Why marketing goes wrong so often

Guest Column:
John Graham
Marketing is a mystery – at least that’s the way it seems when compared with just about every other company function. There’s plenty of talk about “marketing,” but efforts to nail it down, specifically, usually end in an uncomfortable silence. It makes the point that it’s difficult to get your arms around marketing. More

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Why marketing goes wrong so often

Guest Column:
John Graham
Posted 2/25/13

Marketing is a mystery – at least that’s the way it seems when compared with just about every other company function. There’s plenty of talk about “marketing,” but efforts to nail it down, specifically, usually end in an uncomfortable silence. It makes the point that it’s difficult to get your arms around marketing.

There are more “marketing geniuses” floating around than anyone can count. Everyone has an opinion as to what’s needed, what works and what doesn’t.

And whatever marketing activities a company implements, there will always be those who rush forward with criticisms and complaints.

Such turmoil may help explain why so many companies harbor serious doubts about marketing, others keep it on a short leash, and some solve the problem by turning it into a glorified “gofer” function.

As it turns out, demystifying marketing is rather easy. After peeling away the nutty (and usually meaningless) jargon, marketing is simply aligning an organization’s products and services so customers come to identify with a brand. Unfortunately, much of what passes as “marketing” fails to pass the test.

To better understand why marketing goes wrong and what can be done about it, here are seven common pitfalls, obstacles and stumbling blocks:

• Management believes it knows marketing. It’s not uncommon for the person in charge of marketing to report to someone who “loves marketing” and has strong opinions, but little or no marketing knowledge. This is often the same person who says, “I seem to have a flair for marketing.” In such a situation, the person charged with the marketing responsibilities has two options: either bang heads or cave-in to the pressure.

An annual marketing plan that’s approved by management can help avoid such difficult and, frankly, depressing situations. Without that, there’s only chaos and unacceptable results.

• Marketers make a splash rather than a difference. While management may be a marketing culprit, marketers can be to blame, as well. Making a quick “impression” is often the goal. As one marketing manager said the first week on the job, “We’ll be rolling out a new logo in a couple of months.” The logo remained, while the marketing manager didn’t.

Soon after arriving at Radio Shack as EVP and CMO, Lee Applbaum kicked off a campaign to rebrand the lackluster performance of this venerable company. It would now be known simply as “The Shack.” That didn’t last long and neither did Applbaum. Unfazed by reality, his final tweet, as reported by the Dallas Business Journal, said it all, “Been a great 3.5 years @RadioShack. Hopeful I had a positive impact on the brand. On to the next one.”

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