Marketing: The Pixie Dust Approach

It’s so interesting for me to meet marketing professionals that I haven’t met before and see how they approach the discipline of our shared marketing profession.  Some approach it with a pure rational, market-research, scientific approach.  Others approach it from the creative, visual or written, art side.  I happen to favor a mix of the two, since consumers tend to exhibit a mercurial mix of both rational and emotional behaviors.

Even more interesting, is seeing how some clients approach marketing.  Instead of a continuum of art vs science, some companies add an unexpected dimension: magic.  

I was recently reminded of this when a client said something to the effect that the company had done all the hard work on the brand, and would now be turning over the project to me to “do your (marketing) magic.”  The phrase made me feel a bit like Harry Potter, until I came down to earth and realized that this person was serious. 

Why don’t people treat their accountants, their doctors or even their operations teams as if they have a magic wand?  And why do so many companies expect marketers to conjure up some new and dramatic scheme out of a witchcraft and wizardry book to transform their brands into instant successes?  No, marketing isn’t like sprinkling pixie dust on a me-too product in a too-crowded marketplace and expecting it to immediately “go viral.”  Marketing is a business discipline, too–not alchemy.

Today, I met with a fellow marketeer who is handling a project for a client who buys under-valued clients, then builds their brands for long-term value.  The client doesn’t hire a “Ministry of Magic” to turn around their fortunes on failing brands.  They expect their marketing people and partners to work hard, do all the necessary blocking and tackling, then slowly build their brands’ equity.  This company’s hero is Warren Buffett, not Tinkerbell.

Relying on pixie dust shifts the responsibility to someone else to “make magic.”  The reality is that even if this approach works, there has been long, hard work ahead of the “marketing magic” to raise a brand above the marketplace noise and lack of interest.  We would all be better off if we put in the effort from the start, rather than relying on magic as our only marketing strategy.

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