This was my second time to Hong Kong, unfortunately the first time I was only 1.

The trip was a bit of a mad dash, yet fascinating to no end. I traveled with some other folks from B.C. to go look at a bioenergy facility — a small power plant that burns wood (or other biological material such as rice husks or otherwise) to produce gases which are then utilized to power large engines — which in turn produce electricity.

The facility we looked at — manufactured by a combination of B.C.-based and Chinese/Hong Kong-based company — is quite remarkable. It packages up into 15-or so shipping containers and can be set up in less than a week once on-site. It produces enough electricity for a small-ish community (approx. 250-500 residents and maybe more).

The waste from this plant is minimal — and a potential mass improvement for the over 60 communities in B.C. that burn diesel to produce power…

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However, this post is about marketing.

First… what dominates the picture above? The large building in the centre is impressive – as is the Convention Centre on the water, however, I found the advertising on top of the other buildings more impressive. The one is so brightly lit, it’s reflecting off the water in the late afternoon. The entire skyline of Hong Kong is dominated by banners and ads — as are the main streets… and the ads… they are not subtle:

Kowloon... anyone know what time it is?

The great irony here, is I wonder how many drivers have rear-ended the bus in front of them because they were admiring “the driver’s watch”?… or reading the ads on the back of the bus, or the side of the bus, or the side of the red taxi, etc.

There’s a lot of full-building watch ads. Some people take out “full-page” ads… some take out “full-building” ads… I am also curious if maybe folks that stay in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong can’t tell time very well…

what time is it?

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man... what time is it, anyway?

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And you know… who better to sponsor a “swimming complex” then that good Scottish restaurant: McDonald’s:

good community corporatism

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The part I really enjoyed was this excellent example of corporate-community partnerships in the Shenzen, China aiport:

"community service" (bottom of cans in yellow print)... at its best.

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What is this “Marketing” thing anyways?

Well… here’s a decent definition found online:

Management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.

As a philosophy, it is based on thinking about the business in terms of customer needs and their satisfaction. As a practice, it consists in coordination of four elements called the 4P’s:

(1) identification, selection, and development of a product,

(2) determination of its price,

(3) selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place, and

(4) development and implementation of a promotional strategy.

Marketing differs from selling because (in the words of Harvard Business School’s emeritus professor of marketing Theodore C. Levitt) “Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about. And it does not, as marketing invariably does, view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs.”

“Satisfying customer needs…” hmmmm???

I wonder if emeritus Professor Levitt might have some serious confusion between “needs” and “wants”… As I am curious how McDonald’s satisfies customers “needs”?

Or, how a Rolex — as compared to a Timex from the local Canadian Superstore — satisfies customers “needs”?

Do we really “need” Nike apparel to make us: “unstoppable”?

Nike... 'be unstoppable'?

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Guess... what?

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If I wear this company’s clothes, people won’t have to “Guess” how clever I am?

(Some more irony… the impressive bamboo scaffolding in the upper right of this picture is sheltering the Armani store.)

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One of my favorite ironies of this trip.

Here is the tag line of the city in China where we traveled to:

City's magazine tagline...

This is the like the tourist guide to the city of Pianxiang… and one thing that struck me about much of where I traveled in China, is the complete lack of evidence of: “low carbon.” (not to say that there might not be a move that way… it just isn’t showing)

The air quality was terrible anywhere we went. However, that does make for nice sunsets… as you can see here in this photo taken from my hotel room window.

Pianxiang sunset

And, it was explained to me that this particular day was almost unheard of. We could actually see blue sky in the morning and some of the hills around the city. Sadly, about the only thing that makes the city “ecological” is that it only has a population of about 1.8 million. A very small Chinese “city”.

(This isn’t to take away from the really fantastic people I met in both Hong Kong and China. Such great hosts.)

And then there’s signs like this — from an airport bathroom:

One "r"... reduce use

I took a guess at what this sign in the bathroom meant — and it was confirmed by our hosts. Reduce use of paper in the bathroom.

Fair enough… especially when one lives in a country of over 1 billion people.

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And the connection to salmon…? (one might ask)

Marketing is everything… everything is marketing…

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If Chinese cities feel safe marketing themselves as “ecological and low carbon” and McDonald’s expects folks to believe their ‘honest, community service’ intentions and Nike feels that we all believe that we are more “unstoppable” in their shoes then the ‘other guys’…

Well, then maybe we are all susceptible to marketing.

And really we are… just as the definition above suggests: in business marketing is the process of getting goods and services from concept to consumer… (I mean ‘customer’)… and, for any business to survive that process must entail profit.

This means that the main focus of business is profit… and the sole focus of marketing is profit. Sure, non-profits aren’t focused on profit per-se… however, they still need to convince someone that their product is best.

Satisfaction in business… well, that is no guarantee. (Air Canada’s service is a fine example of that… customer satisfaction is somewhat of an afterthought…)

And so marketing may be about the 4 P’s: product, price, placement, and promotion… but little of that is possible without the all important fifth P… Profit.

Everything in the business process, everything through the process of the 4 P’s must focus on profit, must result in profit.

And thus… what happens to science when it becomes a business?

Can businesses involved in scientific research still remain true to the almighty “objectivity” required of science?

Can “objectivity” and “profit” sleep in the same bed without getting naughty?

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