Marketing is now as important as cashflow, the balance sheet, IT and human resource management.
It is still quite remarkable how many companies and consumers think that marketing is either pretty much the same as the Lotto or that it is just an excuse for yuppies to get to own Porsches.
Interestingly enough, South Africa's lack of understanding of the value and necessity of marketing is something we can definitely blame on apartheid.
Because a particularly nasty commercial by-product of apartheid with which South African business continues to battle, is competition.
Back in the bad old days there really wasn't too much of it in our over-regulated and protected economy. Price collusion, cartels, monopolies and big fish swallowing little fish were the order of the day. Consumers were brainwashed by government never to complain and when a few did pluck up the courage, business basically told them to go and get stuffed. With monopolies marketing simply isn't necessary.
Things are different now. A lot more competitive and fewer restrictions.
But, even so, I am hearing more and more foundering companies admitting that they really would have wanted to put more effort into marketing their products and services if only they had the money.
As though marketing was some sort of optional extra.
It is quite staggering how many new and long established businesses, now finding themselves up against some stiff competition, refuse to accept that marketing is a fundamental necessity. Not only that, but a lot of them actually believe that they have some sort of divine right to succeed without it.
Which is about as arrogant as spending every cent you have on a top-of-the-range BMW and then standing on the side of the road with a piece of cardboard begging for petrol money and expecting every passing motorist to be obliged to contribute.
Even more remarkable is quite how widespread the notion is that big companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and Pick 'n Pay spend vast sums on marketing just to flash their money about or generally show off. Believe me, they don't. They make every cent count and while the ill-informed see marketing as some sort of whimsical process involving a combination of smoke, mirrors and vast amounts of money, the Cokes and Unilevers of this world are doing nothing more than making well-considered investments for predictable returns.
Marketing is not a luxury to be enjoyed by those who can afford it. In this day and age of open markets and crippling competition it is as an essential element to any business as staff or capital equipment.
Strange how we never seem to learn anything from past mistakes. Just a casual glance at South Africa's outright business failures or serious corporate stumbles in the past 10 years will show quite clearly that a lack of marketing played a significant role.
Oh, and by the way., Marketing is NOT about having big ideas and throwing money into advertising. Real marketing is a process of measurement and the elimination of risk in order to achieve a return on investment on funds employed.
About Chris Moerdyk
Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk
is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on moc.liamg@ckydreom
and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk