For the past day and a half I have been able to listen to some of the leaders in the world of marketing discuss the trials and tribulations of marketing’s corner office dwellers: CMO’s. As I discussed yesterday there are plenty of specifics from these marketing leaders and I will likely be talking about some of the details in the near future.
For now though I think it may be good to just give some general impressions regarding the “State of the Marketing Union”. Honestly, it’s not much different than the rest of the world in that the dizzying pace of ‘progress’ causes a variety of reactions ranging from fear (not directly admitted by anyone at the conference but talked about in general) to wide-eyed enthusiasm. To a large degree the type of industry certainly plays a large part in how a marketer tackles the whole marketing enchilada of traditional channels, online strategies, social media engagement, measurement and about a thousand other things. It’s because of the sheer breadth of areas needing to be covered that the best of breed of these folks come to the conclusion that despite the hype, not all companies are cut out for all marketing activities. The smart ones know when and where to say no.
A common trait that is obvious as well is the energy level and the enthusiasm of the best executive level marketers. Despite all the technology and all the rules that must be followed (or at least considered before they are broken) there is no substitute for passion. Marketing is about numbers for sure. It needs to be sliced and diced and rearranged so it makes sense and performs well. We get that.
From what I could tell, though, is that really good marketing is more about passion than anything else. It’s hard not to get excited about someone’s product when they have an infectious enthusiasm about it themselves. People like Mike Indursky of Burt’s Bees, Steve Wilder of Intuit and Michael Williams of the San Francisco 49er’s are more salesman than marketer. I mean that in the best possible way though. They don’t come across as ‘pitchmen’ but more like advocates. They truly believe that if you, the consumer, engages in their brand experience then you will have a better day because of it. They make you very curious about what they represent and people are likely to at least give their stuff a try based on the their belief in their product.
So what is the secret sauce of effective marketing in a world that has been turned upside down by information overload? It’s no different than what makes a good relationship a good relationship. It’s about genuine, sincere and transparent communication and letting someone make a decision on their terms. A decision that is usually pretty personal and quite unique. It’s not a decision that is made because you are a male between the ages of 25-39. Nope, it’s quite the opposite. Very few people will respond exactly the same just because of age and gender. They react the way they do because they are an individual. That’s what makes marketing both frustrating and exciting in the same breath. The more we learn the less we know for sure. People are complex and so are their buying habits and the new media opportunities are simply exposing people as the complex folks that they are. Marketers are now tasked with figuring that out and showing an ROI in the process. Oh and the expectation is that it needs to be done yesterday.
Mike Indursky put it pretty succinctly in his description of the old favorite of marketers; the bell curve. You know the scenario. There are 10% of your customers that love you to death and another 10% that would rather see you dead. The middle 80% or so exhibit inconsistency at best and indifference at worse. Indursky’s thought is as a marketer you want to create a U curve where the majority of people have made a decision either way on your product and are convinced by their experience, not your manipulation, that they love or hate you.
So there you go. It’s about passion and it’s about knowing. If you find yourself in marketing’s no man’s land of not being sure then maybe that’s why most CMO’s offices are equipped with revolving doors rather than wooden ones.