Marketing’s job is to protect your brand. Are you doing your job?

PROTECT YOUR BRAND

By Mark Schaefer

Before I was in marketing, I spent a few years in corporate communications and learned a lesson from my boss that I think will be very relevant to you in your job today.

Many years ago, I was promoted to become the PR manager of my company’s largest and most profitable manufacturing location, a plant in Indiana that produced millions of pounds of highly-engineered materials for the packaging industry. It was a glistening city unto itself – 200 acres under one roof – and a proud showcase of the latest manufacturing technology.

When I toured the location for the first time, I was astonished by a colossal construction site within the plant. My company was building a $50 million facility to produce an entirely new product, leveraging a sensational new technology developed in our research lab. This was a “first in the world” development.

Marketing prioritizes customer needs

I learned that the product idea came from one of our marketing managers, Jim Ferry. Jim was among the gutsiest and most progressive marketing leaders I’ve ever known. He obsessed with customer needs and championed millions of dollars of R&D to discover this radical new coating technology that would increase our customer’s productivity, quality, and cost-competitiveness.

The company placed a big bet on Jim and his idea. As I looked over the construction site, I marveled at the futuristic facility that hummed under the bright plant lights, towering over me for three stories. It would be ready in a few weeks and employ 200 people in high-paying jobs.

Jim’s idea was creating a new profit center for my company, tremendous new value for our customers, and new jobs for the local economy. If that’s what marketing was about, I was all-in! I simply had to pursue a career in marketing. There was no stopping me.

I saw how Jim and his team had used technology in the service of our customer’s fundamental business objectives. My company only prioritized technology and invested in it because it served a customer need.

Protecting the brand

Within a year, I was promoted into a business development position in Los Angeles – I was finally on the road to a marketing career! – and as luck would have it, I got to work for Jim, helping him commercialize his packaging idea with consumer product companies on the West Coast.

I was still young and green in the business world, so I eagerly soaked up Jim’s wisdom.

One day I had the bright idea of re-selling our scrap into a secondary market. Sometimes the plant workers made a mistake – instead of re-melting it or throwing it away, why not sell it to somebody who had less demanding quality requirements?

Jim was patient with me, but firm. “No,” he said. “We can never do that. We don’t sell scrap. We sell the best product in our business. If the manufacturing folks realize we can sell our scrap, then over time they’ll become sloppy. And when they’re sloppy, eventually that will impact our customer and their satisfaction. You have a bright idea, but marketing is the department that must protect the brand and our customers at all costs.

“Everything we do has to be aimed at one goal – customer satisfaction … even if it costs us money in the short-run.”

The lesson for today

It was this kind of steadfast leadership and stubborn defense of our customers that made Jim great, and made our company the best in the business. Jim was not swayed by a trend or a short-term opportunity to make some cash.

Just because he could do something that was profitable didn’t mean he would do it, if that meant hurting our customer. He made sure that everything we did – and everything we didn’t do – was consistent with our brand promise.

I think this is an important lesson for today. Often I see the commercial leadership in a company being abdicated to a sales person, or even the IT department. The brand strategy, the customer acquisition strategy, rests in marketing and we are the keepers of the brand truth.

Marketing is stuck in many ways today because we’re obsessed with technology, instead of being obsessed with customer needs. Are you focused on marketing automation because you’re afraid not to be, or are you obsessed with serving your customer, which is the right priority?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com

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