Philip Kotler commentary on Peter Drucker and the current state of marketing

philip kotler on peter drucker

I recently had a dream come true when I got to meet my marketing hero Philp Kotler. He was the author of my first marketing textbook that influenced me to get into marketing, and at 91, he remains an inspiration to me and countless others.

Although it was largely a personal conversation — he told me he loved my Marketing Rebellion book! — we also had an interesting discussion about Peter Drucker, who was my teacher and mentor in the early 1990s. Dr. Kotler said one of the great honors of his life was meeting Peter Drucker, and it was one of the few times in his life he was ever nervous!

He had some interesting observations about this great man, and I thought I would pass them on to you. A legend discussing a legend …

Philip Kotler on Peter Drucker

Dr. Philip Kotler on Peter Drucker:

“Peter Drucker was really the first real marketer. He saw early in the 1950s that the question every company should ask is, what is your purpose? And his answer was, “not to make money.”

“In fact, he said that making money gets in the way of doing the right things. The purpose of a business is to create a customer, and then went on to say that we better understand what is “value” to a customer, and you can’t define that unless you understand what the customer defines as value.

100 percent human content“But altogether, he saw business embracing a service philosophy. The business exists to serve. Peter Drucker always saw a company as more than just an economic machine. It was a social organization. And it has social responsibilities.

I mean, he wrote early on about what became corporate social responsibility.

“Like me, Drucker did not see marketing as an isolated function, which is a problem in universities today — creating majors and courses in silos. I teach marketing, and someone else teaches finance, and that’s not the real world. Real world problems come at the intersection of two functions, or three functions, and so on.

“Also, we need to increase students’ international perspective because they’re being trained to work for a company in just one country to sell its product within a country. We need to expand marketing skills geographically. We want our students to get acculturated into different cultures, especially where growth is occurring in the world.

“Most education is about advertising, public relations, sales, promotions, and all manner of campaigns. Maybe there’s something missing that is more basic than that. This idea — the purpose of a company is to create a customer — maybe we should teach more about how you build customer intimacy. How do you understand how people really buy, the unconscious processes? I don’t mean manipulating people, but understanding consumer psychology and respecting the psychology of the consumer.

“I’m afraid marketing could devolve into putting electrodes on your head to see what part of your brain lights up when I offer to sell you something. I think that is the challenge and the question facing new media and new technology — remembering that a business is here to serve, to respect, to make the world better.”

Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak at your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram.

Illustration courtesy MidJourney

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