The Marketing Audit Comes of Age

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COMPARING THE MARKETING strategies and tactics of business units today with those often years ago, the most striking impression is one of marketing strategy obsolescence. Ten years ago U.S. automobile companies were gearing up for their second postwar race to produce the largest car with the highest horsepower. Today companies are selling increasing numbers of small and medium-sized cars and fuel economy is a major selling point. Ten years ago computer companies were introducing ever more powerful hardware for more sophisticated uses. Today they emphasize mini- and microcomputers and software.

It is not even necessary to take a ten-year period to show the rapid obsolescence of marketing strategies. The growth economy of 1950 to 1970 has been superseded by a volatile economy that produces new strategic surprises almost monthly. Competitors launch new products, customers switch their business, distributors lose their effectiveness, advertising costs skyrocket, government regulations are announced, and consumer groups attack. These changes represent both opportunities and problems and may demand periodic reorientations of the company’s marketing operations.

Many companies feel that their marketing operations need regular reviews and overhauls, but do not know how to proceed. Some companies simply make many small changes that are economically and politically feasible, but fail to get to the heart of the matter. True, the company develops an annual marketing plan, but management normally does not take a deep and objective look at the marketing strategies, policies, organizations, and operations on a regular basis. At the other extreme, companies install aggressive new top marketing management hoping to shake down the marketing cobwebs. In between there must be more orderly ways to reorient marketing operations to changed environments and opportunities.

Enter the Marketing Audit

One hears more talk today about the marketing audit as being the answer to evaluating marketing practice just as the public accounting audit is the tool for evaluating company accounting practice. This might lead one to conclude that the marketing audit is a new idea and also a very distinct methodology. Neither of these conclusions is true.

The marketing audit as an idea dates back to the early 1950s. Rudolph Dallmeyer, a former executive in Booz Allen & Hamilton, remembers conducting marketing audits as early as 1952. Robert J. Lavidge, president of Elrick and Lavidge, dates his firm’s performance of marketing audits to over two decades ago.


1. Many useful checklists for marketers are found in C. Eldridge, The Management of the Marketing Function (New York: Association of National Advertisers, 1967).

2. See P. Kotler, Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning and Control, 5th. ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984).

3. See PJ. Stonich, “Zero-Based Planning—A Management Tool,” Managerial Planning, July–August 1976, pp. 1–4.

4. T. Levitt, “The Globalization of Markets,” Harvard Business Review, May–June 1983, pp. 92–102;

“The Ad Biz Gloms onto “Global,’” Fortune, 12 November 1984, p. 77.

5. See ME. Porter, Competitive Strategy (New York: The Free Press, 1980);

M.E. Porter, Competitive Advantage (New York: The Free Press, 1985); and

D.F. Abell, Defining the Business: The Starting Point of Strategic Planning (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980).

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Comment (1)
James Blackman
Very in depth and informative article concerning Marketing Audits. Excellent work!