everyone is in marketing

The Janitor is in Marketing.

Recently, we were presenting a brand campaign to the Board of Directors of a large corporation, which was going pretty well, when the Chief Financial Officer leaned in to give his input.

“Now, I’m not in Marketing, buuuuut…” he began.

“But you are. Everyone who works here is.” I interjected.

His eyebrows rose.

“In the course of your job, you make decisions that affect the way the world sees your brand” I continued: “You’re the CFO- There aren’t a lot of folks in the building that have MORE to do with marketing than you.”

He seemed to relish the idea, and eagerly dug into the development of what would become a truly watershed campaign for their company. And this meeting spawned a number of spinoff conversations with other departments, that nominally were not conventionally linked to “Marketing.”

The fact is, as much as many agencies would hate to admit it, a lot of fundamental victories on the branding front are not won on the air, they are won in the trenches- The tangible difference between success or mediocrity is often made in what might at first glance seem unsexy, mundane, or obscure (but viciously important) places, from Human Resources to Supply Chain to Legal Compliance.

Everyone and anyone who influences the way your customers experience your brand is in “Marketing,” no matter what it says on their business card. Because a lot of folks who have never been on the set of a TV commercial do things in their everyday jobs can make or break a Fortune 500 company’s brand image, without ever realizing that’s what they actually do every day.

As the old golf adage says: “Drive for show, putt for dough.” Sure, that splashy celebrity SuperBowl ad turns a lot of heads, but being known for hiring knowledgeable and engaged frontline folks, or having better designed products, or a commitment to conservation, or cleaner bathrooms can potentially have a much stronger and more durable benefit to the brand than that $7 million :30 seconds of fame.

This doesn’t mean the outward-facing execution of traditional “Marketing” is not important. A focus on it is really the first step to all of the above, and despite my observation that everyone is in marketing, “Marketing” is a specific practice area and crucial role. Everyone in the building needs to understand not just the central ethos/strategy of your brand, but how, in their role (however seemingly unrelated), they can apply it to their everyday work in order to be additive to it, and that’s Marketing’s first job.

I’m not trying to talk us out of a gig here, in fact just the opposite: People still need to know that you exist, what you are all about, why they should choose you, and all the good things mentioned previously that you do to bring your brand to life only count if you get credit for them in the consumer’s mind. These are the raw ingredients that we utilize to create awareness, stimulate interaction, influence behavior, and generate motivation for your brand.

In terms of how we as agencies can impact this as a good partner: As marketers, we historically have tended to focus on the outside candy coating of ads (This is less true today than it once was, fortunately.) But focusing our thinking on the chewy center of a brand can be a rich area of powerful brand positioning and creative opportunity, if we are allowed to go there.

As I often tell our team: Go anywhere the doors aren’t locked. Can we come up with ideas that help the HR team recruit more effectively? Are there snacks in the vending machine that better reflect what the brand is about? Can we design more sustainable packaging? More comfortable uniforms? A different smelling carpet? Better signage? If our creative minds are allowed to roam, there are a lot of places that aren’t “ads” per se where we can positively impact the brand experience in unorthodox and insightful ways.

And yes, then we can make ads about all of these things. Really effective ones. Because they will be based on a truth you can feel.

So go ahead and add “Marketing” to your job title. All of you.

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