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Marketing To Keep Up With The Joneses

Posted by Roger Marquis on November 20th, 2012 at 12:28 pm

The subject for today's post comes from a conversation I recently had with two senior-level marketers who both work for a fine art auction house. The topic is more about overall marketing strategy than bar codes or mobile.

Let me start by asking you the question, if your best friend jumped off a bridge, would you? Chances are you, and most others, would say "no." Now, let me put a marketing spin on the same type of question and ask, if Competitor A launched a Twitter page, would you? Chances are you, and most others, would feel compelled to answer "yes" but, why? If you were one of the two marketers I spoke with the other day, the answer is simple, because it helps to keep us competitive. When I heard this it struck me because, what does keeping competitive in this time and place really mean? How far does it really get you? In my mind, not much and not very far at all.

If Competitor A launched a Twitter page, then you do, the playing field is level. If Competitor A launched a Pinterest board, then you do, the playing field is leveled once again. If Competitor A launched an iPad app, then you do, the playing field continues to remain level. So, with all of this leveling, what's really going on here? All that's happening is that you are playing catch up to the competition and thinking about strategic and tactical marketing in a very myopic way. Instead of trying to out pace the competition, you're more apt to simply follow in their footsteps and call it a day. And, this is a winning plan of action, how?

The more and more I listened to these two marketers, the more and more astounded I was to know that this is how their company, a major international brand and leader in its industry, operates. It also started to dawn on me that there was no real or meaningful conversation about marketing related goals and objectives. Sure, you might not know the goals and objectives behind a competitor's launch and use of a Twitter page, but there better be goals and objectives behind the launch of your own beyond, we caught up with the competition, now our work is done. In my book, that's meaningless and pointless.

To bring my thoughts on the conversation I had with the two marketers full circle, I left meeting with these two people thinking to myself, instead of working to just keep up with the competition, why not get ahead of them with some sort of strategic partnership or program that the competition does not offer. Think of something so very different and innovative that it turns the tables, or even the entire industry, on end and forces the competition to then play catch up. Maybe this line of thinking is a stretch given the nature, culture and personality of the company these marketers represent, but without stretching for something new, more or different very little, if anything, will change. Sure, in reality, the company will continue to make money as it has in the past, and most would be comfortable with that, but don't be surprised if someday there's a new kid on the block ready to eat your lunch.

In summary, marketers, as well as the executive leadership of an organization, shouldn't decide to implement or launch a strategy or tactic only because the competition does so. Being equal means very little and I would be hard pressed to name a company that has risen to the top just by striving to be equal.

One Response to “Marketing To Keep Up With The Joneses”

  1. Roger, thank you for making some excellent points and writing about a topic that I'm sure frustrates a lot of marketing professionals. We've had similar conversations on several occasions. They leave us scratching our heads.

    The challenge is three-fold. First is getting clients to recognize the value of a marketing plan or strategy versus just diving into marketing/PR head first. Second, (in the case of social media), that it's about engagement, and using the platform that best suites them and is also where their target audience is hanging out. Finally, helping them realize that if their marketing messages don't stand out from the competition (and all the other messages out there), they become nothing more than sonic or visual wallpaper.

    Historically, we've found that getting larger corporations/organizations to latch on to my third point is the most difficult. They don't want to rock the boat, be seen as silly, have a brand/reputation to uphold, etc. The first two we can generally bring them around to with some patience, case-studies, and working with them over time.

    In the end, each agency/consultant needs to make a fundamental decision. Whether to work with a client who sees things the way the marketers in your post see things and get marginal results. Or, let the client go, and focus on garnering clients who recognize the value in planning out their marketing they way they plan other aspects of their business/organization. We typically choose the latter.

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