Failures and breakthroughs – exposed, reflected, considered

How companies fail in commonsense marketing

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Beware of making five-year projections, unless you’re thinking of leaving the company after four years.

These words belong to the King of Manhattan, David Ogilvy. Perhaps what he meant is not to go without planning, but plan carefully, adjust consistenly and execute relentlessly, all of it driven by commonsense.

Commonsense indicates a certain approach to marketing: figure out your company’s goals, then decide on what and how (communication, advertising and contact) to market goods/services your company offers.  Drayton Bird’s book “Commonsense direct and digital marketing” puts it in the following order:

  1. business mission (what do you want to achieve?)
  2. business objectives (are your goals SMART?)
  3. marketing aims (ex. get new customers)
  4. marketing strategy (ex. how you will market)
  5. communication objectives (ex. tell your existing customers about your new products)
  6. communication strategy (ex. building up a new database of customers via limited offers)
  7. advertising objectives (what do you want to achieve by advertising, a general, mass communication weapon?)
  8. advertising strategy (via channels will you advertise – TV, online, print?)
  9. creative strategy + media strategy (how will you convey your message? + which media and how much?)
  10. contact strategy (points of communication between your company and your customers – when/how you will use selected media to reach out your target?)

You work your way from business mission, answering all relevant questions  to business objectives and so forth. Your end result, after going stage by stage, is a well-conceived and solid marketing plan.

Yet, as simple is this sequence looks, it is regularly and sometimes consistently violated/omitted/ignored. An impressive list of small, medium and big brand and product failures is a testimony to that. Financial and other consideration matter, but marketing represents a big chunk of and reason for failures both for new and existing products/services.

According to one research, fewer than 10% of all new products/services survive past the 3rd year, some of the reasons being wrong assessment of existing markets, insufficient awareness generated by advertising, and wrong target group. Even the largest (and most successful) direct-selling, person-to-person marketing company and manufacturer of health/beauty/homecare products, Amway, has not been immune (Amway’s China failure).

The recurring theme among the most famous product failures is also conspiciously featuring wrong pricing, erroneous market assessment, ambiguous positioning, unclear message and wrong naming.

The underlying logic (and its failure) is notably manifested in the online part of marketing planning and execution. Inappropriate channels, wrong targeting and poor execution are prominent in social media marketing failures.

To conclude, marketing planning and execution errors originate either while not following the inherent commonsense order of marketing mentality (in accordance to the list above) or in insufficient, erroneous, unclear research, planning and implementation of one or more stages of marketing.

Commonsense is indeed a sum-total of logical thinking, gut feeling and intuition. Unless we use commonsense in our marketing efforts, we will be a man Nietzsche had in mind when remarking:

To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail.

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