Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Time for certainty

I grapple with many straightforward marketing questions despite years of education and experience in the field. It's frustrating. Will this ever end? Will I never feel I have a solid understanding of this subject that I've turned into my career? And it's not just me - it feels like a common issue for many marketers.

Take, for example, the concept of a brand. A more central idea in marketing hardly exists, yet, ask ten experienced marketers to define the concept, and each has a different version. Most marketers need a paragraph to describe their interpretation of a brand instead of using a standardised, short, sharp definition. And so, here I am on the back of a career spanning 20 years, two marketing degrees, multiple short courses, hundreds of books and articles, thousands of hours, and I am still, like many, unclear of even the seemingly basic. What is a brand? Uhm...well, here's my definition...(which is likely different from my last one).


I work in a field of almost complete unclarity, yet I have to find my way? It must stop.


Is a company brand different from a product brand? 

How do you promote both a brand and a product with a small budget? Or should you simply ignore the brand and promote the product? 

What are the building blocks of a brand? Or is it unnecessary to deconstruct it and instead focus on finding the quickest route to answering the question "what do we want them to know about us"?

Is a brand also a value proposition, and how does it live together with campaign messages and sales stories?

I'm shooting myself in the foot with these examples as I don't want answers. I'm making a more significant point - why do I still have questions?

Indeed, by now, I should know precisely what a brand is, how to build one, promote one, and make sure it delivers sales. But, honestly, I don't feel 100% sure as each case presents a new set of challenges. It feels as if I need to re-think from scratch my way through each assignment. 

"But have you read this book?" I hear you say. Again, that's not the point. No matter what I have read, I should, by now, have the answers. But I don't. After twenty years, a pilot confidently steps into the cockpit, but I step into a marketing challenge with trepidation. To add fuel to the fire, I now see disagreement about the usefulness of the very bible of marketing - Phillip Kotler's Marketing Management. Even at the most senior of expert levels - among the Professors of Marketing - it seems everything is up for debate. I work in a field of almost complete unclarity, yet I have to find my way? It must stop.


Most marketers need a paragraph to describe their interpretation of a brand instead of using a standardised, short, sharp definition.


I'm now entering my third decade as a marketer. I started my career in January 2002 as a Marketing Assistant at a regional company, and here I am typing this on the verge of January 2022. Will my insecurity last forever? I'm not up for it. Going forward, I want to pin things down and move on. 

This third decade in marketing will be focused resolutely on finding answers and getting closure. I don't want to one day end my career still feeling like an amateur. I wish to ring-fence areas of doubt and move around them - not obsess over them. I don't want to be like a vehicle spinning tires in a pool of mud. I want to move forward.

Next time someone asks me how I define a brand, I'll simply recite the AMA definition - no need to invent my own (or question the AMA definition...or add to it...). And no, I'm not interested in your "opposing" view on why the AMA definition is not complete or accurate. Enough is enough. For me, it's the AMA definition. Tick. Done. Moving on.

The never-ending cycle of debate and doubt about the seemingly foundational can't continue forever, at least not for me. I can't spend my entire working life trying to craft my personal definition of what a brand is. I'm not practising voodoo.

Time to move forward. 2032, here I come!