Marketing Article Critique


Critique the article uploaded. Here are the article details: Rust, R, Moorman, C & Bhalla, G 2010, Rethinking Marketing, Harvard Business Review, January–February 2010.

A summary is vastly different from a critique. A critique entails analysis and includes one’s opinions regarding the subject matter. A summary is much simpler and does not require to state opinions regarding the topic.

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The authors of this paper make an argument about the need for today’s companies to move emphasis from building brands to cultivating relations. This, in my view, is a compelling argument given the fact that contemporary internet technology and social media has created numerous platforms for companies to reach out to individual customers and to interact with them at a personal level. This has created numerous opportunities for companies to gather data about the customers’ needs. Therefore, it makes sense for businesses to shift their attention from traditional marketing to customer relationship marketing to create customer lifetime value.


The debate on customer relationship marketing has been ongoing for some time now. Whereas Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla, (2010) make a good point regarding the need to reorient marketing, the importance of brands and products has been downgraded. Without company-driven brand visibility, a customer cannot be attracted to the company in the first place. In my view, therefore, rather than put the work of building brands subservient to that of building long-term customer relationships, the two approaches should go hand in hand. Otherwise, many companies will continue paying lip service to the issue.

The argument that Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) make regarding the need to move emphasis from brand-building to customer-cultivating efforts is compelling and workable. However, my view is that it is important to assess the context in which such a paradigm shift is implemented. From the analysis presented in the article, the authors admit that this is a very ambitious thing to do. Entire departments would need to be overhauled. Product development processes would have to be overhauled. As the title of the article (Rethinking Marketing) indicates, a paradigm shift in the way marketing activities are undertaken would be necessary. Few companies are willing to undertake such drastic measures for fear of compromising current operations and service delivery processes.

Instead of disrupting the operations of entire departments, and in some cases entire operations merely to reorient the marketing strategy, companies are better off starting by gradually elevating the status of customer-driven marketing to the same level with brand-driven marketing. From there, a period of transition from product-driven marketing to customer-driven marketing would become a possibility. Failure to do this will create a scenario where the current operations of the business are severely disrupted, thereby inconveniencing the existing customers.

According to Hoeffler (2012), the role of brand manager is as important as that of the customer manager. Although customers now have numerous avenues of interacting with business executives to say what they want, this does not in any way indicate that the role brand image has been diminished. Similarly, it does not mean that the duty of building a strong brand has been shifted from the company to the customer. The company still reserves the duty to make a value proposition to the customer by developing and presenting a brand to him. Through a brand, the company promises to deliver a specific product or service. This means that without a brand, the customer may not know what to expect. Without a brand, the customer may lack the motivation to approach the company for an interactive session in the first place. A brand provides a platform on which all other marketing activities take place and therefore cannot be made subservient to customer-facing functions.

It is true that customers’ needs keep evolving all the time (Blattberg, 2009). This, however, does not mean that this causes the importance of brand image to diminish. It simply means that companies must enhance their level of efficiency in the way they utilize customer data. As Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) point out, most companies invest heavily in the acquisition of this data only to underutilize it. It is true that mass-marketing creates numerous obstacles as far as efforts to put this information into good use are concerned. However, significantly diminishing the role of brand-driven, mass-marketing role simply amounts to tilting the scales and pushing the problem to the other end. The company would have no stable brand-based platform on which customer managers would operate.

I disagree with the authors’ view that shifting focus from efforts to drive transactions to the maximization of customer lifetime value means making brands and products subservient to customer relationships. Such an approach would be too ambitious in the context of today’s highly dynamic business environment. Whereas long-term customer relationships are important, they need to be cultivated in the context of a brand strategy in order to create a sense of operational stability within the company (Rust, 2001). Otherwise, efforts to reorient and reinvent the marketing department may end up causing company-wide instability.

Instead of making brand- and product-building efforts subservient to customer-centered marketing, companies should adopt the notion of strategic brand management as suggested by Kapferer (2012). An even more acceptable proposition is made by Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon (2004), who use the term “customer-centered brand management”. Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon (2004) argue that although most managers appreciate the need to build long-term customer focus, few of them have put into consideration the logical implications of this strategy. Almost everything these managers say seems to revolve around the term “customer”; however, once they start acting, everything suddenly changes and the tune changes to that of “brand” (Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon, 2004; Rowley, 2005). The reality of today’s highly competitive business environment is that brand management will continue triumphing over customer management, at least in almost all large companies. This is an important point that the article by Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) seems to miss.

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Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) and Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon (2004) both agree on the need to bring in the customer-centered approach to marketing. Both articles put a lot of emphasis on a tradition in which product managers are never rewarded when their brands lose out as far as customer support is concerned. They both highlight the need to build customer value instead of relying entirely on products and brands. For these reasons, the product managers hold the biggest jobs and have the biggest budgets to enable them to pursue their ambitious brand-building efforts. However, there is a striking difference between the argument of Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) and that of Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon (2004). In the former article, emphasis is on relegating brand-building efforts to an inferior position and elevating that of customer-centered marketing efforts. In contrast, the latter article calls for a balance between brand- and product-driven marketing on the one hand and customer relationship marketing on the other.

According to Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon (2004), the brand should serve the larger goal of growing the company’s customer equity. In the same breath, Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon (2004) caution that this does not mean that brand is unimportant or inferior. Compelling brands will always continue to play a critical role in efforts to win and keep customers’ trade (Rust, Zeithaml, & Lemon, 2004). On the contrary, the impression created by Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) is that the role of brand image is increasingly becoming diminished simply because of the dramatic increase in avenues for individualized customer interactions and the thinly sliced segments that emerge from these interactions. This is simply not true. My view is that both customer-centered marketing and brand-building efforts are important. Opportunities for individualized customer interactions exist and so do the mass marketing platforms. Instead of downplaying the importance of the brand- and product-marketing strategy, the authors of the article should have assigned different roles to different platforms. For instance they should have argued that product-driven marketing should be promoted using mass marketing channels while customer-driven marketing should be promoted using today’s personalized avenues of customer-company interaction.

            Many scholars support the idea of maintaining a balance between product-driven and customer-driven marketing (Ryals, 2011). Kumar (2000) indicates that efforts to maintain this balance, if successful, would create a scenario where companies are referred to as neither market-driven nor market-driving entities. Similarly, Zablah (2004) argues that customer-driven marketing is an emerging phenomenon, meaning that it is yet to “mature” enough to be regarded as a replacement to product- and brand-driven marketing.

In theoretical circles, lack of common conceptualization of customer relationship management (CRM) remains a major problem. Rowley (2005) supports the idea of incorporating both brand-based and customer-oriented marketing approaches. This multidimensional approach to customer-company relationships is analyzed through a case study of Tesco’s Clubcard scheme whose objective is to promote customer loyalty (Rowley, 2005; Khalifa, 2004; Khalifa, 2004). According to Rowley (2005), Tesco has succeeded in its brand building efforts as well as the quest for greater customer value. This was made possible by the ability by the company to maintain a balance between product-driven and customer-oriented marketing. Tesco’s case study therefore provides a firm ground on which the idea of downplaying product-driven marketing by Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) should be opposed.

Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) argue that the customer manager’s job is the “ultimate expression” as far as marketing is concerned. This is because it entails efforts to find out the needs of customers and efforts to fulfill them. On the other hand, the product manager is said to be more aligned with the mindset of traditional selling, whereby the seller develops a product and then finds customers (Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla, 2010). I think the authors of this article make a mistake by failing to consider the likelihood of a middle ground between the customer manager and the product manager. Brodiea & Whittome (2009) easily avoid this problem by introducing the concept of “service brand” and examining it from the perspective of “customer value”. Brodiea & Whittome (2009) also decry limited research on branding. Brodiea & Whittome (2009) sees customer value as playing a mediating role between customer relationship management and product development efforts.

Keller (2010) is opposed to the idea of assigning an inferior role to “brand-facing” decisions and elevating “customer-facing” decisions. Instead, he suggests a conceptual model in which brand equity is created simply by focusing on the individual customer’s perspective (Keller, 2010). I think this is an acceptable suggestion because it provides a theoretical basis for companies to build brands while at the same time addressing the needs of specific customers.

I agree with the view of Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) that the traditional marketing department needs to be repositioned as a customer department. However, I disagree with them regarding the new shape that it should adopt. Specifically, it is wrong for this department to put efforts to build customer relationships ahead of activities aimed at pushing specific products. Instead, both efforts should be undertaken hand in hand. While one team is building customer relationships, the other one should be busy pushing specific products. This, in my view, is the best way of achieving what Keller (2001) refers to as customer-based brand equity.

In conclusion, the article by Rust, Moorman, & Bhalla (2010) has raised an important question on the need to rethink contemporary marketing. Today, companies have at their disposal numerous opportunities to interact with customers and understand the products that they need. Therefore, it only makes sense for these companies to put customers at the heart of the product development process. What I disagree with is the suggestion by the authors that the company’s brands and products should be made subservient to long-term relationships with customers.

In my view, rather put the work of building brands subservient to that of building long-term customer relationships, the two approaches should go hand in hand. Companies are better off starting by gradually elevating the status of customer-driven marketing to the same level with brand-driven marketing. After all, the increased opportunities for direct interactions between businesses and customers will only lead to thinly sliced segments; they will never entirely replace the traditional platforms through which products and brands are sold to mass markets. The two platforms should augment each other in companies’ perpetual pursuit of the twin goals of customer-based brand equity and customer lifetime value.


Blattberg, R 2009, Customer equity: Building and managing relationships and valuable assets, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Brodiea, R & Whittome, J 2009, ‘Investigating the service brand: A customer value perspective’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 62, no. 3, pp. 345–355.

Hoeffler, S 2012, ‘Building Brand Equity through Corporate Societal Marketing’, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 78-89.

Kapferer, J 2012, The new strategic brand management: Advanced insights and strategic thinking. Routledge, London.

Keller, K 2001, Building customer-based brand equity: A blueprint for creating strong brands, Heinemann, London.

Keller, K 2010, ‘Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Managing Customer-Based Brand Equity’, Journal of Marketing, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 1-22.

Khalifa, A 2004, Customer value: A review of recent literature and an integrative configuration, Blackwell Publishing, New York.

Kumar, N 2000, ‘From market driven to market driving’, European Management Journal, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 129–142.

Rowley, J 2005, ‘Building brand webs: Customer relationship management through the Tesco Clubcard loyalty scheme’, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 194 – 206.

Rust, R 2001, Driving customer equity: How customer lifetime value is reshaping corporate strategy, University of California Press, Berkeley.

Rust, R Zeithaml, K & Lemon, N 2004, Customer-centered brand management, Harvard Business Review, April-May, 2004.

Rust, R, Moorman, C & Bhalla, G 2010, Rethinking Marketing, Harvard Business Review, January–February 2010.

Ryals, L 2011, ‘Cross-functional issues in the implementation of relationship marketing through customer relationship management’, European Management Journal, vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 534–542.

Zablah, A 2004, An evaluation of divergent perspectives on customer relationship management: Towards a common understanding of an emerging phenomenon’, Industrial Marketing Management, vol. 33, no. 6, pp. 475–489.

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