Friday, February 27, 2009

A Long-term View of Marketing Wisdom

I read a lot of books about marketing. My bookcase is full of them. And I have learned quite a bit from those who wrote those books. (My theory is that authors of marketing books have one really good book in them and, after that, they just re-hash that theory over and over.)

What bothers me about many books on business/marketing (especially more recent ones) is that to sell that book or at least to create greater awareness of it, the author had to bash all marketing approaches that preceeded their book. Most of us who have been in marketing for a decade or two have seen different philosophies come and go with respect to how to sell things.

My "marketing hero" was Rosser Reeves, who brought the advertising world the Unique Selling Proposition in his landmark book, Reality In Advertising. Rosser's philosophy of sticking to one relevant point and hammering away at it with as much TV as you could buy sold a lot of products. Smart marketers still think about Rosser's lessons when they review advertising.

However, in his day, Rosser debated relentlessly with his friend David Ogilvy and with Bill Bernbach, who founded Doyle Dane Bernbach and ushered in the creative revolution. The truth is, all of them had valid points about how to sell things and their philosophies, when implemented, sold a lot of products for a lot of companies. They all worked, to some extent, depending on market conditions.

Were any of these three thought leaders correct in every way vs. what their competitors believed? Of course not. Each had some wisdom and tried to apply it as best they could to create sales for their clients.

What is happening today is that virtually every book you read is trying to tell you that everything you ever learned about marketing is irrelevant in 2009. We all (ought to) know this is simply not true. They want you to think that their approach is the new (and only) way you are going to sell anything to anybody.

A lot of brand-building happens before the first word is spoken about the brand.

I am certainly not saying that there is nothing new under the sun. For sure there is. Consumers have a voice now that they never had. Smart organizations can listen to them much more inexpensively than they ever did in the past. And they can communicate back with with those consumers when consumers are not happy with their brands. And they better.

What are our clients to do? Should they be doing "experience marketing" or "word-of-mouth marketing" or building "brand communities" or what? The truth is, they need to be doing it all. Or at least most of it. Because most of it will work.

However, they also may want to think about continuing some of the other, more traditional brand-building tactics that worked for them in the past. If they don't know what worked and what did not, they need to find ways to determine that. New technologies have made it amazingly simple and inexpensive to measure customer attitudes about brands. No one really knows how we form our brand preferences. We sometimes think we do but those are secrets that marketers will not uncover for a long, long time.

So much of what is written these days has to do with reach tactics. But clients need to think first about why their brand is relevant to their customers. A lot of brand-building happens before the first word is spoken about the brand. There is so much up-front work to do if the customer is going to find satisfaction with the brand. And satisfaction is paramount.

So, go ahead and buy those marketing books and I will, too. There is wisdom in them. Combine that wisdom with what you aready know to be effective. The goal should be to add to that snowball of marketng wisdom that you have been rolling along for years.

Thanks for reading. More to come.

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