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6 Things Marketers Should Know (but often don’t)

2010 June 2

Who is the President of the United States?  How many centimeters in a meter?

Arguably, these are not crucial pieces of information for our daily lives.  We can get by without them.  However, they are things that educated people should know.  Those who don’t are open to ridicule, and rightly so.

It is the same with marketing.  Many professionals can get through their jobs each day lacking critical knowledge and can go a long time without getting noticed.  However, that doesn’t mean that their performance is what it could be.

Here’s a partial list of some things every marketer should know.

Web Menus are for Navigation not for Branding

When you go to the airport, the first thing you do is try to find your destination.  It might be cool to have signs that say, “Home of the Cubs” or “The Big Apple” or “Terrible weather, worse food and a cup o’ tea,” but consumers appreciate signs that say, “Chicago,” “New York” or “London.”

It’s the same with web sites.  People go to your web site to get useful information and depend on menus to find what they’re looking for.  They really don’t care how creative or brilliant marketing people think they are.

As a prime example, click on this Hermes site.  It looks like a modern art exhibit (which I’m sure is some idiot’s idea of creativity) and gives the user no idea what they are supposed to do there.  What’s the point of pleasing marketers in order to piss off customers?

And for heaven’s sake, kill the flash intros!

There is a Difference Between the Internet and The Web

Okay, this one is easy to get confused about.  Many people who work in the digital arena mix them up as well.  However, the Internet and the Web are two different things and they require two different sets of strategies.

The short explanation is that the Internet is hardware and the Web is software (not 100% accurate, but close enough).  While it is the Internet that provides connectivity, it is on the Web which we actually communicate.

The upshot is that you need strategies that address both.  For more on this point, see the The Internet, The Web and The Future of Media.

There is a Difference Between Social Media and Social Networks

These days, everybody is crazy about social media.  However, the real social media successes have been few and far between (albeit impressive when they actually do materialize).

The much more important development is the understanding of how social networks function, which is a new and exciting field.  The basic principles of social network analysis are barely a decade old, but have already become influential in areas as diverse as ecology, cancer research and law enforcement.

Like the Internet and the Web, it’s important to make the distinction between social media and social networks and build strategies for both of them.

Also, for a social network perspective on a variety of things that affect our personal and professional lives, visit Valdis Krebs’ excellent blog, The Network Thinker.

There is No Correlation Between Advertising and Sales

Correlation is a mathematical term which only applies to linear relationships.  It means that an increase or decrease in one variable will give a corresponding increase and decrease in another variable. Moreover, this relationship is constant and applies to any level of activity.

However, marketing is a non-linear endeavor.  If it wasn’t, when we had a successful campaign we could make our marketing budgets infinitely large and get correspondingly infinite increases in sales.  Profits, would also be boundless.  This, obviously, is not the case.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a relationship between advertising and sales.  We know if our budget is too small it won’t be effective and if it is too large we lose efficiency.  In the middle is an optimal budget range which can be identified econometrically.

That isn’t a correlation, but fitting a model, which is a profoundly different thing.  There is no such thing as non-linear correlation (at least for anyone who’s actually passed Statistics 101).

Media is More than Just Media

In the old days, media meant ad pages, billboards and TV and Radio spots (and eventually banners).  These days it’s a lot more.  Media companies are looking to provide services that go much further than ad placement.

ESPN recently announced the launch of an internal creative agency that will help marketers utilize their powerful brand across platforms.  Meredith Corporation has a unit that incorporates not only their media properties, but their events and databases too.  These are just two examples on a very long list.

As the web forces media companies to integrate across brands, some are getting much better at integrating across functions as well.  Many see this as an important growth area over the next decade as margins in traditional placement get squeezed.

The Most important Consumer Contact is the One that Works for You

In marketing, as in many disciplines, there is a tendency to look for universal principles.  In actuality, marketing rules are mostly a waste of time and each brand and category are different.  Moreover, what works tends to change over time.

My company, ZenithOptimedia has a highly successful program called TouchPoints which measures consumer influence across a variety of contact points ranging from mass media to word of mouth.  One of the key findings after over 400 studies is how vast the differences are between what type of activity is effective for different brands.

Therefore, the key thing to discover is not what marketing action is most effective in the abstract, but what will work for you given your brand’s position and goals. Unfortunately, there are no absolutes.

So there you have it, 6 things marketers should know (but often don’t).  I would love to hear your comments!  Anybody have any other examples?

– Greg

59 Responses leave one →
  1. July 26, 2010


    Good to see you again, I always enjoy your comments.

    A lot of people are pointing out the SEO problems associated with flash (I think that HTML 5 will be probably easier to make visible, but that’s just a guess). It’s a very valid point, but I was trying to make a different one.

    The biggest problem with new media is that we’re not very good at it. It’s not like TV or print production which we have been doing for decades and have lots of standards and points of interface. Unfortunately, marketers who want to be innovative try to integrate the newest and coolest tech, when they should be using basic tools that work well.

    – Greg

  2. Ned Kumar permalink
    July 26, 2010

    I totally agree and understand where you are coming from.

    I think you nailed the ‘issue’ on the head in your reply to me. I was going to mention that (and should have) the crux is in the definition.

    Even though the term correlation is often associated with statistics, it is often used in other disciplines as well like Physiology, Sociology, etc. In some it means a linear relationship, in some it implies a reciprocal relationship, and in some an interdependence etc.

    Anyway, this is why I was going to say that your statement about no correlation might be seen as too “strong” of a statement by many :-). Mathematically you are correct, but colloquially many use it more to mean a relationship or dependence..

    Thanks for the clarification.


  3. July 26, 2010

    We are in agreement and the universe is in perfect balance:-)

  4. December 29, 2010

    Another great post and I am glad i found it today.

    I would like to tag on to your comments by stating that the true digital marketing professional must let the channel drive the message to the right audience.

    That being said – the channel should influence the buying audience to exceed the campaigns goals of the company. A campaign goal could be simply to increase sales of existing products.

    Know your audience – are these consumers who purchase based on messaging and impulse? Or are they b2b purchasers with a budget and a quarterly purchasing schedule? Goes back to knowing your audience before you build. What is the most influential combination of channel messaging that will persuade and engage the right person to complete the conversion for your company?

    For the Hermes site, I would be interested to know who is buying their products on line and what they care about. Are these consumers off the street or a select group of purchasers – do they get messaged to in mail, email, mobile and web for special offers or promotions? The flash site is somewhat hitting the mark for showcasing a high end retailer, but in my head misses it for how to get consumer traffic to your site and even brand awareness. HTML 5 is a good alternative.
    Thanks for letting me rant… Look forward to future posts.

  5. December 29, 2010


    Lots of good points. Although I would have to disagree about the Hermes site. It doesn’t really matter who your target audience is, if they can’t get to information, then you’re just wasting their time.

    Thanks for your comment and have a great New Year!

    – Greg

  6. December 30, 2010

    Thanks for giving me something other than my humble opinion to share with clients who think social media is the answer to their marketing prayers. Those wild success stories are indeed the exception, which is what makes them notable.

    On websites, when I encounter a flash intro (or other irrelevant bell-and-whistle animation or graphics), the first thing I look for is the ‘skip intro’ option.
    I don’t surf; when I go to a website, I’m there for a reason and want to find what I’m looking for as effortlessly as possible. With rare exception, ease of use is way more important than appearance. My own site is being renovated to be a better example of practicing what I preach: simplicity can be a beautiful thing.
    Always enjoy your posts, Greg.

  7. December 30, 2010

    Thanks, Carol. Have a great New Year!

    – Greg

  8. April 5, 2011

    Ha, love that you picked on Hermes – a lot of these high end fashion sites are very similar. So on that note, can I add a question that should be asked but often isn’t – what aren’t our competitor’s doing? (as opposed to what ARE they doing). Or, to put it another way, can we innovate by solving a problem or addressing a need not already addressed instead of just copying what is already available.

    – James

  9. April 5, 2011

    Good point James!

    Competitive analysis is important. However, because it’s done so early in the process it often anchors thinking and confines innovation.

    – Greg

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