This issue of Waypoints focuses on the theme of communications. Nancy Ansheles has done a tremendous job addressing the critical topic of personal and workplace communications in our Cover Story Q & A, while Dean Brenner’s compelling Management Corner column on teamwork includes internal communication as an integral part of the glue necessary for making business success stick. As part of our editorial mix, I’m pleased to contribute and address the need for strong marketing communication, and to share why I believe every Sail America member should take time to seriously consider this topic and then apply the principles to their respective business.
This past month, I conducted a strategic marketing session for the executive leadership team of an Atlanta-based, multi-location corporation. Prior to the event, one of the group’s top managers pulled me aside and asked, “What makes for good marketing?” We spent the next several hours together as a team drilling down to discover that answer. While we don’t have that luxury, I’d like to briefly submit what I believe is the cornerstone and foundation for “good marketing.”
First, however, let me make an important distinction in terminology that is often a source of confusion. What is marketing communications (often abbreviated as ‘marcom’), and how does this differ from corporate communications? They are not interchangeable terms. Marketing communication deals specifically with a company’s or individual’s product or service and is primarily concerned with efforts to generate demand, while corporate communications focuses on the company itself and its various areas of internal issue management.
Here’s a straightforward and succinct definition borrowed from Wikipedia: “Marketing communicators are those who are responsible for both promoting and protecting the integrity of the brand. (Marketing communicators) take responsibility for not only the traditional execution of marketing collateral, branding, advertising, direct marketing, packaging, PR/ publicity, promotion, sales promotion and online initiatives, but ensure that the same brand messaging is appropriately executed through each specific venue.”
Marketing communications is at the very core of good marketing. A phrase in the last sentence of the Wikipedia definition strikes a chord that I’d like to extrapolate and further discuss: “ … the same brand messaging is appropriately executed through each specific venue.” What does this mean? In essence, good marketing requires well thought out and strategically positioned brand definition that is incorporated in every marketing platform. Every marcom effort initiated by a company or its facilitators should serve to validate and continually reinforce that strategic brand positioning. Whether it’s your company’s website, print ad, social media or boat show platform, the execution should clearly communicate the same distinct message, no matter the marketing venue.
We’ve all seen examples of the alternative: companies whose brand positioning and message are terribly confused and thereby, compromised. Imagine the consumer who visits a company’s website, makes a positive first impression, but then receives a brochure, or visits a dealership or boat show, only to receive totally mixed messages at every touch point because the messaging differs. Good marketing ensures that the vital brand positioning and messaging is reinforced and solidified at every step. Consistency in marketing communications doesn’t happen by chance; it requires a disciplined, strategic mindset. This is the job of the marketing communications manager, to ensure consistency and control of the consumer’s perception and wherever possible, experience. When you visit a McDonald’s restaurant, for example, you already know what to expect, no matter if you’re in my hometown of Orlando, FL or in your neighborhood. Marketing has worked to consistently serve up the look and feel of the restaurant, the staff, the food, and the overall experience. And the brand positioning authentically delivers the realistic expectation.
Here’s what I’d like you to consider as it relates to your business, your company, and your own marketing communication activity.
- Have you carved out an identifiable and distinct brand in the marketplace? Have you taken the time to establish a unique position that separates you from the competition?
- What are the key brand communication messages you have developed to clearly identify and reinforce your unique position in the marketplace?
- Take time to carefully consider all of your various marketing platforms … website, ads, how your receptionist answers the phone, your boat show exhibit, your newsletters, e-blasts or other customer communications, your PR, social media activities … whatever marketing you do. Critically analyze and evaluate the look, feel and communications activities of each. Are you effectively reinforcing your brand position and message at every step and customer touch point?
- Does everything you do in the marketing arena work together to complement and maximize your positioning and help generate demand, in the manner desired?
- And, is there someone within your organization assigned as the steward and watchdog of your brand … a designated marketing communicator?
By reviewing these questions, hopefully you’ll recognize the value and importance of good marketing and understand that it all begins with an understanding of marketing communications, followed by a highly systematic, strategic approach to execution.