Five new year’s resolutions all marketers must adopt

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By Francis Moran

Well, we dodged the Mayan doomsday, the solar flares that were going to scramble all electromagnetic systems on the planet and the first Times Square ball-dropping without Dick Clark in what seems like a century or two. (Although there was that terribly unfortunate incident where Anderson Cooper, who used to be a serious newsman, had to fend off bizarre sexual advances from his NYE cohost Kathy Griffin, all on live television with millions of American families watching. I don’t know about you but I would have welcomed the end of the world if it meant we could have avoided that catastrophe.)

So, now what? With my tongue only slightly in my cheek, here are the top five things I surely wish marketers would adopt as the industry’s set of resolutions for 2013.

Stop it with the guru and ninja horseshit

Enough with the cutesy and meaningless titles, already. It’s hard enough for marketing to scrape together sufficient boardroom credibility to secure meaningful budgets so as to be able to accomplish meaningful objectives. Styling yourself as a maven or a guru or a ninja degrades the whole process and tells your executives or clients that you really are a windbag with no meaningful substance behind you. The same goes for idiotic terms like “conversation architect” or “chief antagonist.” Just as patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, so is an arbitrary and meaningless title the last refuge of someone incapable of investing marketing with any genuine understanding or insight. (If you wish to parse the obscure difference between a maven or a guru, this is a fun read.)

And, while I’m in full anti-buzzword rant here, it’s called marketing, people, not growth hacking. It may well be that this silly term has some credibility in Silicon Valley, although I most fervently hope not. It will, however, earn you “a punch in the face everywhere else.”

The only technology center with the words “silicon” or “valley” in its name should be Silicon Valley

An Ottawa Business Journal reporter called me in early December for a story he was doing on Ottawa’s branding. Not much of what I told him made it into the final article, which you can see on page 12 of this week’s print edition or in the paper’s online smart edition. However, among other things, I told him it was long past time that Ottawa stopped calling itself “Silicon Valley North” just as other areas really need to stop calling themselves Silicon this or that, or this or that Valley. Why, I asked, would any major technology center wish to position itself as a pale imitation of the real thing? Much better, I said, that Ottawa and other technology centers focus on their unique strengths, and build a strong and independent brand around that. (For what it’s worth, Brad Feld agrees with me on this. And he should know, having been instrumental in building the brand of Boulder, Colorado, as an amazing startup community without ever resorting to what he deliciously terms “The tragedy of calling things Silicon Blah.”)

Stop using metrics like a drunk uses a telephone pole – for support rather than illumination

That header is a variation on an old line about how some debaters use statistics but it is becoming increasingly relevant to the growing role that metrics — and, especially, big-data metrics — are playing in marketing. The only utility metrics can have in marketing is when they illuminate something, preferably consumer behaviour. Anything else and you’re just using them to prop up otherwise faulty arguments that ought to be allowed their deserved nasty tumble into the gutter.

While on the subject of metrics, advertising value equivalents simply must die

I can’t believe I have been raving against advertising value equivalents as a completely discredited measurement technique for every one of my 25-plus years as a communicator. And yet, like the zombie arm that reaches from the grave at the end of b-grade horror movie to grab the pretty heroine’s shapely ankle, these undead monsters of measurement simply refuse to die. I take some solace in the progress that has been made in eradicating this scourge, but stubborn pockets persist. I suspect there’s a direct correlation between their usage and the likelihood that practitioners who continue to use AVEs also call themselves gurus or conversation architects.

Let’s be strategic out there, people

It’s a tough world for marketers. Competition is fierce. Customers are fickle. Information is free and ubiquitous. Channels are fractured. Budgets are constrained. So let me end on an optimistic note. There is a way through the minefields, and it’s called strategy. It begins with genuinely understanding who your customers are and what they want. It moves through building a product or service that satisfies that customer desire in a unique, high-value manner. It continues by accurately defining the environment into which you are going to launch your product, both competitive environment and customer purchasing behaviour. And it culminates in a detailed and high-fidelity map that plots the right mix of campaigns and tactics at the right resource levels, all working in concert, with built-in (and real!) evaluative mechanisms to ensure you stay on track or can shift direction as your market shifts.

It’s called strategy, and my most earnest resolution is that your 2013 be filled with it.

Image: EnglishClub

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