Are marketing planning tools from the 1960s and 70s still relevant in the digital age?

Has marketing changed so much that traditional planning models no longer fit? Luan Wise doesn't think so. Here she explains why

There’s no doubt that we’re now living in a digital age, however when predictions are made at the beginning of each year, I always hope the one about ‘digital' being dropped will come true and we can go back to just using ‘marketing’.

If we look at the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s definition (created in 1976), there is no mention of traditional or digital. For me the word ‘process’ is key.

“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”

Chartered Institute of Marketing,

When we study marketing we learn about various processes, models and tools such as Porter’s Five Forces, and the BCG product portfolio matrix. While they have been taught for many years, I believe they’re still as relevant today. They provide useful frameworks to help with gathering and analysing the information we need to understand the needs of our audiences and meet business goals. 

There have, of course, been many other changes in the world of marketing. For example, although our marketing channels have changed, with BCG the output of using the model remains the same — milk the cows, don't waste money on the dogs, invest in the stars and experiment with the question marks to see if they can become stars.

Retain focus on the customer

Research often suggests that digital marketing activity and spend on digital marketing is increasing, but this relates more to the tactics and channels we use to reach our target audiences. In terms of planning, understanding the marketing place and identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements remain at the heart of what marketers need to do to help a business achieve its goals.

In the how to write a marketing plan workshop we’ll be looking at various models using some tools as part of the planning process, including SWOT and PESTLE. Let’s take a brief look at these now.

SWOT

First developed in the 1960s by a management consultant named Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute, it’s hard to avoid SWOT as a marketing planning tool; that is the analysis of internal strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats. 

However, all too often this is a ‘quick exercise’ to add some bullet points in a nice two-by-two matrix. Rarely are the bullet points developed or summarised into a list of key issues and actions. Yet they can become the force behind the marketing plan when used to analyse the landscape for a specific objective, segment or key project.

PESTLE

Harvard professor Francis Aguilar is thought to be the creator of PEST Analysis. He included a scanning tool called ETPS in his 1967 book, Scanning the Business Environment. It included four broad factors of the environment: economic, technical, political and social influences. 

It’s since been updated to the acronym PEST, and often PESTLE to include the additional aspects of legal and environmental factors that influence the business environment.

A hugely valuable tool to help assess the areas that influence the environment in which a business operates and to identify the factors that may present challenges, allowing for effective planning to best manage them. PEST correlates strongly with the threats component of SWOT but also has relevance to the opportunity analysis.

It takes more than a list of bullet points

Both SWOT and PESTLE are simple to use and while ‘digital’ might be listed in one or more areas of the analysis, the frameworks the tools provide are as relevant to the marketing planning process today as they were in the 1960s/1970s. The secret to using them both is to dig deep with gathering information, to go beyond bullet points and to take action on the findings. 

When you define the marketing activities required to implement your marketing plan there will most certainly be some ‘digital’ elements involved, but in terms of the marketing planning process, tools such as SWOT and PESTLE certainly stand the test of time.

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