I have quoted Pat LaPointe in past blog posts about metrics and marketing. Pat is Managing Partner at MarketingNPV — specialty advisors on marketing metrics, ROI, and resource allocation, and publishers of MarketingNPV Journal.
He starts out today’s post like this:
Fact: Failure rates in marketing are astronomically high. Only a small fraction of new marketing initiatives succeed in achieving their intended objectives. If marketing were a baseball player, it would NEVER have made the major leagues. If marketing were a horse, you’d need 10:1 odds at least (and even then you’d be best served to box your bet across win, place, and show). If marketing were a bridge, you’d certainly not want to drive across it on a windy day.
Why? Why is it so damn hard to make marketing work consistently and reliably?
As law firm marketers are working to get their 2011 budgets approved as submitted, I know that they are answering this question from law firm leaders. Because there is no perfect answer to the, “why is it so damned hard?” question – we do the best we can to guide the discussion in positive ways with the data and instincts that we have.
Changing markets, fluctuating economies, uncertain budgets, changing leadership (and thus goals and strategies) in firms, all inhibit marketing consistency, which, in turn hinder marketing success.
LaPointe thinks there are two factors more likely at work:
1. Marketing involves integrating the left and right brains — something that very few people are capable of. It requires an ability to think conceptually and unencumbered by the present realities, yet being able to evaluate critically in a rigorous way. Without the former, we fail to innovate; without the latter, we fail to focus. Moreover, it takes more than one person in an executive committee who can actually do this two-brain thing to notice and approve a good idea when one hits the table. Odds of there being a quorum of such people in any one boardroom are long indeed, given that executive committees normally include strong left-brainers from finance, IT, and manufacturing/operations. No judgment here, just an observation.
2. Marketers tend to be more right-brain than left-brain. They enjoy concepts and creativity and innovation and inspiration, but not the repetitive types of analysis that tend to extract true insights from the cacophony of marketplace response. Many don’t have the patience for disciplined experimentation and continuous improvement, preferring to “try new things” and make a name for themselves within their industry.
The most successful senior marketers I know have brains that are right and left brain balanced. And they can instantly tap into one hemisphere over another when work demands it. If we aren’t born with this balance, I think it’s incumbent upon us as marketers to diligently work to develop the brain-side that is recessive. We can learn from colleagues, countless resources available online by major business schools, and more. LaPlante continues:
Fortunately, there are tools to help us overcome our fundamental limitations (personal or organizational) and learn from the collective experience of others. For example, in 2009 the Marketing Science Institute published a book edited by Professor Mike Hanssens of UCLA’s Anderson School called “Empirical Generalizations about Marketing Impact,” which clearly lists 16 categories of collective learnings from hundreds of academic studies of marketing impact over the last few decades. For example, did you know that:
- Gains in market share do not often lead to gains in profitability in either short- or long-run.
- Changes in pricing have approximately 26 TIMES the impact on sales as changes in advertising spend levels.
- Changes in sales budgets have more than 3 TIMES the impact on sales compared to changes in ad spending.
- If advertising doesn’t work in the short term, it will NOT work in the long term with more exposure.
And he concludes:
When we get marketing “right”, we make it really HARD for OTHERS to imitate. That’s why the big marketing victories are so transformative for companies (and careers). If we got just a little better at standing on the knowledge shoulders of our marketing forefathers (and mothers), we might actually get it “right” more often, and make it harder for THEM to catch up with us.
And I believe getting it “right” is absolutely possible.