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More marketing ROI: Kill off “branding”

Marketing ROI

Marketing ROI can be a little suspect. If someone buys a pair of NIKEs, did they buy the NIKEs because of Michael Jordan? Because of cost? Because of some other connection to the brand? Do they even know or see NIKE marketing as they move through TV and digital channels in a day? Because we never know exactly for sure — even in an era of better targeting — the marketing ROI at most places is dubious.

There are stats everywhere and a day — feel free to Google ’em on your own — about how executives aren’t seeing the right returns from various marketing campaigns and initiatives. The ROI isn’t there, goddamn it! We’ve been framing social media as no/low-ROI for a decade now. “Eh whatever, hire a millennial to run it …”

I can solve a few marketing ROI problems pretty quickly. Want to come along for the ride?

Phase 1: Understand what marketing is

Marketing is a support function for sales. You should market something effectively and that should cause some targeted audience to want to buy it. That should be the focus of what your marketing team does.

Phase 2: Remove “branding” from the equation

If you are looking for ROI, you need to look at the relationship between marketing and sales. This will require you to remove the fluffier elements of what most marketing teams do: branding or the even-better (supposedly) “power branding.” Most marketers, despite being tasked with “owning the brand,” have no idea what branding means — they often believe it means “adjust this logo by a few centimeters,” as opposed to “convey the value of what’s being done here.” This “on-brand problem” creates a host of additional problems, mostly around time management (it gets screwed up), priorities (ditto), and job role (ditto). Bonus here: the value of brand is actually declining as new generations rise up.

Phase 3: “But marketing makes things pretty!”

Heard that at any number of jobs. Well, marketing ROI isn’t about making things pretty. So if there are still people who believe that’s the goal, do one of two things:

  • Fire them
  • Create a small spin-off within marketing called — a-ha! — branding, which consists of graphic designers, content creators, and maybe a strategist or something

In Bullet No. 2, that team would handle the traditional branding stuff, whereas the bigger marketing team would work towards marketing ROI.

Phase 4: Hierarchy

I’d open with someone more revenue-driven managing the main marketing team, so the ROI reporting can be clearer. Ideally it would be someone who has worked in sales or has good relationships with the current sales side of the house.

The current CMO can run the branding shop, because this will probably mean (a) same salary and (b) way less responsibility while he/she does (c) what they actually cared about in the first place. “Data-driven what? I’m a creative!”

Phase 5: Wait for the hiccups

There will be many. Deal with them. I can’t give you specific advice there, because “deal with them” varies by organization. I can tell you that change management is literally designed to terrify people, so do your best.

Phase 6: Over time, out-perform your competitors

The single-biggest issue with marketing is that the hard stuff (data, targeting, revenue analysis, etc.) gets bogged down by the soft stuff (images, logos, power branding, campaign assets) because the soft stuff is either more-controllable or more fun to work on. But then marketing ROI goes out the window, sales/marketing are always infighting, and nothing is getting done.

Could the system above, while simplistic, create more marketing ROI?

Ted Bauer

One Comment

  1. I would add that the “soft stuff” of marketing FEELS like it makes a difference, as it’s an easy-to-conceive-of and easy-to-behold deliverable. People perceive it as being important, and believe it to have an impact without actually producing data that shows its real ROI (I would also add that there are many who also love to throw around the term “ROI” to seem smart).

    You’re right, marketing should be supplemented/bolstered by sales data, but people have been encouraged (and enabled) to be intellectually lazy, thus the dumb-but-sexy stuff wins out. Throw around a bunch of buzzwords, and suddenly one is perceived to be part of the in-crowd, even if the person spouting the jargon doesn’t know a thing about what they’re talking about.

    Industry jargon, by the way, *infuriates* me, regardless of profession.

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