Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Marketing is like Ice-cream

In times of economic buoyancy it seems that the marketing profession is where it's at. Mind the slang. When times are good, budgets are big and spending is king. You have to spend money to make money, right? Absolutely! Where your imagination can see, the marketing budget can drive you there- and we are talking first class. Summarise: in the upswing the last thing you are thinking about is keeping your receipts.

Dream with me for a moment... You have just consumed a sumptuous seafood meal and the waiter confidently approaches with the dessert menus. Smiles are exchanged and the ice-cream is on its way. Now its not question of "does icecream go with seafood?" Because anyone who is anyone will know that ice-cream can go with anything. Full stop. Backspace. Comma... And there is always room for ice-cream! No questions about that... But..

"Marketing is like ice-cream."

But what happens when the bubble bursts and the economic milk turns sour? What happens to marketing machine? If people stop buying ice-cream, where does it go? What does it do? Will somebody think about the ice-cream! But seriously, it begs the question: what is the actual skill-set of a marketer?

1. Sales ability. Now this is a tricky one. There are those who consider marketing and sales as virtual synonyms. On the other foot, there are those who, if you even begin to utter the "S" word in any vague reference to their job description, will shut you down like Mike Myers with a bad case of the Dr Evils. The latter consider those in sales to be the proletariat of the business world, whereas 'they' form the more intellectual and holistic bourgeoisie of the 'integrated marketing approach'. The bourgeoisie are afraid get pragmatic and numerical and prefer to talk in the guise of "solutions" and "client expectations". Give me a break!

As it turns out I subscribe to the school of innate sales ability. You are either born with it or you are not. True, many a cold-calling over-the-phone stock market scam has prevailed on the resumé of well-scripted-rebuttal-tested exploits. But it's the real 'players'- the Jordan Belfort (Wolf of Wall Street) kinds- who are bringing in the real dollars.

So the answer is 'no'. No, salesmanship is not a consistent characteristic attributable to a "marketer". On the other hand, maybe it should be. But all personal opinions aside, is sales ability synonymous with marketing? Is apple synonymous with orange? I'll let you fill in the gaps.

2. Creativity. So you own a copy of Photoshop. Big woop. Pink parrot. Can I get a "who cares!" Creativity is another one of those innate skills. If you were given a list of 10 friends and were asked to tick 'yes' or 'no' to creativity, it would not take you long. It's a no-brainer. So is it unrealistic to think 'marketer' and assume "creativity"? Yes. Sure, marketing can be a very creative field and for those agencies who can harness the (often) dreamy big-picture kinds or the "I'd like that header in a light teal.. No! That's clearly bubblegum or at the very least a very sick looking emerald!" kinds. But chances are you will spend more time arguing over why Creative Julien (who likes to be known as CJ as it turns out) is late every day and never cleans his desk. Did I get a little carried away? Yes. Is my point made? Let me make it simple: creativity is another skill-set that (unfortunately) cannot be assumed in a 'marketer".

3. Communications ability. This one is tough to define. So let's keep it simple. One thing that is guaranteed in any marketing organisation or position is this: marketing does not occur in isolation. Now whether you are running a meeting of eight project managers; negotiating the finer details with the creative team; trying to prioritise your press release info with PR; or, attempting to convince the receptionist to run out to grab you a 'better coffee' than the office instant (I shudder at the thought), then you are exercising you communications ability. This is an essential tenet of the marketing skill-set.

In my mind, this is what makes marketers such unique creations. Believe it or not, there was was method to the madness that saw you constantly assembled into "groups" at your educational institution. This is a such a crucial skill-set I'm tempted to leave it alone- cynical observation-free. *I'm biting my tongue*...

I retrace to my original thought with more conviction and clarity. Marketing is indeed like ice-cream.
"Gastronomically speaking, its the good stuff that fills in the gaps."
What happens when ice-cream is left out? That's right? It melts.

Marketers are the chameleons of the business world. They fill in the gaps. They translate information between audiences at lightning speed. They learn fast... And whilst neither salesmanship nor creativity can be assumed or guaranteed, what CAN be guaranteed is "if I cant design that myself, then I can find somebody who can.. Don't worry I'll take care of it".

Imagine if you had the trio: salesmanship, creativity, and communications skills.. you would be unstoppable. Now THAT is where it's at.

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