Why does marketing success come so slowly?

By Tom Dougherty


Why does marketing success come so slowly?

Despite your best efforts, your marketing success moves in slow motion. Advertising seems less effective— even on the face of better targeting. Sure, a product innovation can change your fortunes. At least temporarily.

But stealing market share from competitors remains elusive. We study market share trends in dozens of industries, and they seem locked in time.

It’s akin to college football in many ways. Go back 20 years. Despite coaching changes and retirements, the top 25 contenders remain the same characters. Limits on scholarships and conference realignment make no difference.

Unless it’s about falling out of contention. That still happens. Obviously the risk of failure is greater than the promise of advancement.

The reason for failure to achieve marketing success

The biggest competitors in every category fear failure more than they are hungry for growth. They don’t want to screw up.

marketing successThis translates into stagnation, and little marketing success. They rely on old messages and failed strategies. The problem is that everyone in the category copies them.

That’s right. Copies them.

They hire agencies with category experience. Think about that one. If an agency has a conflict in your category, they can’t work with you. If they have category experience but are available it means someone FIRED them.

It’s the same musical chair game you see in the NBA. Coaches get fired only to resurface at another franchise. It is insanity.

Emerge to their surprise

Sun Tzu said emerge to their surprise in The Art of War. Actually, his full quote is “Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.”

He is right.

The problem arises when we share the same weaknesses. Because everyone in the category copies the market leader they all share fundamental weaknesses. To find weakness and emerge to their surprise, you must be dispassionate in self-evaluation.

It hard. Few can do it. But it’s the key to marketing success.

We invest in our own rightness and that sort of introspection requires the acceptance of our own wrongness.

Don’t fret. Your competitors can’t do it either.

We can help

If you want to win then you must be willing to kill the sacred cows. There are many more excuses for modest change than there is support for radical movement.

But in today’s crowded marketing environment, you need radical to achieve marketing success. Your prospects don’t want to notice you. You are SPAM to them. They invest in ignoring you because they crave simplicity. Just like your brand, they invest in their own rightness. Changing brands feels like admitting they have been wrong. That’s why product innovation can jolt up the meter. But just for a moment.

Radical is ruthless

Upending the apple cart takes guts. And facts. Minds need to change in management. You must ignore experience. Truth becomes the only goal and all assumptions are fair game.

Understanding market maturityWe tell prospects that we are the guests invited into your living room and tell you that your kids are ugly. It’s not fun but someone has to do it.

The only thing that matters is what prospects think. What you believe is immaterial.

Look at banking as an example of failure. Banks are still building brick and mortar locations. They want you to switch. They ask you to go through the hassle of changing banks because they have competitive rates, low fees, great online applications, convenient locations, lots of ATMs and are manned by only the best and friendliest employees. In other words— they are banks. No wonder no one switches. Not exactly a marketing success, those folks.

Inside-out thinking

Most companies approach the market with fundamental flaws. They look around at what they are selling and value about themselves. Then they scream that at the top of their lungs.

Too many brands see the world inside-out. The messaging is all about them. Instead, it needs be all about the prospect.

Even product attributes take the backseat here. They are important but never the big story in any marketing success. The big story is written from the perspective of the prospect. Who do they believe they are when they choose your brand?

It’s the narrative that defines the why for all the wants you claim.

Brand anthropology

Changing behavior has prerequisites. You need to understand emotional motivations. You need marketing and brand anthropologists to explore solutions. Experts in changing human behaviors. Everything else is the same old shit.

Here is the process to find the keys of a marketing success.

Model the existing market behaviors. We look at the relationship between processes (what the prospect does), purposes (what the prospect needs and wants) and precepts (what the prospect believes to be true).

Relationship between beliefs and actions

What we believe controls what we buy and use

Understanding this cacophony of cross-related values is the first step in the anthropological dig.

Beliefs rule the landscape. They are always deeply personal and do not have a prerequisite of being correct or truthful. Believing them is more than enough. These ruling precepts control your market. They define winners and losers.

Research is next

Then you need research. Revealing and projectable research. Not the drivel of focus groups or the lies generated by customer satisfaction surveys. We are talking about projectable market research. Anonymous, double-blind studies with a confidence of 95% within an acceptable margin of error.

This requires randomization and skill.

But the questions you ask are as important as the answers.

We rarely ask open-ended questions. They tell you nothing because customers have no idea why they chose. We apply the learnings from our behavioral modeling and ask a series of Likert scale questions. We examine the emotional values of your target market and identify the highest emotional intensity in your category

This is before we create the strategy. The strategy incorporates this intensity in the narrative. Then you are in a position to instruct the agency and achieve marketing success.

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