Chris Anderson posted on Google’s attitude towards marketing, which was ‘we know we’re good, everyone will try us so don’t do it.’ I’ve been having a few discussions around marketing as part of the broadcast review, and how companies such as YouTube just completely ignore all the rules of marketing. Let’s take adverts as the purest form of marketing (I know there are lots of other methods, but they are usually adverts dressed up), I see these as rather greedy chunks of resource. They don’t do anything except say ‘here I am, this is the product.’ And they cost a lot of money to say this. If you take viral marketing in its proper sense, not in the ‘marketing companies trying to do normal marketing in a viral way’ sense, then it works because the resource does something. It entertains, it educates, it informs, it encourages dialogue, etc. Take YouTube – an advert for the site would be pretty pointless, but allowing people to actually share the content is powerful. A traditional marketing guy would never have understood that.
If one considers this in educational terms then perhaps the best form of marketing universities can do is to create educational content that is freely available. This then serves not one, but three functions:
i) It can be used by the university in its own courses.
ii) It fulfills an outreach/public good function as others can use it.
iii) It advertises the university.
Compare that with simply having an add that says ‘gee it’s fun to study at X’ and I can see a time when traditional marketing begins to look like a shaky investment.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of those in marketing everywhere, I’ve never really understood it as an academic discipline either. This is after all a field whose Cistine Chapel is Gilette’s ‘Give away the razor, sell the blades’ policy and whose Theory of Relativity is the rebranding of the viscosity of Heinz ketchup. I feel rather like marketing as Galbraith did of economic forecasting when he said "The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable."