Off the Marketing Richter Scale

Man, what a month in Marketing land.

First, you have one of the largest Ad Agencies in the world admitting their business model is broken, because agencies are not in charge of the fundamentals of Branding – service, innovation, engagement, and execution.  I would add the same thing could often be said of the client side; MarCom people spend way too much time on “Com” and not enough on “Mar” – is it time for a realignment?

Then, in an even more spectacularly unexpected move, you have C-Level folks at 2 gargantuan Advertising Agencies (though both part of WPP) co-writing an article declaring that Brand and Response are the Same.  Here’s the opener: “the value that brands bring to a company’s total business value is exaggerated.”

Holy Branding Batman, that’s one heck of a thing to say for an Ad Agency, know what I mean?  But they are absolutely right, the nature of a Brand has changed, this ain’t the 1960’s.

This is how they get to “the singularity”:

“What was once sales is now enhancing the brand expe­rience, because through direct marketing technology and strategies, a brand can reinforce its ability to listen, customize and learn from the consumer. This is not just direct marketing, its direct engagement with every potential customer, sometimes at the moment they’re introduced to the brand.  In fact, in a world of compressed consumer decision-making, direct response is now a potent form of brand­ing.”

I love it when you talk that way.

Let’s be clear on this.

Nobody is saying Brand doesn’t matter; it matters a lot and perhaps more than it ever has.  Nobody is saying that creating Awareness through Advertising is not important; it is.

Here are the two main points:

1.  Brand is what you do, not what you say; it is customer experience that is Brand.  This means everything from packaging to product design to distribution and customer service, and these are the new (for some people) Marketing disciplines that Direct brings to Brand.  Direct has always cared about these experience and execution issues.

2.  Spending money on Advertising that does not move product is a waste of money.  Perhaps you have noticed fast food advertising lately talking about food and price, not about Kings, Subservient Chickens, Chihuahuas, and so forth.  Features and Benefits, not blurry images and associations that are irrelevant.

Just to be crystal clear, there is “Brand Done Right” advertising around.  How do these folks know it’s done right?  Because they test and measure actions; you don’t need a “call now” ad to get people to buy tons of household items, right?  Do you own a Swiffer?

Here is what I expect to happen as a result of these Off the Marketing Richter Scale events taking place as we speak:

1.  There is an enormous Gap to be filled between the “MarCom” model and Marketing as business Strategy.  The Ogilvy piece is addressing this situation head on.  We are talking about marketing gaining or regaining a Strategic Seat at the C-Level table, which means Marketers on the rise will need to understand the Operations side of the business and take action on customer experience issues.  Or the agencies will gladly do that for you, leaving you to issue press releases and chat on the social networks.

2.  The money to fund these efforts will come from the budget formally wasted on excessive Brand-ing programs found to not generate actions.  It will take a lot of data analysis and some cross-functional business SWAT teams staffed by specialized players to make this merger of Brand and Direct work.  

If you are looking for an example of how this works, it is already happening in many of the cultures driven by web analytics.  Look to how your online unit (if they are using web analytics) is executing and how the cross-functional (Marketing, Service, Finance, IT) teams work.

You might ask, OK, what do I do first? 

One suggestion for each of the Off the Marketing Richter Scale events:

1.  Regarding the Experience as Brand issue, you have to see how this works first hand.  One of the fastest, least expensive, and quite frankly thrilling ways to do this is to Optimize your web site.  You have 2 options here: either join / observe the teams already doing this for your site, or hire resources to do it for you.

For a super fast, inexpensive execution you can be intimately involved in without technical knowledge, I highly recommend taking a look at Future Now’s OnTarget.  This service was designed by Marketers and you will “get it”.  You know what you need to know already – demographics, psychographics, maybe geographics, segments, messaging.  The system documents experience issues and then you are advised by the human staff on ways to improve experience.

Of course, you will need the web team to implement / test changes to the web site, but you will be able to give them solid direction.  I’d even go as far to say even if you don’t implement, this will be the cheapest education (starts at $1,000 a month) you will find on how experience can impact Brand.  Only with a web site, you can actually do something about it for a change.

2.  Regarding the “Value of Brand-ing” issue, I suggest you start reading Jonathan Salem Baskin’s blog and if you want the entire story with footnotes, get his book: Branding Only Works on Cattle.  The book will lead you through all the work that has been done in this area, both academic and real life.  The bibliography is extensive and provides you with a ton of reference material.
Marketers, this is all about the Brand, so the new “Brand as Experience” unit belongs in Marketing and not off under some artificially created C-Level title.  I’m hoping a lot of you will embrace this new challenge, it’s going to be one heck of a ride!

 Readers, do you agree or disagree with:

 1.  How important these 2 events are?

2.  What they mean for the future of Marketing / Advertising?

5 thoughts on “Off the Marketing Richter Scale

  1. Operational excellence is the driver; it was and always will be. Industry leaders (often times brand leaders) such as P&G and Johnsons&Johnsons understands this and that is why their efforts to connect with customers produce the favorable responses they do.

    Branding is not dead. Nor is a brand an empty concept. It does however seem watered down because many, through their gamut of fads, dicey literature, blogs and other forms of public media have blurred its definition, meaning and purpose within an organization. Branding is a window to a company’s soul; its people, its operations. It is a concise way of explaining what an organization is… be it as a whole or for a specific division. Only with a solid operational foundation can a company deliver on its promise and offer consumers something of real value. Only through its rigorous pursuit of R&D can Windex (a J&J brand) provide “a streak free shine” for windows without the presence of unwanted chemicals and with a more pleasing scent (to most) than plain Jane vinegar and water.

    The spiral which has taken place is due in part to the blatant disregard for keeping things simple. The lack of ingenuity to be truly different has resulted in varied degrees of the same truth being preached by evangelists with little regard for true excellence. In the lavish days of “prosperity for all”, the sentiment was: the company with the most money to throw at a campaign wins the consumer, regardless of its flaws (to which the also prosperous consumer turned a blind eye).

    Today, things have changed, money tree budgets have shrunk to mere roots… full circle. Back to basics and the realization that a large budget is no cure for operational inefficiency. Consumers’ values have been realigned with real value, something broken companies (broken brands) cannot deliver, regardless of their branding efforts.

  2. lechsam, agreed. I think part of the problem – especially online – is that a whole generation of folks grew up thinking Marketing = Advertising. Advertising has never been anything other than a conduit for ideas. The ideas start way back in Marketing, and no amount of Advertising will fix flawed Marketing Strategy. If you have to run tons of Advertising to sell your products, there is something wrong with your Products, not your Advertising.

  3. i dont think the internet is making marketing managers stupid, per se. just maybe making it alot easier to be confused, and therefore look pretty stupid. i think theres a fine difference

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