Posted by Casey Porter ● November 03, 2020

Don’t Blame the Marketing Department

dont blame the marketing deptLeaders, picture this.

Your friend the magazine editor just told you about a featured issue coming out next month that will reach the perfect audience for your company, so you bought a full-page ad. You forward the email to your marketing manager, who shows up in your doorway ten minutes later asking what the ad should say.

After a few minutes of back-and-forth, you land on a generic headline about great customer service with your logo, your “we do it all”-esque tagline, a list of services you offer and last year’s team photo.

Your marketing manager walks out and leaves you feeling frustrated that he or she can’t come up with something catchier to say. Isn’t that a marketer’s job?

If this feels familiar, you’re definitely not alone.

According to CampaignMonitor, an estimated 57% of U.S. small businesses (<100 employees) have in-house marketing staff, and another 21% have at least one employee who handles marketing along with other duties. Based on my observations, I would venture to say a large number of these marketing employees are struggling with messaging—and there is a valid reason why.

Messaging is built on the foundation of brand.

It’s no secret that the word “brand” is often used as a catch-all term to describe anything from logos and colors to slogans and product lines.

idgroup founder Dr. Mona Amodeo defines brand in her book, Beyond Sizzle: The Next Evolution of Branding, as “the socially constructed meaning people associate with the name of a product, place or person.” She goes on to define the process of branding as “the process of managing the elements that construct the desired meaning of the brand, which is shaped by aligning the visual and verbal communications with the experiences people have with the brand.”

Read that last part again: “…aligning the visual and verbal communications with the experiences people have with the brand.” Misalignment between messaging and experiences runs rampant in the marketplace. It is often this disconnect that marketers are feeling deep in their gut each time they knowingly produce a new headline that contradicts the day-to-day culture and behaviors of their organization (i.e. “Unbeatable Customer Service!” when your accounting department is regularly rude to customers). Cringe.

Leaders are essentially asking marketing departments to wave a magic wand (or magic words) to conjure up the right message that will produce an endless stream of loyal customers. In fact, successful branding is more than words, and it must begin at the very top.

It starts with vision.

The most important role of a leader is to set a clear purpose and a vision for the entire organization that is so focused, so defined and so actionable that all departments are inspired to work in sync to shape, share and consistently live the organization’s story. This clarity and engagement equips marketers to do their job of building the brand with tailored strategy and messaging.

According to Amodeo, “Vision is the organization’s North Star. It’s a mental model that defines a future state that is both meaningful and worthwhile to the organization.” If you’ve already cast a clear vision and defined a collective purpose, then consider whether or not that vision is currently driving the day-to-day activities of your organization. Is it aspirational? Inspirational? Worthy of engaging your team and attracting customers?

If you don’t have already have a purposeful vision that is relevant to both employees and customers, it’s time to step back and reflect on some important questions that only a leader can answer.

  1. What do I aspire for this organization to become?
  2. What unique value do we create for our employees, customers and community?
  3. What are the values and principles we stand for that will guide the operations of this company?

The answers these questions are the building blocks for a vision and message that resonates with all of your stakeholders.

And I promise, your marketing team will thank you for it.

Next Steps

If you’re struggling with purpose, vision or messaging, or if you aren’t sure how to get your team engaged in moving your organization forward, reach out to us. We can help.

Topics: Branding, Marketing, Leadership