Protecting your strategies from "marketing envy"

Mike Marino
Mike Marino

Mike Marino
principal, Big Arrow Group

There's a crisis brewing in the marketing industry and it's not because of the growth of digital or the shrinking number of television viewers. While those issues are real, they are also creating a results-driven anxiety that can get in the way of the great strategies. It's a state of mind that—if not treated—has the potential to completely commoditize our industry. Let's call it marketing envy.

Marketing envy affects both clients and agencies, but in different ways. On the client side, there's the desire to do the same thing or one-up brands renowned for a marketing success—in other words, be the next Oreo (real-time marketing) or Old Spice (viral video) or Biogen Idec (patient portals).  But by framing the marketing need in this way, clients pre-define the tactics and, as a result, de-value creative thought. The risk is that tactics become commodities—chosen for what they've done for others but not necessarily for whether or not they are right for the brand in question.

From the agency perspective, there's pressure to constantly sell in the latest capability and show that the agency can deliver the marketing technique that's trending. Media exacerbates this problem: search “real-time marketing” on Google and you'll find 457 million entries. Today, an agency not talking about real-time marketing appears not to have its finger on the pulse but an agency talking about it too much is, like the client who wants to be like Oreo, putting a solution before the problem.

So how does a marketing executive get the most value from their agency partner and avoid falling into the marketing envy trap? Instead of starting with a vision of what the output should look like or a brand to emulate, start with the basic questions:  Who are we trying to reach and what need are we answering? How do we a) convince the target we can meet their need and b) encourage the target to see for him/herself?

Always coming back to those questions will ensure a thoughtful, brand- and target-appropriate marketing solution that will—in the eyes of the target—make your brand the new must-have. An added bonus? Start with these key questions and stay true to your target and you're likely to become the subject of someone else's marketing envy.