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Marketing Insights From Alice Stein

Marketing is a tough concept to get your mind around. Many people believe it's the process of selling more stuff, while others me included, believe marketing is the process of understanding customer needs so you can develop a Product, Price, Place and Promotion to need those needs and sell more stuff. For example, Steve Jobs is a great marketer because he is fanactical about developing products that meet unmet needs.

Alice Stein is a marketer in my camp, she is constantly striving to push the envelope when it comes to understanding how marketing works, and what processes you need to set up to be successful. I met Alice in Boston when I was involved in the board for the American Marketing Association. I've left the Boston area for Greensboro, NC, but Alice is still on the board in Boston as VP of Membership. Alice was kind enough to answer a few questions recently about her background, marketing and her plans for the future.

John: What's your background in marketing?

Alice: My professional background includes marketing, web and business strategy.  I’ve held senior management roles at both start-ups and global corporations, specifically within professional and financial services and e-commerce.  Simply stated… I’m a multi-disciplined marketer who has worked with all sorts of stakeholders in creating awareness and driving sales for some very cool brands. In my ”free time”,  I am involved on the board of the American Marketing Association (Boston Chapter).

John: How has digital publishing changed marketing in the last 10 years?

Alice: Digital publishing 10 years ago was associated with desktop/web publishing and developers would “publish” web pages to online servers. Now digital publishing refers to electronic content like videos, books, articles, and in many cases this content is presented in an interactive way. Take for example the new reincarnation of the Amazon Kindle.  It was brilliant for Amazon to expand the Kindle concept and create a Kindle app readily available to anyone using a mobile device.

John: How has the role of the marketer changed over the last 5 years?

Alice: Social media has given rise to online influencers, who I refer to as the “cyber influentials” of our society. These influentials freely distribute opinions about specific brands and may or may not be paid brand evangelists (though in the cases where they are paid, this fact must be disclosed for legal purposes). The rise of the “cyber influentials” creates a huge power shift away from the marketer who at one point actually “managed” the positioning statements associated with their brand. Now with so many conversations taking place concurrently, marketers in some cases take the role of mediators/referees, while the clever marketers know how to harness the power of the influential class. Five years ago, this complete loss of control over your brand message was virtually unknown. Today, employers as just one example monitor sites like in order to track the trending perceptions of their employer brand. Sites like these were rarely on the marketing radar back in 2005.

John: What do you see is the future of marketing?

Alice: In the future, I see the marketing function delineating into two separate roles: marketing support and product strategy. For organizations driven by commodity rather than customer value, the marketing role becomes more support driven and centers around shorter term goals. In a customer-centric/ value-driven organization, the marketing function is constantly evolving and plays a critical role in product strategy. Often times, these value-driven organizations shy away from quick wins and opt for a long term value proposition, which also builds loyal customers.

Organizations like Apple and Jetblue come to mind when I think about value-driven organizations.
These types of firms focus their efforts on building customer value, which in turn creates tremendous opportunity for the marketing function to play a key role in shaping the product. You can already see this type of functional change happening in many service oriented businesses. The appointment of a Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic is just one example of the functional evolution of the marketing role. The future of marketing and its ability to shape product strategy (rather than exist as a support arm of Sales or other departments) will rely on the ability of marketing to evolve quickly and transition from brand evangelists to customer evangelists.

Perhaps it’s actually the marketing team who holds the magic bullet for solving the U.S. innovation dilemma?

John: What's next for you?

Alice: After more than half a decade with one of the world’s largest HR services, it’s time for me to pursue my next parachute. The ideal position for me would leverage my background in multi-disciplined branding and professional services. Wherever I end up, the corporate culture should be passionate, fun and smart. There’s nothing more exciting than coming to work and working with exceptional people on exceptional, value-driven products.

If you enjoyed the blog (or perhaps the content acted as a great sedative for you), feel free to connect: alice(at)amaboston DOT org :: @citymindful