My Top 5 Marketing Myths

Every so-called marketing expert has their list of myths about marketing. I’ve seen a bunch of them. And most of them are eerily familiar. But here’s a few that I don’t see mentioned very often. They are simple, preventable, and all too prevalent. For me, these are the ones that, when I hear them from a client, I know I have some educating to do. Mythbusting, if you will.

5.  We have to be in (insert client’s favorite media here).

Not necessarily. Especially with the emergence of social media, the changes in how television and radio are delivered, the decline of print media readership…I could go on and on. The landscape just isn’t the same now as it was even a few years ago. And any good media planner will tell you, even a good medium can price itself into undesirability. For example, do you have to be in the weekend edition of the local newspaper if you’re in real estate? Not if you can reach your audience more efficiently in other ways. The only exception I can think of off-hand is a directional billboard for a brick-and-mortar retail establishment that counts on warm-bodied traffic. But even that is changing with the advent of GPS-enabled phones as well as Foursquare, Gowalla and other location-based apps. Bottom line: there is a smart way and a foolish way to spend any amount of money – especially marketing funds. And it’s not always best spent in the clients personal favorite form of media.

4.  I’m tired of that, so we should do something new.

Wow. Where do I start? First of all, it’s not about you, Mr. or Ms. Client. Unless you’re smack in the middle of the target demographic, the fact that you are personally tired of the ad, the campaign, the approach, etc. should have no bearing on the effort. The marketing approach should have been built out of a plan. Where are we with the plan? Is there a compelling reason to deviate from it? What do our metrics say? Those factors should govern how the effort moves forward. If you or your wife or your squash partner is tired of it, then let’s check our progress relative to the plan. But let’s not throw away money, time, brand equity and everything that got us to this place because of your isolated opinion.

Sound harsh? Sure. And this is not a recommendation for what to say to your client. It would be rude, at best, to treat the person paying your salary this way. But the truth is that company hired you for your marketing expertise. And you’re doing that company no justice by not using and making solid, empirically-based recommendations. If you just say “ok” to this with no argument, you’re not a marketer. You’re an order taker. And shame on you.

3.  Marketing is an expense.

While this is true from a strict economics/balance sheet point of view, clients who say this most likely have not bought into one of the most basic precepts of marketing. Your marketing budget should be viewed in the same way as your child’s college fund.

  • The more you put in, the more choices you’ll have later.
  • This is not something you want to do “on the cheap.”
  • Think of it as an investment in your future.

If you consider marketing funds “just an expense,” then by extension your marketing is a liability. And if it’s just money you spend with no expectations of gain, what are you doing? Or better yet, what is your marketing firm doing? Because they obviously haven’t explained how important it is to plan well, execute well and expect good things to happen. Sure, marketing costs money. So don’t spend. Invest.

2.  Everybody is our customer. We need to market to everybody.

Clients often love their product too much. And though it helps to love your product, loving it too much can lead to scattered marketing. Ever see an air hose coupling bust? The hose just flails everywhere. No pattern. No logic. That’s what scattered marketing is. If you believe everyone is your potential customer, it’s easy to flail aimlessly in an attempt to market to everyone. So you put your eggs in too many baskets. And unless you have an endless supply of eggs, your first problems is diluting your brand message as you try to communicate to everyone simultaneously. It’s just about impossible.

I like to tell clients to think of four or five “perfect” customers. Where are they? Who are they? How are they alike? How are they different? Then, create personality profiles for each. Construct a Venn diagram to see where and how those people intersect in some way. Is a single message pertinent to all of them? Probably not. Then how do we proceed? Now you’re beginning to construct a plan instead of opening up a marketing fire hose.

1.  I don’t like it, so it’s crap.

It’s so easy to see why this is wrong. Yet it happens all the time. Whether we’re talking about a creative approach, media choices (see number 5, above) or any other aspect of a marketing plan or execution, it’s natural for a client to focus on his or her personal feelings. Let’s face it, he or she is personally vested, so myopic tendencies make sense on some level. But the truth is that he or she may not be in our target market. And in fact, if a 62-year old executive loves my creative for a new hybrid vehicle targeted at women under 30, it gives me pause.

We marketers want our ideas to be liked by our clients. But hopefully we don’t construct our approaches based solely or even primarily on hitting their personal hot buttons. Hopefully we’ve made our case for how their brand and target markets should interact. And if we’ve built some level of trust between ourselves and our client, they will have enough confidence in us to let us do our jobs.

Again, we go back to what we agreed upon early in the process. With whom are we trying to communicate? What is meaningful to them? Why should they care about this product? Those are questions we marketers should be asking ourselves as well. We are just as vulnerable to these tendencies as our clients are. But if we keep our focus, and help the client keep his or her focus, good planning, good ideas and logic will win the day.

(Bonus) Nobody can market successfully in this economy.

Certainly not every product or brand is recession-proof. But to throw up our collective hands at times like these might mean missing some (possibly hidden) opportunities. The strong companies and brands with the capital to do so are able to take advantage of depressed values and low inventories in media. Even some cash-strapped companies have chosen this time to get into social media, where their cost/benefit ratio is more manageable. There’s something oddly freeing about the economy being “broken.”  Companies and marketers are forced to look at challenges in a new way. So, it’s not just the strong companies that will emerge from this bad economy. The marketers left standing will be stronger as well. Hopefully all of us will remember the lessons we’re learning now when things turn around.

If any of these are familiar to you, there’s a reason for that. It’s mostly our fault that we allow them to fester in client relationships. We do so out of fear, laziness and even not knowing any better. But we owe it to ourselves and our clients to listen, educate and always remember that we were chosen as the “marketer” in this equation. These myths exist in part because we don’t always do our duty.

How many of these myths are ones you battle? I’d be interested in hearing some of your recurring client disconnects.


1 Comment

Filed under Advertising & Marketing, Branding, Marketing myths

One response to “My Top 5 Marketing Myths

  1. Pingback: Effective Marketing and Autism: More In Common Than You’d Think « The Tap, Tap, Tap

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