Marketers: the trophy hunters

I was somewhat amused by the play-off between Crystal Palace and Watford for a place in the Premiership last bank holiday – both in that the so-called richest game in football was contested between the third and fifth best teams in the second flight of English football, but also in the irony that the players who fought so valiantly to win the game were more than likely to be making themselves redundant. While they may have proved good enough for the second tier, they almost certainly would not be good enough for a team in the Premiership, especially one with £120m burning a hole in the chairman’s pocket.

Secret Marketer

And that got me thinking about the motivation for marketing directors, most of whose average tenure is three years at best, yet who are tasked with developing long-term strategies. What incentive do they have to invest for the long-term, to build proper brands, the way our parents remember them? None of this is new insight, of course. The current economic crisis has long been blamed on the short-term bonus mentality but what is the solution?

In the football analogy, there is the prestige of winning and the result is tangible. Footballers – or their spouses – may argue that they are putting themselves in the shop window for a transfer. But is it the same in business? In building a brand or long-term strategy, the prestige of being part of that executive team and of bolstering a CV is similar but the big difference is the lack of a tangible measure of success. That for me is key.

In order to invest the time, resources and effort into building successful brands, we as marketers have to accept that the ultimate measure of success may not be apparent until long after we have gone. But to keep us focused we do need to find the ‘trophies’ along the way that show we are ploughing the right furrow. As a salesman, it is easy to show in figures. As a chief executive it is usually equally apparent, at least in the eyes of their shareholders. But as marketers we need a different surrogate. I don’t have the answer, but I do contend that it is critical we find it to get us out of the short-term trap too many of us are falling into and especially the “bubbles” that the digital age has spawned.

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