Digital Media

New Media Has Made Product Marketing Lazy

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying ‘Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,’ that’s advertising.

If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him into town, that’s promotion.

If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flowerbed, that’s publicity.

If you can get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.

And if you planned the elephant’s walk, that’s marketing.”
Reader’s Digest

We received the above quote in one of our assignments for my New Media graduate course in IMC at West Virginia. I love it because its a good “made to stick” type quote. It also is a good illustration of what marketing is, versus what some in the ranks think it is.

New media has created a monster. Nothing new, but I think new media has allowed even more marketers to shirk their role at laying out the 4 Ps. Interactive media is now so pervasive, and so seemingly powerful, that it has made the notion of product planning and marketing seem unnecessary. The conventional wisdom seems to be, “hey you web guys get it on the glass and millions of hits will follow.” Never mind who they are, where they come from, where they go afterwards, or most importantly, if they are the right people and they buy something.

In my 20 years of marketing in the PC industry, whether it be direct 800#, catalog, print, and now interactive, I inevitably get asked by at least one product marketing person at some point “How are you planning on marketing the Whatchamajiggim 2.0 on the web/in the catalog/ad/etc?” Seems innocent enough right? (invoke the Charlie Murphy voice) Wrong. Wrong!

My philosophy is a marketer needs to have their elephant walk (marketing plan) planned out and together. Whether it ends up being advertised on a website or on a paper bill tacked on a telephone pole is secondary. As an IMC practitioner, and within that an interactive IMC practitioner, my job then becomes advising on the best tactic to achieve the marketing objectives for the product. Being the nice folks that we are, too often we get suckered into what is clearly the product marketing person’s role. Now, being the ego-driven people we are, when product marketing gives us this input, we have to check our egos at the door, and not reject it because “we wouldn’t do it like that”.

What drives this misplacement of the marketing valence? Or, as I call it, the ‘Marlon Perkins’ approach to marketing. Remember Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlon Perkins? (don’t act like it’s just me) Marlon never did any of the high risk work right? That was Jim’s job. “Jim you go and give the rhinoceros an enema and I’ll be upstream watching through the binoculars.” Same thing with marketing. Product people love to throw their new offering over the wall to Marcom, and the responsibility for failure or success of the product with it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “Well the Whatchamajiggim 2.0 is in the catalog, don’t look at me cause it didn’t sell.” No one questions if it’s priced right, if the catalog is going to blue eyed doctors in Bergen County New Jersey, just run it in the catalog and the sales magically roll in like Crazy Eddie.

In fairness, there have been such significant layoffs of people, without commensurate layoffs of workload, that processes break under the weight. Also, techies love well, technology. SWOT diagrams and competitive analysis just don’t get us as excited as 45nm Intel Quad Core processors. Because it isn’t perceived by some as a quantitative science, (going through this master’s program will cure you of that in a hurry) it gets demeaned and discounted as so much foo-foo dust.

All right, Interactive Media Nation, stand up! What do you say? Let me hear from you.

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