I am always struggling with how marketing is being perceived by most of the companies and where it ranks in terms of importance compared with other functions. Why is that the case?
The above-the-line syndrome
Marketing started pretty much with advertising. Later other disciplines joined such as direct marketing, sponsoring, public relations and online. Advertising was and remained king for a long time (professionals called it above-the-line, so everything else was below). This development established the predominance of creativity which was and is still being celebrated in numerous award contests and reflected in rankings.
The problem with creativity is that it is associated with taste. And taste is very personal. Therefore, everyone feels like an expert and is inclined to comment or suggest alternatives. So any advertising campaign, logo, icon or website design presented internally tends to end up in discussions (I think there is too much red on the webpage and the circle should be closed).
Is this the essence of marketing? Taste and look? Not really. Creativity is not an end in itself, it is rather a means to an end.
Marketing is making things nice or making nice things
Where did this development lead to? Well, marketing is regarded by many companies as the function which is responsible for making things nice or making nice things such as booths, brochures and give aways. The strategic dimension of marketing tends to be pushed to the background. What complicates the issue even more, is that a simple success metric which would build the bridge to business is missing. Instead, there is a large number of KPIs across multiple touchpoints. But the number of booth or website visitors does not translate directly into top or bottom line. And without this ultimate proof of business contribution, the function remains somewhat disconnected.
The way out of the downstream trap is moving up
So what is the way out? I think the best way of contributing tangible value is the brand. Not brand in the creative sense. But brand in the business sense. Something I call upstream marketing (strategic and business driven) as opposed to downstream marketing (implementation and creativity driven). What do I mean?
A strategically managed brand is not only based on a purpose and clear identity, but delivers upon the promise, captures and responds to needs and builds strong relationships with stakeholders. As a result, preference is being generated as well as willingness to pay more and buy again. This translates into more revenue and better profitability. Marketing is the orchestrating and driving force behind it, creating real added value beyond its own costs. The toolbox for measuring, tracking and calculating the impact of strategic brand management is there. Let’s use it.