I had various discussions in consultancy, trainings or during my MBA classes with different people, some of them in management positions, about what marketing is, should be, or ended up doing.
Few of them work in marketing, or in companies where marketing is a properly embedded business philosophy. Managers without technical background form their opinion based on mainstream media articles, and the PR campaigns or B2B communication. The share of mind was dominated in the last 15 years by the digital hype. As a result, based on non-marketing managers, marketing has mainly two areas, both tactic:
- Sales Support (through Performance and by managing the conversion funnel)
- CRM (relationship with clients using different digital tools)
These is the generic perception of non-trained marketeers about Marketing craft. Some of them are going to become next CFOs, next Sales Directors or CEOs. Changing their belief should be mandatory, to avoid Marketing becoming Cinderella. Short-termism and brands commoditisation are somehow sourced within this superficial view.
What Marketing Should Do (Best Practice)
Well, there is a super-long discussion. In my humble opinion, marketing should have 4 areas: Strategic Leadership, Developing Relationship with Clients, Sales Support and Managerial.
- The Strategic Leadership area should consider Brand Architecture (the mix of benefits and reasons to believes), Segmentation & Customer Insights (what do we know about clients and competition does not know), Positioning (how do we articulate our common ambition for our target group; how do we differentiate). Based on Pareto (20/80), strategy is paramount for the future success. Done well, a company will experience the benefits in 3-5 years. Done mediocre (as usually happens), brands will become commodities and companies will slowly erode. In this area one can fit also the Activity Planning, Innovations, Business Cases and Revenue Management. In my opinion, Building Team Capabilities should be treated as a Strategic Leadership. Because it will influence the most the future brand development.
- Developing Relationship with Clients is the bread and butter of Marketing. Any customer related campaign should be on this area. Brands should have a Creative Big Idea (Organising Idea) that leads to branded communication and branded experiences. Marketeers should consider Community Building, which is larger than just posting things on Social Media. Why? Because Communities engage on common interests, and do not respond to Performance budgets. I am not saying Performance is not important or does not help, I am saying Performance is short term, not enough and should be treated as such (even Google and Facebook PR says something else). In this area we also include project management of third parties (e.g. managing communication agencies)
- Sales Support. Yes, marketing should support sales. In traditional companies, there is the Trade Marketing department, which creates the strategy and the support of the Sales department. In new companies you have the mighty Performance. Any seasoned marketeer can tell you that there is no conceptual difference btw. Digital Conversion Funnel and the oldies but goodies Brand Conversion Funnel. Both measure how potential clients transform into loyal ones. The thinking behind is longer than a century.
- Managerial Time should relate to Performance Reviews, making presentations and influencing different stakeholders, alignment meetings, and paperwork (in marketing, building presentations and alignment takes a lot of time).
What Marketing Ends Up Doing
I work with many different people or different companies and I can have a view. Some organizations are very lucky and still hold their Marketing activity aligned with best practices. However in many cases, Marketing became another victim of short-termism.
In other words, the majority of time is spent on Project Management for tactical projects, Performance and Sales Support and of course, time consuming alignment meetings with management. I wouldn’t enter into the discussion why a strategic department became a tactical one. And why it slowly lost its professionalism in almost one decade. I have my theories, it is another topic.
I would concentrate on the outcomes of this increased tactical approach. Brands and companies are sucked into the black hole of marketing: doing the same things, in the same channels, for the same people. Brands have the same internal looking objectives (e.g. grow market share or grow profitability) and expect improved consumer results. In time, they lost the track with clients, lack proper consumers insights and erode their ability to progress through relevant innovations or meaningful differentiators. Lacking thought leadership (see once again the Strategic Leadership impact of Marketing), they cannot assume the risk to act differently.
As a result, most brands became commodities. Mediocre leadership is leading to mediocre brands, that are not able to differentiate themselves, ending up compete mainly based on price, calculating cost per lead.
Few brands can articulate in an elevator pitch, why a consumer should choose their product, based on a clear competitive advantage. This is the spiral death of short-termism: brands and companies end up in the same place, behaving like sardines in a shark-infested area.
Who are those sharks, what is their impact on short-termism and what is their relationship with remoras and sardines, in another blog.