WHAT IS MARKETING? CONNECTIVE TISSUE*

Marketing today is more complex, varied, and pressurized than ever. Teams I’ve worked with say they are busier than ever fulfilling program after initiative after project. And at a pace that keeps them working 12+ hours a day – without even time to think.

In addition to the obvious “burn-out” problem with this fact, the key issue is that, for most companies, marketing has become defined simply as specific projects, deliverables, or results. For example, they say “marketing is about driving leads”, or “marketing is a successful webinar”, or “launching a new product is marketing”.

And while all of these are part of marketing, that’s not really what differentiates great marketing. Great marketing is more than initiatives – great marketing is the connective tissue between all of your projects, products, and programs.

Because every company, every brand, every team has multiple products, multiple initiatives, and multiple items to promote. Great marketing is what helps connect each of these to something bigger. It’s what helps prospects view these individual initiatives as part of a whole.

Here’s how marketing as connective tissue helps you and your brands succeed:

  • Connective tissue helps keep strategy and execution in balance. As I mentioned here before, a key problem that’s causing the current “marketing hamster-wheel” effect is the disconnection between strategy and execution. Companies are viewing strategy and execution as discrete activities – causing execution to become transactional and reactive. Thus, there ends up little-to-no connection between isolated programs and initiatives. Good marketing ensures that they are developed and expressed in ways that are more strategic and holistic – so the initiatives not only connect to each other, but the whole is greater than sum of the parts.

  • Connective tissue provides needed context. Your products require communication that describes them and what makes them better than others. Buyers naturally seek benefits and attributes that help them choose amongst options. However, good marketing goes beyond product attributes and benefits to why your brand is different, how it behaves, and why you exist. Good marketing is the connective tissue that provides the context that differentiates your products and services.

  • Connective tissue keeps you from being transactional. There are transactional aspects to all marketing programs. At the end of the day, marketing is designed to get people to buy things and to drive results. However, a marketing organization that operates transactionally is likely sub-optimizing customer experience and not marketing in a customer-first way. It begins thinking through the lens of selling vs. engaging. And because each transactional project ends up standing on its own, marketing work becomes inefficient.

  • Connective tissue delivers an enduring narrative and story. In a great TV series, each show has its own story to tell – but each clearly connect to and belong to a larger overall narrative. Same with your brand’s efforts. While products are launched, programs delivered, each with their own main idea, connective tissue helps them fit into the overall narrative that defines your brand. It helps them not feel like one-offs. And it gives each individual effort more substance, heft, power, and ultimately, memorability.

So, when asked the question “What is marketing?”, you know the answer – it’s the connective tissue for your brand’s efforts. What are you doing to strengthen your connective tissue?

*Originally published in MediaPost’s Marketing Insider 3/14/22

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