This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
As I look out at the technology landscape, I find it surprising that replacements of marketing personnel – whether initiated by the company or people resigning – seems to be near an all-time high.
I have stated before that the job of marketers is tougher than ever. Marketing staff have to deal with online and offline media, social, search, events, web seminars, community building, landing page creation, testing, e-mail marketing, article writing, blogging and public relations on a daily basis. We are at the point where marketers should be injecting Red Bull into one arm while injecting Maalox into the other.
To make matters worse, the scrutiny marketers have to deal with is at an all-time high, meaning investors, CXOs and presidents are demanding accountability for every cent of spending. They want to see a sale linked to virtually every dime spent.
While this may make sense to the casual reader, what is lost in this equation is the concept of branding. And without branding, lead generation doesn’t reach anywhere near its full potential. This is especially the case when a product category requires a strong brand to instill confidence in a purchase decision.
For years I worked as the head of MIS here at TMC (News - Alert). I was fortunate enough to computerize this company in the eighties – building PCs myself. I quickly migrated the company to desktop publishing later in the same decade and was intimately involved in many of the tech purchase decisions over the past decades. More recently I have helped companies communicate with customers – not only explaining in many cases what their new products are designed to do, but just as important, advising customers on how to achieve their goals.
The one thing I have learned is consistency is the most important aspect of marketing. In fact, it seems that consistency trumps message.
Some companies have been at trade shows consistently for years, and their booths haven’t been very descriptive or large, but they are entrenched because they prove their commitment to buyers at important events. Other companies spend far more at conferences and marketing in general, but it comes in spurts. Guess what – the companies that have ups and downs in their outbound communications seem to underperform – even though they spend more.
The situation gets worse when there is turnover in marketing. There is an epidemic of companies replacing marketing departments, or people just decide to up and leave their posts for whatever reason. My hunch is that they are tired of working in a macro-marketing environment that is devoid of fun, creativity and experimentation. Perceived failure is met with a wrist slap and a dressing down, and success is infrequent because marketing departments are not easily able to justify the results of branding.
Branding is an amazing thing. Here’s one great example: If I was to ask anyone in their late thirties or older “How do you spell relief?” they would likely say Rolaids. Amazingly, the company’s TV ad has been in the collective memory of much of America for decades, more than paying for itself. But today it is tough to get many newbie CEOs to comprehend how an ad campaign like this is worth pursuing.
TMC’s Peter Bernstein recently wrote about the need for consistency in reference to the management challenges faced by the boards at HP and Yahoo. He explained that CEOs themselves are part of the brand. Here is an excerpt:
After all, brand stewardship is by extension a core part of a board of directors’ fiduciary responsibilities. When investors and other critical audiences (customers, partners and employees just to name the top critical ones) lose confidence in the leadership capabilities of those entrusted with guiding a company, the brand is tarnished and no good can come of it. In fact, as we were all taught as kids, trust and respect are easily lost and extremely difficult to regain. This is true even in the U.S., where we seem enamored sometimes with stories of reclamation and redemption.
Sometimes I meet CEOs with awesome technology, but they are devoid of marketing understanding. They can’t for the life of them comprehend why they need to have a strong brand or why searing it into the minds of potential buyers is important. It is maddening.
If you tell someone that the most successful companies are the ones with the best marketing, not the best product, they generally agree with you. But when it’s their product, company and ego in the middle of the equation, they seem to lose all sense of reason.
And until turnover eases and CXOs understand the importance of building strong brands, expect customer acquisition programs including direct selling to be far less efficient than they could be.
Rich Tehrani is CEO and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of TMC�s ITEXPO (News - Alert), one of the world�s largest and best-attended communications and technology conferences. Rich has also developed a large and loyal readership for his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi