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Autodidact - Are Self-Taught Marketers Better Marketers?

In the world of market research it's extremely easy to get academic about everything.  After all, we are practitioners of turning data and feedback into meaningful marketing action that draws customers to us and gets them to choose us every time.

In his recent article on Marketing Access, Romi Mahajan asks the question - do you have to have a marketing education to be a good marketer?

[Editor's Note: The  following post by Romi Mahajan was originally published by and is syndicated with permission by Marketing Access]

In a long tradition of breaking rank with my fellow Marketers on matters of substance, I posit that great Marketers (unlike great Physicists, Doctors, or even Economists) need not have any education in the discipline of “Marketing,” as it’s canonically defined.

In fact, as regards Marketing, I’ve taught myself all I know (which of course you can argue is very little.)  My assertion, therefore, is that lateral entry is possible and that autodidacts can be as successful as anyone in the sphere of Marketing.

Are you with me?  Do you agree?  Or do you think that $150K MBA was worth it?

There are a few ways to approach a conversation on this matter. The first is to look at great Marketers and find out if they indeed studied Marketing.  My own anecdotal evidence is that while some Marketers I respect have formal education in the discipline, many do not.  Point one for my theory.

Another way is for readers to concede the point but still hold that while many Marketers don’t have formal training in Marketing, they are not the ones that do epoch-defining of even memorable work.

Now that’s an interesting perspective even if I reject it.  But why do I reject it?

Because the entire notion that Marketing requires training is built on a specious foundation, on a misunderstanding of what Marketing, indeed, is.

Here is what it is NOT:

  1. Even remotely a Science.

  2. Even remotely Objective.

  3. Even remotely Meritocratic.

  4. Even remotely Predictable.

This isn’t to say that great Marketing isn’t hard.  Great anything is hard.   But, Marketing is NOT the province of an elite priesthood of Northwestern MBA’s and their Harvard rivals.


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