The End of Marketing As We Know It

As I spend a lot of time on planes, I have plenty of quiet time to read. I just knocked the dust off (again) a classic from Sergio Zyman, former Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Coca-Cola. Zyman is the guy who will be forever known as the New Coke architect (good or bad, usually bad). His book The End of Marketing As We Know It is an excellent read for any marketing or general business enthusiast.

No Bullshit


If you are tired of marketing executives relying on sleight-of-hand and overall bullshit to justify their actions, this is the book for you. Zyman sends a clear message that marketing is about strategy and measuring activities. It is not about endless expenses with no linkage to sales. It is all about selling, and if the marketing activities are not working, change them. Marketing is about learning from mistakes (e.g., New Coke), and quickly changing course to continue toward your goals.

Marketing is all about measuring what you do. If you do not measure and track your marketing activities to sales, then you are an amateur. Marketing is not about pretty pictures and shrimp cocktails. It is about developing clear strategies based on a detailed understanding of the market. Marketing decisions are determined by a deep understanding of the customer and her product usage, not guesses.

Scientific Management


Zyman is against decisions based on intuition or on a whim (everyone should be). Decisions should be made based on a comprehensive analysis of the environment along with the experience of team members. Developing campaigns that are based on guesses or created for aesthetics is not marketing. The purpose of marketing is to sell. Test, measure, analyze, adjust, and replicate. Ongoing experimentation is critical to find what moves the needle. And the only way to understand what moves the needle is to measure everything. The goal is to sell more, make more money, and repeat. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it.

Zyman stresses the importance of going out and talking to customers. Not just through ineffective focus groups, but visiting actual customers using your products – where they live, work, and consume (his early P&G training is evident). In this day-and-age of everyone’s love of big data, too many people feel all you need is lots of data to develop strategy and understand customers. Data will tell a story, but one that is superficial and incomplete.

Consumer Insights

You need to understand culture and people for a clear understanding; data alone will not do it. Combining data with consumer insights will help create a holistic story and deep understanding of the customer. The more you know your customer first-hand, the easier it will be to develop a long-term relationship with them and reduce marketing expenses (the less you have to attract new buyers, the better and cheaper).


Another key concept Zyman focused on was relationships with agencies. Zyman was nicknamed Aya-Cola for his aggressiveness with his agencies (this was the ‘80s and ‘90s where the U.S and Iran were not very friendly). He pushed his agencies to develop great content to improve sales, nothing more. Zyman continually stresses the importance of in-house strategy development, something agencies should not be tasked with.

Keep It Inhouse


Marketing is all about developing a clear and effective strategy. Strategy must be developed in-house, not from an agency. As an increasing number of agencies are now “full service”, the roles internally and externally become cloudy. Many leaders outsource strategy to agencies. An advertising agency needs to focus on advertising. A public relations (PR) agency needs to focus on PR. The strategy is from the client. This is a critical message that all marketers need to tape to their monitors.

Strategy is the roadmap for everyone to follow. Strategy must be an internal marketing activity (along with various cross-functional team members) that clearly communicates to the entire organization (and agenices) where everyone needs to be focused. In addition, strategy is critical to connect all activities (e.g., advertising, public relations, sponsorships, licensing) to support one another, and move toward the objective of selling more products.


Zyman says, “fish where the fish are”, and the only way to know where the fish are, is to know your customers and products better than anyone, and develop a clear strategy to achieve your goals. The End of Marketing As We Know It is an excellent read, especially for those just getting started in their marketing careers. In addition, experienced marketers can gain a lot from Zyman’s experience and guidance. Pickup this classic and remind yourself what marketing is; strategy and science, not fancy ads or ineffective promotions.