That's right. It isn't a mere coincidence that the honey bee problem started sometime in 2004. That was the same year people started making a mess out of communication by sharing their ignorance about marketing, public relations, and advertising.
Some of the worst misfires? Social media "humanizes" business. Marketers don't have to innovate to be influential. Public relations is better than advertising (or vice versa). One. Two. Three. Just like that, some farmer is short on pollen this year. And we probably lose five of them every time a "modern thought leader" spins a yarn about innovating communication.
It has to stop. So, I dusted off an old Phillip Kotler text and picked ten names from his list of great marketers from another era. And perhaps learning a little about these guys might clue a few people in to the idea that marketing has little to do with how much people yap on networks or place articles (even those things might be important). Although some of their companies have ebbed and flowed over the years, there is no mistaking that how they defined marketing is different from how some define it.
Ten marketers who changed the planet, for better or worse.
Leslie Wexner. In 1963, Wexner borrowed $5,000 from his aunt to start a niche clothing store. Perhaps you've heard of it. It's called The Limited, which originally began as a store focused on clothing for younger women. He understood that there was a growing need to create stores that served a distinct demographic of customers.
Charles Lazarus. In 1948, Lazarus initially started a baby furniture store in Washington D.C. It didn't take long before his customers began asking for him to add baby toys. After he added baby toys, loyal customers asked for him to add mature toys. In ten years, Toys "R" Us became one of the biggest toy retailers in history.
Frank Perdue. Frank Perdue dropped out of college to join his family's farm in 1939. Years later, in 1971, he helped Perdue Farm embark on its first major advertising campaign. But there is a lot more to the story than advertising. Perdue was the first to take an unbranded class of products, chickens, and turn it into a premium brand associated with consistent quality.
Edwin Land. While attending college, Land would sneak into into a laboratory at Columbia University late at night to work on an invention. The result was innovating the first inexpensive filters capable of polarizing light. In 1932, he established Land-Wheelwright Laboratories with his Harvard physics instructor to commercialize his polarizing technology and receive financing from Wall Street. The company's name was changed to the Polaroid Corporation.
Charles Schwab. Shortly after starting an investment newsletter with two partners in 1963, he open a traditional investment firm. But Schwab later decided that wasn't enough so he applied the principles of high volume/low margin to buying and selling stock. In 1981, he became a member of the NYSE with 222,000 client accounts.
Ray Kroc. After taking over a small-scale burger franchise in 1954, Kroc began to implement a food service standardization that he expected all franchisees to follow. His vision was to ensure that McDonald's would be known worldwide as a quick service restaurant focused on quality, cleanliness, service, and value.
Calvin Klein. In 1968, Klein founded a coat shop in the York Hotel in New York City that sold other lines, along with one he designed on his own. In the decades that followed, he had several hits and misses until finally creating a licensing program. The licensing program generated $24,000 in 1974. Ten years later, his royalty income grew to $7.3 million.
August Busch III. Sometimes referred to as "Auggie" or "Three Sticks" by employees, Busch focused on innovating new products and ensuring consistency before becoming company president in 1974. He also helped make changes to improve advertising and distribution efficiency that ensured Anheuser-Busch would remain a global volume brewing leader since 1957.
John Willard Marriott. He started a small root beer stand in Washington D.C., which he grew into a chain of family restaurants and later into hospitality services. His vision was to create a company that would treat both employees and guests with a total dedication to satisfy their needs. By 1985, the Marriott Corporation earned $4.5 billion per year.
David Packard. In 1939, Packard and a partner used $538 to start a company in their garage. Their first sale was a sound oscillator for Walt Disney Studios. Known to shun traditional business hierarchy and formality, Packard was one of the first technology companies to use marketing research to innovate new products.
These marketers didn't waste too much time getting people to like them.
People liked them because the innovations they implemented led to revolutionary ideas and actions to meet the needs of their customers, even when their customers didn't necessarily know they had a need. More importantly, when you read down the list, it becomes even more apparent that these marketers did everything "new marketers" do with the technology of their day.
Marriott humanized business. Klein created a prototype for affiliate marketing. Perdue made the CEO visible. Lazarus listened to customers. Wexner understood niche positioning. Packard used marketing research to shape his company. Land innovated technology that crowd sourcing could not uncover. Kroc delivered authenticity. Schwab published the equivalent of a blog.
This doesn't mean there isn't room for others to join the list or create the next billion dollar company (several have already). But what is unique about these individuals is that they understood marketing and innovation go hand in hand.
They worked hard and demonstrated marketing works not as a theory, but by actively implementing their ideas at their own companies. If they hadn't, then there would have been no products or positioning for advertising, public relations, and social media (had it existed then) to wrap their respective innovations around. There would only be a hook or two, like mentioning honey bees, a point that really goes nowhere but, at least, makes you more aware about a real problem while reminding you that buzz isn't marketing.