Affiliate Marketing, bottom line, brands, business goals, data, David Aaker, Future Brands, marketing performance, Sachin Bhatia, sales, Santosh Desai, Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence

Marketing and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence

As I was driving back home today and cruising through the chain of thoughts, I was reminded of a few regular comments in my organisation, which my marketing folks will not find irregular- Where are the numbers? Marketing can never get their numbers right? Marketing never backs up data. etc etc.

The war between between sales and marketing lingers on; numbers and leads and conversion. These are eternal debates and has been a discussion point for many research papers and conferences.

However the truth is and the fact remains that at the end of the day and the quarter and the year end, sales is the only factor which has a direct impact on the organisation’s bottomline and it is these numbers that builds CFO’s confidence (and therefore CEOs). Marketing on the other hand, and till this point this would be still contesting and justifying, which gets me thinking- Is marketing an exact science?

Let me elaborate a little on what I’m talking about. I happen to attend a session on ROI marketing organised by ZenithOptimedia, where panel included Mr.Santosh Desai (Future Brands), Mr.Sachin Bhatia (MakeMyTrip.com) and a gentleman from new Walmart team. Mr Desai’s thought were very provoking, he said- Numbers are handled very loosely and sometimes we measure for the sake of measuring. Remember, when we made graphs for science lab test. The line in the graph would come first and then would the figures. Results and targets would come first, then the numbers. All of us would have encountered this situation.

Now, consider marketing, where the greatest tool/invention is the concept of “Brand”. Ironically, it never features in the balance sheet. But it is a brand which drives the consumer mindspace, preferences to use the product and therefore sales and market. Organisations spend huge time and money to build a strong brand. An ideal stage would be something like Google, where one doesn’t have to spend any money, but before one gets to this situation, one has to do a lot of board meetings and meet quarter end sales pressures.

And if I were to ask, how big the brand should be, what is the measure of a big brand and how can it drive business goals, to what extent does it effect the bottomline and will shareholders buy it? Well, it is very debatable, but surely, it is not as easy as to have a future projection for sales. It is like defining the “Quality”, which might empirically precedes any intellectual constructions. Deriving formula for numbers and projection is easy, but creating a brand isn’t. Sales is easy, Marketing isn’t. Thats why there are few marketing guys and very few of them become CEOs πŸ™‚

Let me elaborate a little more and dwell on the realm of philosophy. World’s fastest growing company, Google didn’t know what it would become when it launched “Adwords”. Best of the discoveries were not planned. It happened with a mixture of conscious effort and magic (call it hands of god, stoke of luck, belief etc). Robert R Prisig’s book “Lila” (he also wrote “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence”) has a very insightful story. P wanted to reach Newfoundland, and prepared well for it. He trained himself as a sailor, gained proficiency in reading stars and maps. And so one day, he started on his journey to Newfoundland. There was a terrible storm and he lost his map, but then his inspiration kept him going. He used his instincts to guide him towards coast. He saw an island and he remembered that newfoundland was 10 kms to the right. Though he could not measure 10 km, he went further and saw some people. In order to ensure that his calculation was right, he asked these people how far was newfoundland. To his surprise he found that he was in Newfoundland!

In the process to get the right numbers, right target, right stretch target we seem to suppress our instincts and loose the feel for numbers (read business) and can’t look beyond. If we can’t differentiate between business goals and targets, the numbers become useless to reach goals. We loose the bigger picture. We measure for the sake of measuring and we make numbers to defend our options and resort to precision and more precision. The qualification of success would be how precise we are. And so would be the bonuses!

Marketing is philanthropic in its construction and all about hopes, dreams and aspiration and philosophy, which may not follow a polynomial regression equation and extends beyond the number business. Marketing is an inexact science and a creative profession. It is laidback, but performs, we should try to force fit its statistic correlation with bottomline.

Or shall we? I would love to hear from you πŸ™‚

Cheers!


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