Everyone is an expert in marketing these days. And with social media, everyone is an ad critic. Not entirely a bad thing, but as marketers you need to know how to filter the noise. People need to understand the difference between STRATEGIC MARKETING, MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS and CHANNEL MARKETING.
These are three very different things. The first one is strategic and is tightly linked to business strategy and decisions are made based on what and how to invest, the second one is about advertising (there is no social-only advertising or no advertising only social…either way that’s where we’re going) and the third is about activations and promotions in the field.
I am writing this blog post while shopping at a Prada store. It is a good place to write about marketing because luxury goods companies such as Prada understand building brand equity, communicating brand desire and staging customer experience. I bought my new Prada briefcase and shoes for three reasons in the following order: 1/ Brand 2/ Product 3/ Experience. I see many great designs but their brand is never part of my consideration. Product is great and I need to like it. The experience makes me feel like buying more stuff.
There are many myths in marketing despite it is a relatively mature practice and companies are still making the same common mistakes. Every senior marketer and CMO can benefit from reading this:
Marketing Mistake #1: Marketing is all about driving sales
Many people still confuse marketing with sales. Selling is only a part of the marketing function, but marketing is much broader than selling. It is not that one is more important than the other. Marketing begins before a company designs or conceptualizes an idea or designs or engineers any products or services. Marketing continues throughout the whole product lifecycle. Its mandate is the continued discovery of new ways to create, communicate and capture value. Marketing is not and should not be considered a cost; in fact it is an investment. Imagine if a business stops investing? If marketing cost is linked as a ratio-to-sales, the company will eventually enter a stage of stagnation and eventually decline (I am not saying there shouldn’t be discipline in marketing resource management). But like any investment, it must provide a clear idea of how and when it will deliver a return on that investment. So marketing is a number of strategic investments and not just a cost item. The truth is that any marketing dollars that are linked directly to sales improvement most likely are sales promotions that lead to discounts and sometime brand erosion. The best marketing builds brand equity and creates demand. Field promotions, discount programs, sales incentives etc. are not marketing, these are sales operation expenses.
Marketing Mistake #2: Marketing is a department
This is another common mistake that marketers make and that is to view it as a department within the organizational structure. And therefore marketing is the sole job of the marketing department. It is true that marketing is a function that’s organized within a marketing department. But if marketing thinking only happens within this department, I believe the company would not do well. Marketing is far too limited if it is left only to the marketing professionals. Progressive companies need to get all their departments to be customer oriented and focused. Marketing must be an integrated part of the entire organization, rather than a specific function. Successful marketing is the true integration of marketing, engineering, design, customer service, community management and operations beyond simply putting a multi-disciplinary team together. The team must be supported and managed effectively in an environment where each discipline respects and appreciates the perspective of others. Look at some of the most successful companies today and see who in the organization sets the marketing direction for those companies. More and more, it’s the CEO who’s also becoming the CMO while not officially, although they do not usually carry that title.
Marketing Mistake #3: Marketing is all about the big idea and the marketing mix
Marketing is often being marginalized to just coming up with the big idea and then managing the marketing mix and communications. Gone are the days of the Big Idea (Leo Burnett’s in the 80s). Many executives today still believe that marketing is about getting the “big idea” from their agencies and spending money effectively on the advertising and promotional mix. In other words, optimizing your advertising dollars will lead to a successful marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter what products they are marketing, many executives believe that the key to a successful campaign is to work with their advertising agencies to come up with big ideas to differentiate their product in the marketplace and win a few advertising awards along the way. The traditional marketing model is obsolete and many clients and agencies are still operating this way. Marketing is not about a mix, it is about telling your story in the most authentic ways and the best way to do that is from their leadership. The big idea is not about the advertising, the company itself should be the big idea! They missed it completely. And the marketing mix is not about the media, it is about orchestrating both mass and individual social conversation at scale.
Marketing Mistake #4: Try as hard as you can to sell
For brands to sell they have to stop selling. Unless you’re on DTV or doing a tactical DM campaign. For brands to win the hearts and minds they so crave and to engineer brand desire, they must first earn those hearts and minds and tell people who you are and why you’re here. What is your purpose? Where does your company’s passion lie? What are your greatest capabilities, and what do you have to offer? What need do you see in the world that you are operating in? And you must earn your relevance through a view of the world and a perceived role within it that is a clear break from the bygone advertising practices of the 80s. Sell hard by selling less. Any advertising that tries too hard to sell will not work.
Marketing Mistake #5: Listening to your customers
Today’s technological advancements have given companies the ability to target and talk to customers in a more precise manner. Yet, the new technologies allow us to listen to whatever is going on out there. Failing to use these tools effectively will result in companies totally disconnected with their customers. Social listening is not an option; it is the core of marketing intelligence. Don’t waste money on useless focus groups.
Mistake #6: Not listening to your customer
This is the key difference between “Market Drive” and “Market Driving.” Customer input is valuable in helping companies develop incremental innovation. However, customers are usually unable to conceptualize the benefits of revolutionary products, concepts and technologies. No market research will tell you what’s the next big idea. And no customers or trade partners can tell you how you should do your marketing. Your customers can tell you the things that are broken and they want you to fix. Listen to them. Make sure they know you are listening and make them happy. But they won’t create the future roadmap for your product or service. That’s your job. You listen to your customers but you should never ask them what they want. They will tell you they want a car that self-drives and can fly.
Mistake #7: Making everything a CMO problem
The average tenure of a CMO is 12-16 months these days and is getting shorter. No one wants the CMO job. The shortness of the typical CMO’s tenure is a tangible manifestation of corporate management’s frustration with the inability of marketing to create economic value, let alone the inability to drive change and transformation. Good marketing not only transforms customers but it should first transform the organization itself. Many CMOs are traditional marketers who are usually great advertising tacticians. Trained for years in traditional advertising, their primarily focus was in marketing communications activities to build brands. Many lack the strategic thinking and CMO must also relentlessly focus on unifying the disparate functions of marketing, operations, sales, service, and technology. For most companies, such integration suggests an unholy alliance of warring fiefdoms and silos, and that’s precisely why the C-suite needs an individual with the power and authority to deliver the results. Marketing is about the customer experience.
Marketing Mistake #8: Marketing is a pure science
Marketing can become over obsessed with logic and lost sight of the magic. Marketing has always aspired to have an “accurate science” status and has been searching for the best formula. Sometimes people are using fake science, although data is becoming more and more important for marketing these days thanks to big data. Even with those data, we should not lose sight of the most important aspects of marketing: magic, mystery and mastery.