I recently wrote about the importance of design on the web, and thought I’d continue to blog about what are generally deemed my core competencies: the role of design in other forms of communication, global but local branding and how I connect people and markets through language.
Allow me to interrupt that stream by expressing my consternation regarding the national clueless-malaise as to the role and importance of marketing. What brought this on? An article posted on The Branding Strategy Insider, GM Appointment Shows No Respect for Marketing http://ow.ly/kz84 that is a great lesson in marketing and should be mandatory for CEO’s, corporate boards and other management decision makers. This iconic company, once the hallmark of American industrial prowess that you and I now own, does not appear to understand the huge opportunity being wasted. Not seizing the moment to reinvent itself by making an innovative marketing strategy the power engine driving GM’s repositioning as a new and dynamic brand is symptomatic. And goes a long way to explaining why eliminating marketing positions is one of a company’s first cost cutting measures.
The good thing is that now that my position as cmo has been eliminated, I have time to upgrade my marketing savvy by immersing myself in social networking technology – and to look for new marketing challenges while I write this blog.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
When I relocated my marketing career from Europe to the US in 2000, I was shocked to discover that all was not well in the proverbial home of marketing and branding that we so revered, adapted and reinvented European style. Marketing is probably the most misunderstood, misused and under-appreciated term in our consumer society. Ask anyone, and you will generate vigorous head nodding and vociferous lip service – yes, every company (come to think of it, everyone) needs marketing. OMG, no one would admit that they don’t really know what marketing is, nor do they understand its key role in the continuous process of the production, sale and consumption of goods and services. That it touches (or should) every aspect of a company’s operations and affects virtually all aspects of our lives as consumers. That it is the key business driver that sets the stage for brand recognition, awareness, and ultimately sales (!) and loyalty (repeat sales).
Asked what I do, I tell people – and that includes professionals such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, business owners and corporate executives – I’m in marketing and branding. The variety of- shall we politely call them misconceptions – that abound is astounding. They range from “so you make products look good” “you create brochures with pretty pictures”, “do you market on the web?”, “isn’t that like advertising”’ to ”what do you market” and “‘oh, so you’re in sales”.
My life has revolved around marketing and branding. Now I’m trying to figure out why my professional passion appears to be the stepchild of the corporate world, and how to fix it (no, not alone). I’m also wondering if this is the reason for the mediocrity prevalent in the public face of marketing strategy or the lack thereof – advertising. Contrast that with all the ingredients required to become a successful marketing leader. In addition to a focused education and broad-based experience, being a strategic, effective marketer requires big picture thinking, analytical skills, tenacity and great people skills. What many people don’t realize is the need for very unglamorous, detail-oriented work, and the constant awareness, training and proficiency with ever faster evolving new trends, technologies and media forms.
Why do I invest myself , my experience and creativity into working with all of a company’s departments to devise a coherent marketing strategy as the underpinning for building brands and generating sales, only to be among the first to be deemed superfluous? Is it because the various elements that comprise marketing are amorphous, constantly in flux, subject to fast-moving developments and thus hard to put neatly into a corporate box? But wait, don’t I keep reading about “out of the box thinking” as a job requirement for marketing managers?
Is it because the effects of marketing strategy and planning are generally longer-term and don’t fit into our “instant gratification” mindset by not producing immediately tangible results to the bottom line that they are seen as a (mostly necessary) expense, rather than an investment in the ultimate success of the business?
We Can Fix It!
I’m not sure how all this jibes with management guru Peter Drucker’s perspectives, as set forth in the article that set this off:
“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs,” “Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
So now I’m wondering…can anyone tell me how we can reposition “Marketing” and get corporate (and small business) America to respect and understand our function – so we can contribute our talents to getting this economy moving again? As I said, I am always eager to learn more, so I look forward to your comments and answers.