There is no marketing fairy dust. Yet. However, we marketers often get excited about the marketing fad du jour.
Kathy Sierra wrote a wonderful post recently called, “Pixie Dust and the Mountain of Mediocrity“. It includes these insights:
“We’re always searching for that secret formula, that magic pixie dust to sprinkle over our products, services, books, causes, brands, blogs to bring them to life and make them Super Successful … why are so many so convinced that [insert favorite buzzword] is the answer vs. just making a product that helps people kick ass in a way they find meaningful?”
Marketing is too often seen as something that happens at the perimeter of a business. Once everything is defined, marketing steps in to magically drive consumers to take products from the shelf. Even if the product experience is undifferentiated and unremarkable.
The most important marketing is indirect and long-term. It’s the hardest to measure, but the most meaningful when done well. This is the marketing that is baked into the entire organization. This is the marketing that makes meaningfully unique products and engaging consumer interactions.
The best marketing breaks the marketing silo. We all work in marketing, no matter what our functional expertise may be. We all impact our products and services and touch consumers in some way or another.
There’s no room to stand on the sidelines with eyes closed. What it takes to make our businesses fly isn’t fairy dust. It’s meaningful involvement from everyone.
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Ben Branson says
someone old and wise once said that the ‘truth will set you free’
marketers seek that ‘magical moment’ or ‘killer phrase’ because they warp, bend and distort the truth.
if a product or service is good, actually good, like truly helping people or making a difference then transparency is not just the fairy dust but it forms the basis for everything.
this is not ‘new’ news but i think it has been forgotten.
people can smell marketing and selling a mile away and the irony is that when the truth is told – it’s not boring but extremely refreshing.
but an i ask you to think about this …
would we need so many meetings or eat so many biscuits if our biggest challenge was;
what’s the most effective way to tell them the truth?
Tom, I couldn’t agree more with your comment that, “We all work in marketing, no matter what our functional expertise may be.” My function is not in that part of the organization, but if I don’t have a good relationship with my marketing counterparts neither will be as successful. Marketers cannot ‘sprinkle fairy dust’ – though an entertaining picture that would be – and magically make things fly of the shelves. There has to be a dialogue, an understanding on the technical side of what the marketers believe consumers want so that they can strive to deliver it, and not just deliver ‘something to fill a volume gap.’ The marketing side also needs to listen to what the other functions have to say, what they can deliver as well as limitations, and ideas they have to add uniqueness or fill more than one consumer need with the same product.
Another way we are all marketers – every action we take, no matter the intention, may be perceived as a representation of our company/ brand. This was drilled into my head in my undergrad days in a fraternity, and only becomes more true as marketplace competition increases.
The only fairy dust that we could sprinkle on the products to sell them is the cobination of quality, performance at the most economical cost and the service to resolve any problem that might arise in using them. The quality and performance is defined by the application and not by the prodcut supplier. The job of marketing is the communication of the product performance defined together by R & D, Manufacturing, Application Development and the Sales & Services.
Amen Amen Amen!!!! You perfectly describe what goes on in my organization. Sometimes I am lucky and someone understands that the marketing fair dust works only so far as others outside of marketing are willing to make it work.
Hey Tom, you nailed this one!
After leaving a marketing-centric organization to join an industrial giant, I was shocked at how “peripheral” marketing is in here. We are working on a project to educate the company that Marketing is the NAVIGATOR of the business since the get-go – without it, the driving is a little random (wishing for some magical shortcut?) and although you may “get there” it may take longer and with more gasoline =)
In short – we are trying to “bake” marketing into the entire organization, as Kathy Sierra’s insights say.
The Moments of Truth cartoon is a perfect companion – we are often left to the sidelines because the Leadership cannot see clear numbers from Marketing at the very beginning of a project when the “Navigation” is most needed… part b/c mktg is not given freedom/ budget to invest in data/ insights, part b/c in industrial market the data is simply very hard to get to. So it naturally perpetuates the bad practice of sending mktg to the periphery and summoning it only when a miracle of fairy dust is needed.
Bill Carlson says
I’ve blogged on this as well and call it the search for the silver bullet solution — as though there is one specific activity that provides success, and as though nobody else ever thought of it.
But I think the real issue is the resulting “churn” — the lack of patience in approaching the marketing process properly and a lack of patience in allowing any particular strategy/tactic to deliver results translates to a company changing their approach so often that they can’t possibly know what does versus does not work.
And top-line results may tell some of that story but add the churn among staff who come and go and you suffer yet again with a lack of history and continuty. The latest new idea is clearly THE idea and all of the previous ideas were clearly wrong… Really?
Marketing should be in a leadership posture within an organization — should be qualified for that, of course, but then respected and held accountable to drive, not just react to, opportunities. But that takes ownership and senior management that appreciates this and in our culture of “want it, want it now!”, that’s tough to come by!
Tim Barkey says
Marketing should be at the heart and soul of any organisation -from the secretary to the MD. Everyone has a part to play in the brand or service no matter what level or what title. Some of the best marketing ideas have come from the category or sales teams or even the company secretary often from a simple question: “Why do we do things that way”?
The problem of unsuccesful marketing is partly down to finger pointing when things go wrong and employees think and act in isolated silos of “sales”, “marketing” or “finance”!
One valid example of bad “shared marketing”:
I led a brand line extension launch that the marketing team believed in only to find out when we didn’t sell it into the major UK grcery multiples that the sales team didn’t fully believe the concept even before they sold it in!! “Too expensive” “Wrong size” “Didn’t like the taste” and those were just the objections from the sales team as opposed to the buyers….no wonder the launch never happened!
To say it would have been easier if these objections had been aired earlier, or if everyone had shared responsibility for marketing deliverables, such as new product launches, would be an understatement!
– base marketing on great consumer insight and match it to brand core competencies
– Internally, maintain open and honest dialogue and feedback throughout
– involve sales, finance and production at every stage of marketing and make sure a cross-functional team is set up early on
– involve key senior stakeholders as often as possible
– ensure marketing and sales deleiverables are shared by the whole business unit / cross functional team from idea to delivery.
– always work well in advance because there will always be problems!
I agree that everyone is a marketer! Marketing is common sense, gut feel, good process and the art of creativity…and those qualities are not just the domain of people with marketing in their job title!
Tim Barkey, Director 3 Bright Minds Consulting
Jerry Holtaway says
I agree SOMETHING must unify, motivate and keep people on track to reach business objectives.
Here, it’s being said that “marketing” should take the lead. In many circles, it would be said that “branding” should take the lead. In yet others it should be the corporate “vision”.
I say “meaning” should take the lead. Set a meaningful ambition for the company. Evoke the feelings that will propel people toward that ambition (and serve as part of the reward for their efforts). Create meaning that emanates out from the organization to become a magnet for prospects, a glue for customers and welcome friend to partners, suppliers, investors, communities and social influencers.
Use meaning to make the attitudes, intent, words and actions of the people in marketing, branding, customer service, product development, sales, HR, R&D, logistics, IT, investor relations, community relations, public relations, etc, etc, revolve around building meaningful relationships both among themselves and with the outside world.
Yes, it’s time to move beyond “marketing fairy dust” to something more aligned to what it will take for businesses to thrive in the 21st century. A big part of this will be in recognizing how people – in reaction to social, financial, government, environmental upheaval – are now searching for meaning.
It behooves business leaders to embrace people seeking meaning and to put meaning at the center of their business.
Allen Roberts says
Oh how true.
By chance, I drafted a blog post a week or so ago, and “banked” it for use at some point.
That point came when I saw your cartoon, it is a different take on exactly the same topic. Just in case it is of interest, the post is http://strategyaudit.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/what-to-do-vs-what-is-going-on/
Cheers, great cartoon.
Hi all, great insights and commentary on this week’s cartoon. Thanks for sharing all of your experiences in trying to bake marketing into your organizations, rather than leaving it as peripheral fairy dust at the end. This week’s signed print goes to Tim Barkey and his war story from the brand line extension launch. We’ve all been there!
Kathy sierra says
Marketing and product documentation (manuals for products that actually need one) are weirdly related on this point… both are often asked to *fix* a broken (or at least undifferentiated) product. But I also believe that in some ways, they *could*. But not with pixie dust… by seeing themselves as part of the larger system devoted to making users better.
In the extreme, for example, a company selling a complicated consumer electronic device (which today, even a simple stereo receiver is often near-impossible to actually USE once you’re off the factory defaults), could create an incredibly useful short video that is about how to kick ass at actually appreciating rich sound from your HDTV / DVDs, etc. and then it functions as both a user manual AND marketing.
But it is the skills that marketers have that people involved in user learning often lack. I have often argued that marketing and end user learning should not be thought of as separate, and both have something to teach each other. And as you mention, applies to customer service as well. The best software company I have seen asked everyone from engineers to sales people to do a stint in phone support and also user training. Everyone in the company was aligned with what the user’s life was like, in the context of their product.
Thanks, Kathy, it’s wonderful to have your words and perspective here. I couldn’t agree more with your insight about everyone doing a stint in phone support and user training. It amazes me that front-line consumer response is typically treated as a cost-center (with an orientation to keeping cost low) rather than as an experience-center (with an orientation to make the products and services more meaningful). Everyone should take turns at customer service.
My favorite example of this is Innocent Drinks in the UK. In the early days, they had a banana phone (literally a phone shaped like a banana) that rang with consumer calls and everyone in the office (from the senior scientist to the HR Director to the VP of marketing) would wrestle over the “privilege” of talking with a consumer.
It changes your whole mindset as an organization when everyone sees their role as marketing.
This problem may be more prevalent than first imagined. The other week I deigned to take a feedback survey for a particular electronic-format magazine I subscribe to. One of the questions was, at least in paraphrase, “What would make you more likely to buy a product advertised in this publication?” with checkboxes for, e.g. “more images,” “video content,” “audio content,” “interactivity,” “special offers,” etc. I took the liberty of writing in “worthwhile product” in the “Other:” field. The LAST thing I want, particularly when I’m perusing a professional-interest publication is more marketing sparkliness bombarding me to pay attention to a product I already know I don’t need and will never use. I’m surprised such a big disconnect exists between the product creators, marketers, and publisher that product type/quality didn’t even occur to the marketer/publisher writing the survey as a reason they might not be making as many sales with their chosen ads. And this being in a tech-field publication by techs for techs- you’d expect that the product developers and readership would be pretty much on the same page as to what sorts of things would be new and shiny and useful and worth buying, and that intensive marketing wouldn’t even be necessary.