Mark Ritson, writing for Marketing Week, describes a fundamental problem in how marketing people think about the brands they work on:
“It turns out that, as marketers, we quickly start to lose the perspective of the market as we spend hundreds of days a year inside a company that is launching or managing a product.
We start to think the product is the centre of the world, not the customer that we are designing it for. We begin to assume the claims we make in the advertising are what the customer should care about. We start using dumb verbs like ‘convert’ and ‘educate’ to describe what we will do with our marketing rather than smarter ones like ‘listen’ and ‘serve’.
We go native, and the product cart starts to pull the customer horse. Even though there is a mountain of evidence and precedent that shows that the best way to make money is to find out what the customer is doing and wanting and then design products for them, we start making ‘innovative’ products in a vain attempt to change what they want and how they currently do things.”
This reminds me of Dave Trott’s telescope analogy:
“It’s like looking down different ends of a telescope. Clients, naturally, look down the end that magnifies the brand or the product. Until it takes up their whole world. But the consumer is looking down through the other end. Where the brand/product may be a tiny part, if it exists at all.”
Beach use of this misalignment, Ritson describes the first lesson a marketer should learn:
“A good marketer who is well trained will have been schooled in the discipline and will have started their training with extensive exposure to the concept of market orientation. It’s the bedrock theory of marketing and, paraphrasing somewhat, essentially points out that the first rule of marketing is that you are not the market. All your thoughts, feelings and immediate responses to things like advertising, price and packaging are not just incorrect – they are dangerous.
You help produce the product, ergo you are not the consumer of it. Learning to separate your own instinctive thoughts and feelings from the actual insights from real consumers is, literally, the first thing a trained marketer learns to do well.”
Later, Ritson shows how being more market-orientated leads to being more successful:
“We know from groundbreaking work by a host of American academics in the 1980s and 90s that the more market-oriented a manager and the company she works for is, the faster it will grow, the more profit it will make and the more successful its new innovations will be. It turns out knowing you’re not the customer bestows massive marketing advantages.”