As a professional B2B marketer I get the value of branding but I also believe all the hype surrounding it is doing serious damage to the marketing profession. Taking a straw poll of both business owners and the public in general I believe would show most believe marketing is advertising or branding and that is a problem.
I am not saying branding does not have a value but to give an example from our ancient ancestors. Art flourished in the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian societies but less so in others. Why? Because in those societies food was plentiful and the society was well organised and structured. My point is this – if your prime focus is having enough to eat in the coming days and weeks and defence of your family you are not going to worry too much about your artistic side. Now swap branding for art and food for orders and perhaps you get my point.
In my humble opinion marketing prime purpose is to generate high quality and relevant leads for sales to close – that is it. That may not appeal to those with a creative side or have aspirations for marketing to be at the centre of every business but I am afraid it is time to wake up to the reality. If marketing can only talk brand it will have very little relevance to the wider business community.
Perhaps the problem starts at the very top. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has a major programme underway (#Marketing2025) to try and make itself more relevant. As a member of the CIM since the early 1990’s and a Chartered Marketer I read the recent article by the CIM Chief Executive on the subject in the CIM magazine.
Remember, this article was about making the CIM more relevant but in the entire (lengthy) article ROI was mentioned once and lead generation not at all. The word Brand was repeated many times and it may well be important to larger organisations but if the CIM wants to be relevant it needs to talk to the majority of businesses (and marketers).
Let me explain, I have spent over 25 years in the small business (from start-ups to businesses with £25m turnover) environment. As over 95% of the 4.9m businesses in the UK employ up to 9 people and 99% employ less than 250 people in (figures from 2013) then I guess I am not alone. Yet, all the CIM focus is on branding that is probably only a prime focus for perhaps <5% of the total business population.
In the SME world everything has to deliver a ROI. Business owners may get the value of authority to their business but not brand. It may be argued brand is at the central to any business but good luck selling that concept to SME’s. If I had any influence at the CIM (which I don’t) I would minimise the use of that word.
To use another example there is a phrase in football that goes ‘earn the right to play ‘. For the uninitiated it means that the creative players in a team (the ball players and goal scorers) don’t generally get a chance to have a major influence on a match until the early physical battles have been won. They may not like it but in the early stages of a game the quality players have to put in a shift running, tackling and closing down with the rest of the team.
Marketing may translate to the creative players but to really influence and be at the centre of a business they need to get down and dirty with the rest, do their share, get out there and understand customers and sales issues. Only then do they have they earned the right to play. Only then can marketing claim its rightful place at the centre of business and provide real value with strategic focus, vision and yes – brand. However, forget that prime purpose of lead generation and all that good work will be undone in an instant.