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Are marketers any good these days?

August 7, 2012
Image of Lord Nelson

Engage the enemy more closely! Nelson’s order is as relevant to marketers as it is at sea.

I was interested in a recent statement by Bob McDonald, CEO of Proctor & Gamble, an American consumer goods company, which said: “We have to make certain that we have offerings that provide superior performance and value, that our pricing is right. That our innovation is strong. And that the marketing effectively communicates a superiority of our offerings and there is sufficient marketing support.”

Indeed. Yet in many cases today we come across tired marketing of products which seem to have lost their way and which are not priced to value.

For many companies, innovation is weak – or merely copycat (e-books for example) – and marketing communications are of a pathetic and uninspiring  quality. Mitch Joel certainly summed up this issue in his column recently when he talked about exponential marketing.

Marketing by rote?

I believe a significant failing in marketing today is that many marketers: (a) do not consider themselves sales people; (b) cannot image themselves using the products they promote and (c) have very poor grasp of the power of the English language. This creates stale marketing with limp results.

Companies as well as marketers are to blame. Companies should not hire people who are not interested in what’s on offer and whose passion for the language is non-existent. Marketers should not join companies  whose products don’t inspire them. Words of joy do not emerge from stale air.

If an MD – or a Marketing Director for that matter – cannot hire similarly-minded people then almost instantly sales capability will decline. We end up on the treadmill of internal memoranda elucidating the features, advantages and benefits of a set of products which are then trotted out by rote in all the company’s sales and marketing initiatives.

Inspiration not regurgitation

Gull with red spot

Peck on the red spot for marketing copy? Marketing needs to be better than this if companies are to increase perception.

Yes, we can train staff to deliver on emotional promise but this is much more complex a task than simply beneficial regurgitation. If we train marketers to peck on the red spot of the product manual’s beak then all they will ever do is receive already-digested information. This is inadequate for the modern age. In social media, it will smell like rotten fish.

Today, marketers face difficulties in how message is communicated of course but, far from making the task harder, tools like social media should make it easier. Why? Because inherent truths of products and services emerge. Inherent truth is what drives credibility and sales. Passion is visible and the unseen mass of the customer base suddenly emerges from the mire of contempt. We can engage with the customer.

Engage the enemy more closely

Yet many companies – like the British Admiralty in WWI – fail to recognise what is happening and prefer to carry on regardless. This is a failing of not insignificant consequence. Marketers and their leaders instead need to follow the mantra in Lord Nelson’s great signal: “Engage the enemy more closely“.

Fearless and intrepid marketing is what will drive the future: marketers will need to get among the customers in all areas where their brand is perceived; they will need consistency of message in terms of perception versus competitors; they will need to be malleable sufficient to change course; they will need power and independence sufficient to change corporate thinking.

In a competitive market place, there is no room for complacency from marketers who are weary and tired of what they do. As Admiral Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa stated in his monumental memoir, The Grand Fleet 1914-16 – its Creation, Development and Work: “Admiral Mahan, amongst others, has truly said that whilst the principles of naval strategy or unchangeable, experience in war and changes in the weapons with which war is engaged may profoundly effect the application of those principles

The same can – and should – be said of marketing. Victory in the commercial world is delivered by combining knowledge with passion, discipline with flexibility, commonsense with daring. We can choose to be a wallflower, admired in the gardens of gentrified civility, or we can choose to be relevant – and effective – and live forever.

Fortune favours the brave – so how much is your marketing up to the task?

 

Image of Lord Nelson courtesy of the 1805 club

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