Fair Exchange: Selling the marketing dept to the business
by Erna George (@) If you can’t simplify things, find something else to say, find someone else to help you say it or find where each layer should be showcased. This applies to external and internal audiences.
Don’t you wish every financial advisor or guru would make finance make sense to you in easy language, with all jargon demystified or even abolished? Have you ever watched a TV ad and sat afterwards, completely puzzled? Intricate, multi-layered messaging is unnecessary, for the most part, and ineffective always.
Understood by all
Marketers need to ensure that marketing is understood by all levels in the business, and all consumer and business decision-makers. Consider shifting your complex strategy into a story that may be relayed easily and made relevant for the audience. This ensures optimal understanding and makes influencing the audience possible. Balance the theory, models and strategies with a pragmatic expression and approach to ensure that the most-brilliant thinking makes sense.
First looking internally, marketing departments don’t always have a good reputation among other business divisions. Sometimes seen as the glam or glitz, with little substance, parts of the business may believe there’s is no science to marketing (anyone can do it), while others may believe marketing tries to sound more complicated than it is to ensure a level of status and to lead always. Talking about things such as segmentation, positioning and the difference between a brand essence and payoff line to non-marketing executives may just sound like Greek.
While these are everyday words, many don’t understand the context within branding; their view could be that you are trying to sound smart or hide things. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how smart things sound; it about multiple teams working towards a common goal. If the manufacturing or sales teams don’t understand the marketing plan or intent, the experience by retailers or consumers could be disparate or fall flat.
Creating a single view and experience for the end-consumer must be everyone’s goal and it is marketing’s role to drive this throughout organisations in the most-persuasive and -unpretentious way. Ultimately, ensure your organisation is aligned behind the consumer and the brand-growth agenda.
Imagine how important this is when you’re asking for a budget increase from a room of accountants? To add another snag, the budget could be awarded to the engineering team who can prove the actual operational efficiencies and cost-savings, or the sales team who can guarantee a number of truck loads in volume. Amid these hard numbers, it wouldn’t help to justify your request with an explanation along the lines of “the additional spend is required to deepen penetration within the core target market or to increase consumption by x%”.
What does this mean for the business? Making marketing objectives fit and serve the business purpose is critical. Explaining that the opportunity is to grow the size of the consumer base purchasing the brand — a sustainable volume increase — for greater returns could be far more effective. Put the consumers at the heart, showcase via case studies or trackers that the brand investment will, for example, grow consumer top-of-mind awareness and liking for driving incremental future sales and thus help justify a higher price for greater margins. This makes sense to everyone in business.
Don’t dumb things down
This is not about dumbing things down, though. I’m saying that, in the same way as financial people speaking jargon doesn’t imply they can make finance work in life, throwing around the theoretical terms for what you’re doing doesn’t mean you’re showing you can deliver this in market. Simple stories can drive trust, confidence and alignment.
The same thinking applies to consumers. In the South African market, where we have as diverse audience as can be in the context of language and culture, managing your messaging and total offer to be straightforward and hit the market with maximum impact becomes a greater challenge.
Aiding navigation of your category and brand benefits, and simplifying decision criteria, will make you stand out from the brand crowd. This means product benefits and features, number of products in each line (the more choice is often the more confusing), and helping demystify purchase criteria eg how should the average person judge a good paint — ease of application, wear-and-tear, water or oil base — what’s important?
I’m not suggesting consumers are stupid; we just mustn’t imagine that our brands or products are such a big part of their worlds that they will stop amid the clutter to understand, review and decide. Life is busy and technology is so complex that a clear and uncomplicated offer ensures it’s both memorable and easy to respond to and share via word of mouth or social media. Make your proposition as simple as possible and include a comparison of products or a checklist to display criteria that matter overall and to highlight what’s key to them. These ‘shortcuts’ will build understanding and trust to enable high levels of engagement and response.
- Keep marketing terms for your brand plans and communication to agencies
- Learn how to articulate your intent and objectives in a way that makes sense across all business pillars in order to deliver a cohesive offer to market
- Simplify the message and decision matrix for consumers to stand out and grow brands.
After starting at Unilever in a classical marketing role, Erna George (@) explored the agency side of life, first as a partner at Fountainhead Design, followed by the manic and inspiring world of consultancy at Added Value. She has returned to client-side, leading the marketing team in the Cereals, Accompaniments & Baking Division at Pioneer Foods. Her monthly “Fair Exchange” column on MarkLives concerns business relationships and partnerships in marketing and brandland.