Saturday, November 24, 2007

Indicator #4 - Don't Talk About It - Be About It

Indicator #4
Corporate Identity Crisis and Product Ambiguity

There's nothing more frustrating in the marketing and advertising business than pulling things out of the air or repackaging an overused product to improve the sales performance of a client. No matter how talented you think you are, or how talented you actually are in this profession, there are certain products and brands you can't change for the better. It has nothing to do with your ability, but everything to do with your client's ability to meet you half way. Before you can develop that wonder brand, or place that product in the perfect channel, your client must first have some grasp on what they are trying to do, and why they are doing it.

Most companies start off with well planned intentions and products, but as the market creates challenges that require unintended responses, they slowly lose their way in the market. The winds of change blow away their purpose and action, so they call on you to help improve their brand or push their products a little further in the market. What they are really asking is for you to save their company, or help them regain their focus. However, the RFQ doesn't ask for this - it's just a hope that these benefits will come along with your help on their "marketing initiative". If you care about making companies work, then this challenge should always haunt you in your daily operation. What seems to be totally encompassed in marketing, actually reaches in the fields of organizational behavior or operations management.

In my quest to be an excellent marketing professional, my journey has led me to pursuing a Supply Chain Management MBA to better understand the organizational and operational factors that highly influence the performance of a brand or product. I've learned more, during my career, about what branding is not, than what it actually is, which evolved into a very unique understanding of how this marketing thing works. The brands and products that work in the marketplace go far beyond creative strategy, product placement, or sales channel development - they actually stem from human capital and concept management.

Of all the indicators I will write about, this one is the hardest to detect, because it requires the most investigation. You can't visualize it, because you see some forms of progress. However, it can be initially detected by asking one question, "what do you do?". If the answer is longer than ten words, then you have a problem. It never gets that complex to have a lengthy answer, and it never gets that lengthy if you want a competitive advantage. Until your client can provide a brief and precise answer to this question, your ability to work your marketing wonders on their brand or product will be limited at best.

Truthfully, your marketing work starts and ends with getting this question answered in a statement of no more than ten words. A conclusive statement from your client actually triggers the organizational and operational factors that will support their marketing needs. Don't wait for the indicator to reveal itself, ask the question first, and work from there.

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