Is Marketing Really at Fault?

By Graham, John R. | ABA Banking Journal, April 1995 | Go to article overview

Is Marketing Really at Fault?


Graham, John R., ABA Banking Journal


Bankers understand loans. They understand deposits, bonds, and credit cards. What they don't understand is the long term goal of drawing in somebody--lots of somebodies--that wants to do business with the bank.

Although the principles of marketing have been practiced and tested for decades, bank executives and executives, in general, harbor a discernible wariness when it comes to authorizing marketing expenditures.

"If I spend a dollar, I want to know what I am getting for it," said the president of a travel organization in response to a request for a marketing program. The return on investment issue is a common query, because many marketing programs are viewed as an utter failure and a waste of money.

Why is marketing perceived as unable to achieve desired results? Why are marketing programs often disappointing to those who pay for them? Marketing itself seems to be a convenient scapegoat, but look into the marketing program for the real reasons things go awry.

1. A failure to direct the correct message to the correct audience. For at least two decades the IBM message rang throughout American business with undisputed clarity: You can't go wrong with buying IBM. While IBM was praising itself, along came a kid from Texas with his own message: "Just take it out of the box, plug it in and go to work. If you need help give us a call." The Dell computer message spoke to the customer. The IBM story spoke to its sales force and corporate staff.

2. A failure to match the goals and the budget. Those who build cars for the Indy 500 have an appropriate saying: "Speed costs money." The idea applies to marketing as well. If the goal is to introduce a new product or service, the cost of making it successful may be substantial. If a company wants to be known as the leader in its field, the cost of meeting that objective will be high. If, on the other hand, the task is simply to maintain a presence in the marketplace, then the budget can be lower. Lofty goals and low budget are a deadly combination.

3. A failure to make a significant impact. A memorable ad from a few years ago--quite a few years ago--for Brylcreme, a men's hair product, announced: "Brylcreme...a little dab will do ya." It did not take much Brylcreme to style hair, but a "little dab" of marketing will only result in failure. Too little marketing may be worse than none at all.

4. A failure to use correct techniques. A community bank committed its entire marketing budget to buying billboard space to advertise its credit card. …

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Is Marketing Really at Fault?
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