What Really Keeps Them Going? (And Going.)

At the heart of the best and most enduring brands is a great product—powered by even greater marketing.

By Kevin Tankersley

Marketing. It’s everywhere. The adorable toddler having a conversation with his dad on Denny’s Twitter feed? That’s marketing.

Members of the IBM sales force all dressed in dark blue suits? Marketing.

The magazine you’re reading right now, whether you’re holding it in your hands or perusing it on a screen? Even more marketing.

In addition to being ubiquitous, marketing is also important to an organization, and it’s a popular field, one of the fastest-growing in the business world.

“It’s so pervasive throughout everything we do,” said Chris Pullig, professor and chair of the Marketing Department in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor. “Our entertainment is marketing, socialization is marketing, who you follow on Twitter is marketing. It’s just become such an important function of everything we do in life.”

Not only is marketing a part of our everyday non-work lives, it’s also an integral part of every business, or at least it should be.

“In order to make the biggest impact these days, marketing always plays a very large role, at least with the brands that we work with and represent,” said Monica Feid, president and co-founder of BizCom Associates, a public relations and marketing communications firm in Dallas. “But I think brands get it, the savvy ones, and they invest early and it’s very much a part of the big picture.”

Being part of that big picture means that an organization’s marketing professionals are brought in at the very beginning, during the planning stages of a new product or service or, in Feid’s case, a new name. One of BizCom’s clients is Neighborly, a Waco-based “home services platform” that operated for 38 years as the Dwyer Group.

“The evolution of Neighborly is like a textbook example of putting marketing at the forefront,” said Feid, who graduated from Baylor with a journalism degree in 1990. “But this idea of maximizing their network across multiple brands to ideally the same target customer, marketing played a key role from day one in how they rolled out Neighborly. They did focus groups, they asked consumers, they got their advice on, ‘What do you think of when you need a plumber, an electrician, an air conditioning service professional?’ It really started from day one with that market research before they just willy-nilly launched some company name and then asked marketing to go make it work.”

Getting buy-in early from marketing is critical, echoed Kevin Lane Keller.

“The heart of a great brand is a great product,” said Keller, the E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing in the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University. “So for a company starting out, wanting to build a great brand and be wildly successful in the marketplace, it has to start with great products and great services, and the place to start with great products and great services is understanding competition and understanding your customer and understanding what needs they have and what needs are not being well met and all those kinds of things, and that really is the role of marketing and marketing research and marketing insights and data analytics.”

More than just promoting the brand

And in addition to being part of the decision-making process, marketing actually needs to play a much larger role in the life of an organization.

“Marketing helps the organization clarify and articulate its ambitious purpose, and everything revolves around that,” Jim Stengel said in an article in The Economist. Stengel, who worked with Proctor & Gamble for 25 years, is now the president and CEO of The Jim Stengel Company. “The CEO and the entire enterprise need to ensure that marketing is part of the team that brings the ambitious purpose to life.”

Pullig said that “as an organization, you have to begin at the beginning and decide on a core value proposition. Who are we? What are our brand’s values? What are we going to communicate and deliver as a brand that has value in the marketplace? And then once we know what that is, then everything and everyone (within the organization) needs to get on board. And marketing guides us through the entire value creation process. Marketing is the guide for every functional area in the organization.”

As an industry, marketing’s pervasiveness and importance translates into “a bright future for new marketing professionals,” Pullig said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics “overall employment in marketing, advertising and promotions is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026,” he said, “faster than the average for all occupations.”

That growth rate is partly because “marketing is taking the lead on digital and social media,” Pullig said. “And often that’s generally what our students are being brought on board to do, especially in internships.”

And it’s digital and social media that are changing the face of marketing, Pullig said.

Don’t get mad—get social

“Modern marketing has to dramatically change from the Mad Men way of thinking. ‘Here’s a campaign, and we’re going to convince people to think a certain way about our product.’ It’s not about that. It’s more about trying to communicate genuinely what the brand and the organization stand for.”

Mad Men was, of course, the AMC television series set in the 1960s that revolved around the New York City advertising firm Sterling Cooper. In the show, ad execs worked for weeks on a campaign that finalized in a presentation to the client. At least some things are done differently now, Pullig said, and cited the example of the Denny’s restaurant chain capitalizing on that video of the toddler talking with his father.

“A mother took a video of the dad talking to his child, and you can’t really understand what the kid is saying,” Pullig said. “They’re just chatting. And now it’s a Denny’s ad.”

In the latest video of the father and child, they’re at a Denny’s Diner, and the father – a comedian named D.J. Pryor – opens with, “It’s perfect that we came here to have a booth chat.” His son Kingston feeds him some bacon, and they continue their “conversation,” which ends with, “Thank you for bringing Daddy here. I appreciate you.”

The video “amplifies the love between father and son, and Denny’s is trying to communicate that it’s a place for family and family connections,” Pullig said.

“This is where marketing needs to be considered across every aspect of the organization,” he added, “because the kind of people you hire is important to marketing. The culture you create is important to marketing and how you deliver and communicate your value proposition because somebody has to make that call. It’s most likely not the chief marketing officer. It’s his or her team. And it could be a 25-year-old that’s making that call. ‘OK. This is something we need to go with–we need to amplify this.’ You can’t wait two or three weeks. You want to do it now.

“That’s an example of how marketing has changed. It’s not really a linear campaign as much as it is kind of this continual cycle of reinforcing what the brand stands for.”

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