How do you know when marketing is out of control? Those of you familiar with this blog know that I’m generally a strong marketing advocate. That said, my typical pro-marketing position assumes that certain key fundamentals are in place to ensure that the lunatics don’t somehow become in charge of the asylum. In today’s post, I’ll discuss how to keep marketing in check so that brand focus is maintained and your company avoids the costly trap of marketing gone awry…

On more than a few occasions, I have found myself called in to rescue companies from themselves and/or their consultants with regard to ill-advised or poorly conceived branding or rebranding initiatives.

I have watched companies spend tremendous amounts of money, time, and energy debating logos, taglines, color pallets, font styles, ad campaigns, positioning strategies, marketing messages, brand promises, etc., with the only outcomes being failed initiatives and splintered management teams.

I have often counseled clients to beware of the change agents for the sake of change…There are few things in business that can impede corporate progress like failed marketing initiatives. If you don’t believe me just try confusing, offending, or alienating your customers and prospects with mixed marketing messages and see what happens. Today’s consumers aren’t going to tolerate trite marketing gimmicks that either insult their intelligence, or that requires too much intelligence. Don’t fall into the trap of cranking out cute ads where form trumps substance by having the message either lost in the ambiguity of the marketing or overshadowed by the complexity of the marketing (I would suggest reviewing another post entitled “Keeping It Simple“).

The best way to ensure that your marketing doesn’t wander off course is to gut-check your marketing and branding initiatives against the following four points to determine whether or not your message is accretive or dilutive to your objectives:

  1. Customer Focus: Mark my words – any marketing endeavor conceived in the absence of a customer-centric mindset will fail. At its core, marketing is about engaging with customers, meeting their needs, solving their problems, sparking their passion, earning their trust, and cementing their loyalty. Executives or agencies that believe marketing is somehow about them and not the customer represent everything wrong with marketing today. Marketing isn’t about egos, it’s about results – you cannot achieve results without the customer.
  2. Leadership: There are a number of ways to get in trouble here…poor leadership, no leadership, or fractionalized leadership can all be quite problematic. Marketing is not a part-time endeavor, and if you don’t have a qualified C-level marketing executive leading the charge, don’t just trust things to the most vocal staff member. Lastly, don’t decentralize marketing…consistent messaging across markets, mediums, and constituencies is critical. Don’t be guilty of mixed messaging because the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.
  3. Alignment: A fundamental precept to all marketing initiatives is that they must be in alignment with corporate values and vision. Remember that good marketing adds value, leverage, and velocity to your vision. It should never dilute it or distract from it. Most importantly good marketing is never in conflict with corporate values…compromise in this area and trouble will most certainly follow. If your marketing doesn’t uphold your brand promise or if it’s not advancing core business initiatives, then you have an alignment issue.
  4. Managing Outside Vendors: Remember that consultants work for you and that the decisions should be made by you and not the vendor. Good consultants build consensus and unify management focus, they do not splinter opinion. If you have a management team that is split down the middle of a marketing or branding issue then you have not arrived at the right decision.

Bottom line…solid marketing and branding initiatives are mission-critical to sustainable increases in growth objectives. That said, flawed marketing or a lack of sound brand guidelines have crippled many a good company. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into something that doesn’t resonate with your sense of discernment. If something is important enough to implement, it is important enough to do well.

As always, I invite you to add any thoughts or additional tips in the comments below…