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Marketing Matters

Marketing means different things to different people. Its importance is also hotly debated. Some see it as the icing on a cake, an option if they have the money, but the first thing they cut in a downturn. Others, and I'm one, put it centre stage, an essential ingredient in the profitability and prospects of a company and a market.

Most commonly, marketing is used as a general term for advertising, literature lead generation and promotion. For some that's all it is: the glossier their brochure, the 'better' their marketing. But it is only half the story. A glossy brochure that misses its mark is just a faster way of spending your money. The misunderstanding arises because marketing is both a set of techniques and a concept or an idea. Rather like an iceberg, there is a visible part (techniques such as advertising) and an invisible part (a concept, or way of thinking about things). The invisible part is arguably the more important and the most often ignored.

Perhaps it's only in hindsight when we look back on companies or industries that ignore marketing, because competitors seem to get by without it, or they leave it up to distributors or stockists, that we can see its importance. In our own industry poor marketing means prices are under pressure, and exciting new markets are spoiled before they reach maturity.

Many big strategic issues, the ones that make a difference to a company's long-term performance and its competitive edge, are marketing problems. And companies who don't address these problems discover that it's harder, sometimes impossible, to grow or achieve the prices and profits they want. Those who do are more consistently profitable. Take branding. On average when companies with strong brands are acquired they sell for twice the amount that companies with weak or no brands sell for.

A brand is reputation and a promise. People buy Coca Cola, Mercedes, Network Veka or Heinz because they trust that promise of quality, service and aftercare and will pay more for it. Marketing builds brands.

Too few people take marketing seriously in our markets. That's a problem, and we all live with lower prices, lower profits, and poorer prospects as a result. Marketing matters, whether we choose to ignore it or not.

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