When Is Marketing In Charge of Your Brand?

How is your business or category structured?  Is management in charge of goals and strategy, operations in charge of products, sales in charge of distribution and marketing on the back end–responsible for selling the brand to consumers based on all the decisions made by other departments?

I was talking with someone in an industry that I know very little about and he described how all his competitors in this industry separated marketing from pricing, advertising, social media, and all the aspects of B2C marketing that I’m used to handling as a marketer.  When I started thinking about how this silo structure creates a straight-jacket for effectively marketing a product or service, I realized why this industry, like so many, was not only unimaginative, but actually sabotaging itself.

In many industries, the 4Ps of Marketing are broken up into various areas, with responsibility for three of those “Ps” residing in other departments. Here’s the traditional structure for each and why Marketing needs to be a part of all decisions affecting the marketing and branding of products.

Price     Traditionally Decided by Management

Counterpoint for including Marketing:

After quite a few months on the market, a dietary supplement company finally realized that their products were packaged in such large bottles, that the cost was not only prohibitive for customers, but new triers would never commit to a purchase of family-sized packaging and pricing.   Researching and establishing the true target market first, would have led to the realization that young families were not going to buy the product, instead its benefits and form held appeal for a more senior audience. Appealing to the true target audience, instead of the one the company wanted to appeal to, would have allowed the brand to maintain a premium price in a much smaller package.

Product   Traditionally Decided by Operations

Counterpoint for including Marketing:

Have you ever seen a product that was so highly engineered that it was state-of-the-art, but didn’t solve anyone’s problem?  I sat next to a budding entrepreneur at a seminar.  He was working on his spreadsheets during an entire session.  When I asked what product he had, he replied that his new company was going to put Emergen-C® out of business. (Emergen-C is a fizzy vitamin powder that purportedly confers immunity and cures hang-overs)  This young president told me that they were sourcing better ingredients, had better packaging, called each flavor by a “new age” name and obviously would sell at a higher price. My response of “no one wants a better mousetrap, instead they want something different,” didn’t sit well with this former VC analyst.  As predicted, the venture failed.

Placement   Traditionally Decided by Sales

Counterpoint for including Marketing:

Another entrepreneur asked me for marketing help with his line of fair-trade, organic-fiber, helping-indigent-craftsmen-preserve-their-trade, yadda, yadda great product.  He had numerous eco-friendly superlatives for this brand, so he decided to save money by distributing only through his own website.  I’m no fashionista, but I understand that most women shop for fashion accessories at retail, in magazines or after hearing about a brand through word-of-mouth.  Expecting customers to somehow find the “build-it-and-they-will-come,” non-traditional sales outlet, didn’t consider the target audience and her habits.

Promotion   Traditionally the Responsibility of Marketing

When I worked for White Wave Foods, our flagship product, Silk Soymilk, was still not a mainstream product.  In fact, one of our strongest marketing tactics was sampling.  Yet we couldn’t give away our smallest carton.  A quart of what people perceived was watery bean juice wasn’t acceptable–even if it were free.  So we sampled in tiny cups or half-pints to overcome what we called “the yuck factor.”  Until we did this, no amount of discounting at the shelf by sales, price adjusting by management or tinkering with the formula by operations moved the product off the shelf.  Again, it was understanding the consumer barriers and breaking through them that propelled Silk to success

Whether you use the 4Ps or 5,6, or 7Ps of Marketing, the 4Es, the 4Cs or whatever system you use for your brand, it’s clear why Marketing involvement in all areas of the product and brand have stood the test of time–and it’s not because  the responsibilities involved in each area have been unbundled and delegated to other company silos.



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    1. Posted November 12, 2015 at 4:17 am | Permalink

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