Pitfalls in marketing

Posted: October 7, 2013

There have been numerous positive changes in the marketing world over the years, some of them impacting the way that marketers and brand managers conduct business, others addressing their complex relationships with suppliers.

For example, briefs are no longer weighty tomes containing more gristle than meat but instead focus on providing clear, concise direction. And, partners such as packaging suppliers and communication agencies are involved far earlier in any process – new brand launch or change – than ever before.

But, there are still pitfalls to be negotiated. We asked a marketer, an advertising practitioner and a Added Value director, Alison Tucker, what they believe could change for the better.


Unilever Beauty Marketing Director, Masingita Mazibuko

There are currently dual forces impacting the marketing industry, namely, increased access to information and more pressurised economic conditions. This has significant implications for marketers.

  • Access to information:

As a result of strides in technology, both consumers and we have easy access to information, and this has brought both opportunity and challenge. The challenge comes in the quality of the information, and how that knowledge is applied. Perhaps the application of new information in the face of changing times is just something that we still struggle with. Regardless, it means that greater due diligence is necessary.

The opportunities arise in the form of the new channels marketing teams can utilise as well as the fact that these assist the business maintain a robust level of external orientation.

That being said nothing can ever replace direct engagement with our consumers and dipping into the market. Consumer and customer intimacy requires us to step away from our desks to gain the insights and executional excellence that are fundamental to ensuring brand engagement.

  • More pressurised economic conditions:

Given marketers form the growth engine of many businesses, unpredictable economic conditions increase the pressure the marketing team faces. There is increased accountability to shareholders and striking the balance between long-term equity building and delivering short-term requirements is a balancing act.

There are no easy answers. Planning, execution and analysis have to work together in these changing times. Tools are put in place to help marketers navigate the muddy waters of copious information, ensure necessary measurement of ROI and guide decision-making.  Tools can be viewed as a ‘Matrix’ of sorts – like Neo, one can either choose the red pill or the blue pill, ensuring the right level of granularity to unlock brand growth.

Because the market has changed and is increasingly changing, ultimately the individual at the helm, their passion for ideas, consumers and engaging collaboratively with their partners to meet the needs of the consumer to build iconic brands is paramount.

Brand consultant:

Alison Tucker, director and senior consultant, Added Value

  • Become more externally focussed

Sometimes marketers are just too involved with the wheels that turn in their own organisation and forget to invest time to attend seminars or thought leadership platforms or, when they do, they send in the most junior of troops on the assumption that the senior team doesn’t need the external stimulation. And, they forget how important it is to spend time interacting with consumers. As a result, they can become out of touch with consumer trends and the consumer’s world, as well as developments in the marketing discipline and industry.

  • Spend greater energy on content than on process

Being process driven or adopting a marketing-by-template approach means that marketers feel busy and satisfied that they’re doing their jobs because they have visible evidence of having completed the relevant templates on time.  However, this is often achieved at the expense of quality thinking and seeking the right kind of external stimulation.  People are merely doing, not thinking.

  • Keep it simple

If the legal world can change to write contracts in Plain Business English, why shouldn’t the marketing world move away from including complex jargon and acronyms in their best practice guidelines? This may satisfy our need to reinvent and make marketing ‘sexy’, but in practice only complicates and makes marketing less accessible and more of a mystery than it needs to be.

  • Don’t short-change young marketing talent:

There’s no shortage of marketing talent out there.  The question is, are young marketers really getting enough formal marketing training and day-to-day marketing coaching?  In years gone by, the major marketing companies were often described as ‘marketing universities’.  They had formal training programmes and documented marketing philosophies and best practice.  Talent development was high on the agenda of Marketing Directors.  It feels like the world is moving so fast that less time is being invested in talent development today.  Allied to this is the rise of digital where younger talent is generally more in touch than the more senior marketing leadership.  In this context, the leadership role and style of senior marketers needs some further consideration.

  • Better harness the talent, skills and resources of your partners:

While there is a greater level of collaboration between brand owners and service suppliers (especially giving strategy and creative access instead of just client service), too many marketing and insight departments plug away at tasks that their partners could be doing on their behalf. Liberating the marketer from this work could free up time for external focus, stimulation and thinking time.

How to avoid the pitfalls? 

Advertising practitioner:

Alistair Mokoena, Managing Director, Draftfcb Johannesburg

  •  Avoid redundancy:

As a senior marketer you need to invest in developing yourself by going on short courses, constantly reading the latest marketing books and journals and attending relevant talks and seminars. Many senior marketers are still intimidated by the digital world and social media. Embrace it.  Sign up for Twitter. Use it to observe trends and sentiments and also use it for daily inspiration by following people you admire.

  •  Choose to be interesting:

Invest in making yourself interesting. Your job is to enlighten, entertain and inspire those that you touch. Be interested in being interesting. Step out of your comfort zone, watch different TV and Radio channels, learn about new hobbies, travel the world, speak to one new person a day, walk through a mall at lunch time observing human behaviour, have coffee at university campuses once a month. Behave like an investigative journalist. Soak up what’s around you.

Brand consultant:

Alison Tucker, director and senior consultant, Added Value

  •  Loosen up:

Encourage and reward teams for quality thinking (not just delivering ‘doing’), for curiosity, for being externally focused and for being truly connected and insightful.  Loosen up the reigns of processes and routines, and don’t over-engineer so that processes and templates are the means to the end, not the end in itself.

  • Invest in youth:

Have you the necessary formal marketing training in place and is enough time being invested at senior levels when it comes to talent development?  Stretch and empower your young talent but also provide enough day-to-day coaching for them to succeed.