By John Furgurson
When it comes to belt tightening, most marketing managers have it all wrong. At the first sign of an economic downturn they go to the list of tactics and start trimming off the bottom of the spread sheet. Or worse yet, they go for a military-style buzz cut and just chop it all off.
First thing to go is ”image” advertising”… anything that doesn’t have a coupon or a response vehicle of some kind is out the window. Brand building, it seems, can wait for better days.
Next is community support… those feel-good event sponsorships that help non-profit organizations but don’t return any discernable ROI. (It’s too easy to say no to those poor beggars.)
Website upgrades are also on the chopping block. As long as the site still comes up when you type in that URL, it’s all good. Right???
Wrong. The website should probably be the most sacred of all cows, but that’s another story.
What’s needed is a more strategic approach to cost cutting. You need more than just the bosses’ orders to “cut 20%, but don’t touch this, and don’t cut that.” You need to eliminate dangerous assumptions from the process and work with objective criteria of some sort.
Here’s an idea… why not start with the message?
In my experience, it’s often the message, not the medium, that’s the problem. Print ads say one thing, the web site says another. Sales presentations go off in one direction, while promotions head somewhere else. Radio commercials, new media, good old-fashioned direct mail… it’s all scattered around with no coherent theme.
So before you do any budget cutting, use the opportunity to think about what you’re saying. Reevaluate every marketing message and every “touch point” in terms of consistency, clarity and brand worthiness.
Then scalp all the wild hairs. If you can just quit saying the wrong thing, you’ll save a ton of money.
Most marketing managers assume the budget was allocated in a logical manner to begin with. But that’s simply not the case. Most marketing budgets are handed down, year after year, and are based simply on “how we’ve always done it.” No one ever questions the underlying assumptions.
It’s also easy to neglect the messaging process. In my Feb. ?/ post I wrote about an ad for Wales. A classic case of saying the wrong thing. As one British reader commented… “Golf Wales is an oxymoron.” Even if you accept the strategy of selling Wales as a golf destination, the message was all wrong, so cutting that ad is probably the smartest thing they could do.
The fact is, Wales probably needs a lot more than just a quick trim. They need to rethink the entire hairdo. But who’s going to do that?
Any decent marketing person can choose tactics that will drive traffic and buy media that will reach the desired target audience. But revamping the strategy and nailing down that core brand message is something else entirely. Strategy and message development are the hardest parts of the job, and unfortunately, many marketing managers aren’t up to the task. And even if they were, many bosses wouldn’t listen.
A well-crafted, comprehensive brand strategy book eliminates that problem and makes cost cutting a lot more logical. It’s like a brand bible that provides guidance and inspiration on every decision. So when push comes to shove, there’s no doubt about what should stay, and what should go.
That’s what my firm does… We help clients flesh-out their brand story and we put the strategy down on paper. Once it’s sold internally — and all the department heads are on the same page — then we help execute on it.
And by keeping that brand book close at hand, our clients eliminate waste and save money, without sacrificing their hard-earned brand image.
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