Have You Fallen Into the Project Marketing Trap?

June 18th, 2014
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Ever wonder why your marketing doesn’t seem to be doing the job for you?  Have you questioned the amount of money you’re spending in light of the results you are getting?  It could be you’ve fallen victim to the Project Marketing Trap.

The Project Marketing Trap is when a company views every marketing activity as a separate project not as an integrated strategic business building discipline.  People wonder why marketing doesn’t work for them.  In many cases, this is the reason why.

One of our clients was stuck in the Product Marketing Trap.  The owner of the company would walk in and announce, for example, that the company needed a new digital campaign to boost sales.  The eager marketing manager in the room would happily add this exciting project to the task list.  As soon as the meeting was over, she’d start working on this cool new project. What was missing?  Goals, objectives, an understanding of how the spot will reinforce everything else they are doing, and an idea of what success looks like.  That’s just for starters.

This kind of seat-of-the-pants marketing would happen almost every day at this company.  Ideas coming from everywhere and everyone.  Materials needed tomorrow, and a pace that made everyone feel like they were “making it happen.”  The marketing manager felt great because she had a long task list, which to her meant job security.  But the company was not getting results.  Beyond that, since every project was in essence a new “creation,” there was no leveraging the old for the new.  Messages were different, design was different, layout, type, everything was at the whims of the designer who won that project’s bid.  And the costs for all this original design was out of sight. Worst of all, it was just stuff, without heart.

Finally in an effort to prove our point, we took this client’s marketing materials and we spread them all out on the table for the owner to view.  What he saw was a hodge podge of brochures, one-off flyers, banner ads, landing pages… it looked like a mess.  They didn’t look like one company, they looked like twenty companies.  And, of course, the website would be the twenty-first company if we could have printed it out and put it on the table, too.

The business owner, once he saw how his company appeared to the rest of the world, was not happy. All these materials were confusing to him–the headlines, the messages, the offers, the photos and he was the one who had approved them all!  “If this is confusing to me, imagine how confusing it is to my customers,he said.  We hated to break the news to him, but it’s worse than that.  The reality is, the Project Marketing Trap doesn’t confuse customers, it just makes you invisible to most of them.

This company owner actually thought his business had a brand.  What he didn’t understand is that a brand goes far beyond your logo and the colors you call your own.  It takes a thought out plan of not only design, but also, and primarily, of heart, message, image, actions and systems. The five stages of HEART&MIND® Branding.  Not just for that one project, but for everything you say and everything you do.  Once you know your brand in terms of how it is genuine, meaningful and different, you are on your way.  From there, those points can cascade into everything else creating brand consistency.

The benefit, of course, is that a HEART&MIND Branding approach actually gives you a chance to break through the clutter out there and get noticed.  That’s good for business.  Another benefit is that you leverage your marketing dollars.  No longer is every project a new project with new project costs, so you save money.  You also benefit from speed.  Marketing work built on a solid brand foundation can be turned fast.  And that’s a requirement today.  Finally, you sell more stuff because people buy from companies that look legitimate. Project marketing makes you look shady.  Strategic marketing based on HEART&MIND Branding makes you look relevant, credible and larger than life.

Brand-based strategic marketing takes discipline, however.  It takes strong marketing professionals who can see the big picture, adhere to the rules of the brand and stop trying to please the owner and start trying to please the people the company serves.  That will please the owner more than anything.  It takes writers who understand the meaning of the term “message consistency” and who know this fact: a message that gets repeated gets remembered.  It takes a graphic design team that understands that their art is “commercial” art, not fine art or craft.  Its ultimate goal is to connect with the heart which of course is how we make buying decisions not just look good.  They must withstand the urge to simply play with the crayons and the coloring books as one colleague of mine used to say.  Others in the company need to have discipline, too.  Good ideas are only good if they fit in with the brand strategy.  If they don’t, they are simply expensive distractions masquerading as good ideas.

The Project Marketing Trap is one of the most costly business mistakes a company can make, both in terms of dollars and opportunity.  Marketing that works takes more than catchy headlines and pictures.  It takes a brand, it takes a plan and it takes discipline.  It takes breaking free of the Project Marketing Trap.