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October 24, 2016
Why Marketing Is So Difficult
 
Many of my friends and family members say that Esparza’s work is “magical.” What I mean by this is they think our creative ideas and advertising campaigns just appear by magic. We simply wave a wand and beautiful and strategic work just comes to life. If only it were that simple.
 
Marketing is actually very difficult. Or should I say, “Great marketing is very difficult.”? To develop and implement a campaign that works, it must be relevant, arresting, engaging, compelling, newsworthy, and measurable. And that takes a lot of hard work by a lot of smart people. I am not being boastful — simply candid. There are three main reasons why marketing is so challenging:
  1. It’s part art and part science
  2. We’re faced with the “human factor”
  3. It’s costly
Part Art, Part Science
The marketing that the general public “sees” is typically the art portion. They are hearing radio ads, using websites, driving by billboards, wearing a shirt, visiting a location, opening a package, and more. The art side of marketing is very subjective to the novice. To the consumer, it looks, sounds and/or feels good (or bad). However, the art side of marketing should be driven by “scientific” findings — usually a combination of research, previous experience and intuition.  
 
The physical and more artful aspect of marketing can only be great if it’s created out of a sound strategy. This strategy is derived from understanding the business objectives, collecting, and curating consumer discernments, and developing a strong brand personality and position. To successfully refine these insights, they should be scientifically developed by marketing strategists with the support of the creative and media teams.
 
Coming to agreement on the scientific and artful aspects of marketing campaigns is difficult because the items up for debate are both subjective and objective. To make things easier on clients and agencies, it’s best to find common ground on the more objective aspects of marketing prior to creating the subjective aspects. This pre-agreement will allow for the development of ideas that are born out of a strategy versus ideas that are only creative.
 
The Human Factor
In this case, what I mean by the “human factor” is the fact that consumers are a very unpredictable group of people. It’s difficult to know exactly how they will respond to a marketing message. Will they pay attention to it? Will they like it? Will they understand it? Will they remember it? Will they take action after seeing it? Will they buy anything? Will they tell their friends about it?
 
The best way to ease these concerns is to ensure you do research to understand your core target audience – not only from a demographic perspective, but also (and more importantly) from a psychographic and lifestyle perspective. This deeper knowledge will empower you to create messages that are more likely to resonate with your brand’s target consumer on an emotional and rational level.
 
The Associated Costs
Marketing is an investment. With any investment, you expect a return. Another difficult aspect of marketing is that not everything is measureable, so brands are unable to completely and accurately track their return on investment. This can be unsettling for management, so one way to make this uncertainty more tolerable is to establish a set of key metrics for every campaign. (For example: website visits, product inquiries, media impressions, store traffic, customer complaints, sales, etc.) Select 5 to 10 items that can be tracked and are relevant to your marketing outreach, then review these monthly, quarterly and annually to establish trends and patterns. By putting forth this extra effort, you will be better able to justify the costs of marketing and make optimizations to your brand plans as needed.
 
Although marketing can be a difficult task, it doesn’t have to be. Remember to use science to drive the development of the art side of things. Also, get to know your target as you would a friend to gain more confidence in the execution of your marketing techniques. Lastly, establish key performance indicators and track your campaigns against these over the short-, medium- and long-term to see how your brand’s marketing spend is affecting the bottom line.

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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