Marketers Get No RESPECT

Aretha Franklin sang about it and Rodney Dangerfield made a comedy career on joking about it  …  RESPECT.

One of my major rants over the years is that folks in the public and nonprofit sector don’t get marketing and think it is advertising or something to do with distribution. As I have mentioned in other blogs marketing seldom plays a major role in these domains or has the cachet that people in say the Communications field play . However, the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing is working very hard to convince public sector and non profit organizations to adopt marketing into their organization.

To see articles written on public sector/non profit marketing go to:

I recently read an article in Advertising Age, GM’s Appointment of Lutz Shows No Respect for Marketing

by Al Ries,  which suggests that even in the world of business where you would think marketing would have stature and relevance that this may not be true. According to Ries, “Most companies do not assign much value to the marketing function. Nor do they compensate marketing people at the same level as they do financial, legal and other functional occupations. A recent survey of Fortune 1000 companies conducted by Ernst & Young found that only about 15% employ some sort of marketing person with a chief- or senior-level title such as chief marketing officer.

“It gets worse as far as money is concerned. According to SEC regulations, a company has to list the total compensation of its CEO and its CFO in addition to its three highest-paid executive officers. According to the Ernst & Young survey, only 7% of Fortune 1000 companies included a marketing executive on their lists. Reis points out that management guru Peter Drucker made the following declaration:

“The purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two — and only two –basic functions: marketing and innovation.” “Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs,”. “Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of business.”

“Marketing, Reis states, is worshiped in the abstract but not in the specific. There’s no need to hire a chief marketing officer, goes the thinking, because marketing is just common sense, everyone can do it.  Let’s just assign the function to one of our senior officers. Left-brain management types often confuse marketing with advertising. But the two are totally different. Advertising is focused externally and attempts to set up a dialog with customers and prospects. Marketing is focused internally and attempts to set up a dialog with top management in order to develop a product or a service “with a story.”

Reis gives the example of General Motors who has recently emerged from bankruptcy .  So what do they do? Do they hire a marketing guy to run their marketing group? No that would make too much sense!!! They hired an executive to run their marketing who has virtually no background in marketing and does not know the difference between a marketing and advertising strategy. Reis points out that  “Marketing comes first, advertising comes second. That’s why Bob Lutz seems to be on the wrong tack when he immediately focuses on fixing the advertising at GM . “I think you will very quickly see a drastic change in the tone and content of our advertising,” said Mr. Lutz. “And if you don’t, it will mean that I have failed.”

This sounded very familiar to me as a marketing consultant . How many times have I heard someone tell me that our problem is with the message or advertising/communications and if we can only get the message right with the right vehicles and tactics we will be in good shape. Often the problem is not with the message or the communications tactics but with their marketing strategy , if they have one. (Note the biggest problem in my view with most organizations in government and non profits is that they have loads of tactics but no strategy) . And when they are reminded that they have no strategy the usual response is that they have no time to do a strategy . Imagine putting up a building or a bridge without an engineering  plan . Seldom happens but in the world of marketing plans don’t seem to matter much.

As Reis points out “Marketing’s job is to coordinate all the various disciplines inside a corporation in order to develop the right product, the right price, the right position, the right distribution strategy and the right brand name. Advertising’s job on the other hand is to position that brand name in the minds of consumers. Good marketing makes advertising relatively easy. Bad marketing makes advertising difficult, if not impossible. Marketing is a discipline that can take years of study and work. A discipline that’s just as complicated and as hard to learn as medicine or accounting or automobile repair. Furthermore, the principles of marketing are counterintuitive. Invariably they are the opposite of what most people would call “common sense.”

Getting back to GM Reis asks: ‘What is GM’s marketing problem? One complaint of commentators in the media is that “General Motors doesn’t build cars that people want to buy.” This is true. People want to buy Toyotas, Hondas, BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus and other brands. People want to buy brands, not just vehicles. What you park in your garage is your family’s most visible status symbol. Few people want to buy a Buick (average age of buyer: 62) even though Buick (along with Jaguar) was rated as the most dependable vehicle in J.D. Power’s 2009 vehicle dependability study.” “For similar reasons, Rolex continues to make mechanical watches even though quartz watches would be cheaper and more accurate. Brand is more important than product. Many left-brain management types are also confused about the role and function of advertising itself. Their assumption is that advertising is communications. Advertising is not communications. Advertising is positioning. An effective marketing program isolates a singular position and then tries to occupy that position in the prospect’s mind with advertising that reinforces its singular position. “

Reis maintains that it’s time for a new era in marketing  .

I certainly agree. Amateur hour is over. In this difficult economic period it is time to get serious about marketing, not only in the business world but in the public and non profit sectors. In an era when governments need to be more responsive and accountable to the needs of the public, marketing can help governments accomplish this goal. With governments, public sector agencies and other public institutions spending significant dollars delivering programs and services, there is a need for increased efficiency, accountability and transparency in the processes used to deliver these initiatives.

As well, with the shift of the public and non profit sector sector to a more of a managerial, business-like approach, the adoption of marketing and related managerial practices can serve as a key component in strengthening accountability in operations in the public and non profit sectors. As governments and other public organizations continue to try to meet the challenges associated with demands for better and improved service delivery as well as new services and programs with budgetary constraints, new and different models of management and their associated tools and tactics need to be considered to help deliver more quality, speed, efficiency, convenience to its clients. Marketing presents a comprehensive, integrated and innovative approach from which to manage public sector resources. The time has come for leaders in government and the non profit sector to recognize and embrace the  practice of strategic marketing .

It is time for marketing to get RESPECT.


Branding and Politics

As many of my readers know my colleague Joanna Chan and I have just completed a Guide to Branding in the Public and Not-for-Profit Sector. Perhaps we need to write a guide to Branding and Politics. Maybe we will do this one day but a recent article in the Globe and Mail caught my eye and in a strange way was a great case history  of branding and politics .

According to Marguerite Wente “the Democrats have Sonia Sotomayor. The Republicans have Sarah Palin. That’s all you really need to know. Between them, these two women explain why the Republicans are doomed.”

Ms. Wente   describes Sotomayor as a Latina who grew up in a Bronx housing project. She is a symbol of Hispanic aspirations in a country where Hispanics are an increasingly powerful political force. She’s known for her ferocious drive and work ethic and, appears to be a moderate and most important represents the American dream in action. Guess what “The Republicans hate her”.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand according to Ms. Wente, was the most scarily incompetent vice-presidential nominee in the history of the United States. “She graduated from the University of Idaho, where she majored in communications (still not her strong suit). She represents the Peter Principle in action. The Republicans according to what you hear in the media love her. “(I must say as a Canadian who is not the least bit sexist, that the love that many on the right have for Ms. Palin “boggles my mind”)

As Ms. Wente points out, Karl Rove the Republican strategist who worked for W has stated that Sotomayor does not have the intellect for the job. Republican pundits have called her a hot-tempered, dim-witted bigot whose judicial activism could play havoc with the American Constitution. Newt Gingrich has called her a “Latina racist.”

What is astonishing to Wente is that these same Republicans   continue to insist that Sarah Palin is qualified to run for president of the United States and that she is the victim of a vicious smear job by the eastern media elites. After she bizarrely quit her job as governor of Alaska, two-thirds of registered Republicans said they’d still vote for her for president. What does that say about the Republican Party and its brand?

Here are a few more facts from Wente:

  • “Ms. Palin styles herself as a working-class hero. In fact, her father was a teacher, and her background is utterly middle class.  Sotomayor’s father died when she was 9. He was a Puerto Rican factory worker with a third-grade education.”

  • “Ms. Palin despises people who were educated in elite Ivy League universities. Judge Sotomayor, on the other hand, was smart enough to get into them. She put herself through school on scholarships, and graduated from Princeton with top honours. Ms. Palin, who finds homework disagreeable, has never doubted her own abilities for a minute. But Judge Sotomayor worries constantly that she’s not good enough. “I am always looking over my shoulder, wondering if I measure up,” she has said.”

  • “Ms. Palin plays identity politics to the hilt. But Republicans charge that Judge Sotomayor’s identity will dangerously skew her judgments. They can’t seem to grasp that everyone’s perspective (even theirs) is to some extent informed by their background and life experience. No one should be shocked that a minority woman from the South Bronx might have a different lens on life than, say, Karl Rove. Sonia Sotomayor put it nicely when she said, “I simply do not know what the difference will be in my judging, but I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”

After the Bush years, you would think that the Republican Party would recover and regroup and start rebranding itself to be more in tune with the American voter especially new voters and the growing ethnic population.

From a branding perspective you would think that the Republican Party would try to renew itself. You would think that they would have gotten the message that important segments beyond their base are not buying their message. The polls are showing that they are losing the battle of the hearts and minds of many segments. Are they in self-denial?

Wente ends her article with “people who argue that Sarah Palin is good for America while Sonia Sotomayor is a threat are obviously out of their minds. They are determined to drive their own party off a cliff into oblivion. And they’re succeeding nicely”

Here is something the witless Republicans may want to digest, Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in America and often the deciding bloc in swing states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. After the Republicans’ anti-immigration-reform stance alienated Hispanic voters, they became a key ingredient in Obama’s victory, with the Democrat winning two-thirds of their votes nationwide.

In the world of marketing we often see the companies in self denial like the Motor city wonders at General Motors who has recently emerged as a new company fresh out of bankruptcy. A recent article in AdAge headlined Carmaker Emerges from Bankruptcy, taps Bob Lutz as their new head honcho for marketing.  Lutz is in his late 70’s.

BUT doesn’t GM need more of an up-and-coming, digital-savvy CMO.  GM did tell the world that they need new blood and that it’s not business as usual at the “new” GM.  Then the first thing they do is appoint an icon in the American car industry who started his career in many decades ago.  Mr. Lutz does seem to indicate that “GM has to do something radical” but is it not the “same old same old”?      When you want to completely renew and rebrand your company is bringing in a retread from the past the best way to do it? Is Lee Iacocca going to be the next President of Chrysler?

Let me know what you think


Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing launches Guide to Branding in the Public and Not-for-Profit Sectors

A number of years ago  the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing  had the opportunity to work on a number of  branding projects for the public and non profit sectors and  realized that there are very few resources for practitioners on how to develop a branding program for these two sectors. We developed a 29 page Guide to Branding in the Public and Not-For-Profit Sectors. At this point we have not included any case studies as we hope to publish another edition using  case studies .

If you would like a copy please go to our website