Seven deadly sins of pseudo-marketers

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 26, 2002

In today’s stressful competitive business environment, marketing has so suddenly become an all-important buzzword floated around by well-meaning business owners in the boardroom. Unfortunately, not many fully understand the strategic and creative process as well as significant resource commitment demanded by this business-building discipline. Sad to say, many continue to perceive mareting activities as costs rather than revenue builders. And if organizations decide to embark on marketing programs, it is not uncommon for many board groups and senior management to continue to associate marketing with the more mundane role of preparation of publicity releases and stockholder reports, distribution of posters and merchandising, exhibits and mall tours, occasional advertising, promotions, etc.

Ironically, amid the lack of strategic directions behind these activities, very few recognize that substantial amounts of monies are wasted on misguided marketing every year. Companies must learn to recognize that marketing is no place for amateurs, the inexperienced, the phonies and those who waste company resources on trial and error or hard knock approaches. Similarly, it cannot be overly emphasized that organizations must be careful of hiring consultants posing as marketing experts.

Becoming fully aware of the pseudo-marketer’s seven deadly sins is one way of ascertaining the expertise of your marketing team or chief officer claiming to be marketing-oriented.

Pride. Arrogance drives many key decisions of pseudo marketers. It is not uncommon for pseudo marketers to turn down potentially successful marketing programs because it does not fall within the realm of their previous experience and learning.

Pseudo marketers often refer back to personal, historical experience and refuse to acknowledge changes in the environment and changing customer needs and wants.

A classic example is that of Singer Sewing Machine which has failed to recognize the growing number of women working outside of their homes and therefore no longer had the luxury of time to make their family’s garments. It was too late when Singer Sewing Machine decided to expand its category to other furniture lines or explore other related categories that were more in sync with the modern woman’s new lifestyle. On the other hand, Schering Plough’s allergy brand, Claritin, made a positive turnaround in their brand business when it began to acknowledge the importance of today’s consumers in the healthcare decision making process.

Today, Claritin no longer focuses simply on physicians. In 1998 alone, Claritin was the most advertised drug. Schering Plough spent US$182.9 M on targeting consumers and another US$75M on targeting medical doctors, yielding revenues of US$1.7 B in sales.

Pseudo-marketers do not recognize the importance of discovering new customer insights and using consumer research tools that explore and validate these insights. They strongly believe that research will only confirm their own experience and therefore is a waste of resources.

Consumer research is not viewed as a tool to help dredge new insights but as a wasteful expense that merely documents previous learning. A pseudomarketer’s barometer of excellence is himself and his personal experience and not the customer.

Pseudo-marketers also fail to recognize their weakness while not knowing their strengths. Yet, they live under the illusion of the Midas Touch. Easycall, once the country’s leading paging firm, acknowledged no less by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in 1997, has yet to finally establish their identity in the market today as they fiddle between marketing the company’s
services as a call center at one time, an internet company the next and back to being a call center at present.

Lust. Self-control is truly a virtue of he experienced marketer. Founding chair of Nike, Phil Knight, resolutely refused to do a Nike category extension in the casual leisure shoe segment despite the brand’s success.

Pseudo-marketers do not know the art and science of restraint. When faced with success, they know not when to stop. They lust after every available market, recognizing only the perceived short-term benefits and failing to understand the long-term implications.

When highly successful Chlorox bleach launched its extension into the laundry detergent category, it was a dismal failure. Post-consumer research indicated that Chlorox bleach had a strong, powerful association in the consumer’s mind that left them thinking that if they used Chlorox laundry detergent on their regular clothes wash, their clothes would come out colorless.

Envy. One of the pseudo-marketer’s greatest mistakes is being a copycat, closely modeling after a competitor’s product or service. Pseudomarketers do not recognize that the essence and success of marketing lies in the offer of a perceived differentiated product or service. Theirs is a perceived shortcut approach to riding the bandwagon of success established by the first-mover brand not knowing that by being a “me-too brand” they are fast digging their grave.

One such example is the local New Jersey Roasters, an exact replica in identity and product offer of the original Kenny Rogers Roasters.

Avarice or Greed. In a fit of self-importance, phony marketers beguile business owners to thinking that they can build successful brands by being everything to everybody and wasting limited company resources in a multitude of directionless marketing activities.

One of the most successful airlines today is Southwest Airlines founded by Rollin King and Herb Kelleher. Southwest Airlines is focused on short-haul flights within the U.S., offering the lowest possible fares and no-frills operation that gets passengers to their destination when they want to get there on time and with lots of fun while flying the airline.

Southwest Airlines has clearly defined its niche and positioning as a fun, value for money airline. Despite its success, it has not aimed to compete with the bigger carriers like Northwest Airlines, Continental and American Airlines.

Gluttony. Pseudo-marketers do not realize the value of having ethical and professional competition. They continue to believe in the Stone Age thinking that the mark of a successful brand or business is to gain monopoly of the industry.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise when pseudo-marketers heavily endorse marketing programs that buy market shares encouraging price subsidies and substantial price cuts that eventually help destroy the entire industry.

Extremely short-term in nature, every product or service sold through these programs do not gain the company in net revenue but on the contrary, incur a loss for the company.

Pseudo-marketers fail to recognize that the presence of competitive brands help legitimize the entire industry and encourage greater acceptance of new products and services.

Sloth. It is not uncommon for market leader companies to simply enjoy the fruits of their success. Unfortunately, in so doing they lose their competitive spirit.

It is the responsibility of committed, impassioned marketers to egg on the company’s competitive spirit. Ironically, pseudo marketers enjoy the glamour of the moment but fail to look forward to the future. Foresight is never a virtue of the pseudo-marketer.

Araneta Center was the best place to shop in the 70s as it was the biggest and fully air conditioned shopping center. There were no other malls then. But Araneta lost out to the huge investments made in retailing by mall magnate Henry Sy and the Ayalas. The Gokongweis followed later. Developments were extended further on both sides of the Northern and Southern outskirts of Metro Manila.

Wrath. Anger and boiling tempers make one forget about the virtue of prudence. Calmness and composure is an attribute of the skilled marketer. A professional marketer makes an incessant study of the customer market but weighs the significance of every learning. The professional marketer is less prone to reactionary marketing programs characteristic of the unskilled pseudomarketer.

Pseudo-marketers come and go. But the debris of tempest they leave behind is certain to destroy the company and waste its limited resources. If the negative impact is not immediately visible, it is likely to be felt in the immediate future.