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Five Marketing Habits That Are Normal (but Not Okay)

03.03.2011 / Posted in Articles, Direct Marketing, Strategy

FrogDog got started in 1997, and its marketing professionals have expertise that extends well beyond the company’s inception. Over all this time, we’ve seen companies have the same bad habits when it comes to marketing. A recent FrogDog staff poll turned up five very common marketing mistakes—issues that turn up so regularly that it’s rare not to encounter them in a new client.

This means that, if you recognize any of these five bad habits in your company, you’ll be ahead of the pack if you change your organizational ways. And that’s true even if you pick just one of the bad habits to tackle.

We tried to rank these, either by frequency or by severity, but they’re all seen frighteningly often—and they’re all equally damaging. So here, in no particular order, are five very normal marketing habits that still just aren’t okay:

1. No consistency of brandmark use or brand colors

All organizations should have formal brand guides that set standards for how their logos are to be used. (Here’s an example of one we put together for a client here at FrogDog, but keep in mind that a brand guide can also be a simple Word document. Just be clear about how the company’s brand should be employed.)

If you don’t have a brand guide, at least follow these three rules of thumb:

  • Your logo is inviolable. Do not use different versions of it in different places. (We’ve even seen different versions show up on the same marketing item!) Keep it exactly the same no matter where it goes.
  • Give your brandmark room to breathe. Many companies require their logo to be placed only on a white background, for example. Most brand guides specify how much space must come between the brandmark and anything else, too. Don’t put your logo on a crazy pattern, or cram it into a busy photo. (We found one company had put its logo on a pink-and-black zebra print and another had superimposed its brandmark on a graphic of a flowering shrub. Really.)
  • Your brand should have clearly defined brand colors: generally one or two. You may also identify acceptable complementary colors that may be used, if you want to get truly standardized. But at the minimum, ensure that anything representing your company uses the defined brand colors. Don’t go with orange one day because you’re feeling sunny when your brand colors are blue and gray.

2. Doing it because everyone else is—or because it worked for someone else

“Well heck, my buddy’s a dentist and his practice has a lot of success with those ads that run before the movies at the local theater. Why not try that for my medical equipment sales business?”

Heads up: Your buddy’s company is not your company.

That example is extreme—in many cases, people do things that people similar to them are doing: They’re both in professional services, for example. But even in these cases, the businesses in question are not the same. Their business plans and goals are different, their marketing messages are different, and their target audiences are different. What works for one company isn’t likely to work for another if employed in exactly the same way.

And if a company does copy a direct competitor’s marketing activity, it’s going to lack differentiation in the marketplace and may even become defined by what the market leader is doing—not by what it is and what it uniquely offers.

This is the “me too” syndrome, and it’s all too common. But it’s not okay. All organizations need to have a clear marketing strategy that is designed to work specifically for their businesses.

3. No strategy—or not following the strategy

Which leads to our next all-too-common marketing habit (that’s also a mistake): Having no marketing strategy.

Companies tend to fly by the seat of their pants, doing whatever sounds good or whatever they think makes the most sense. They have great instincts about their products or services, so they think they have great instincts about how to market them. Wrong.

Or the company has some sort of strategy in place, but they fall prey to the “shiny ball” syndrome, veering from the path anytime they hear buzz about something that sounds exciting. That includes sponsoring random events their friends hit them up for, advertising in random publications because they were offered “specials,” or, these days, entering the social media sphere even though they don’t have the time and effort needed to reap rewards.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: All organizations must—must!—have clearly defined marketing strategies, and they must—again, must!—stay true to their strategies once they’re in place. (For an example of what a marketing strategy can do, click here and here to read a couple FrogDog case studies.)

4. Not measuring activity

Whether a company has a strategy for its activity or is playing marketing by ear, it’s surprising how often we find that companies don’t measure results. They either assume marketing is such a pure art that it cannot be measured, or they assume that it must be working because the company is fine. In what other business discipline is complete lack of measurement okay?

When marketing activity isn’t measured, marketing fails to prove its value to the organization—and it may waste money.

We’ve beaten the measurement drum repeatedly. If your company is stymied by measuring marketing, here are some resources we’ve developed at FrogDog to help you get started:

5. Doing the same thing, year after year

Just like people, companies tend to get into ruts—marketing ruts included. And where the marketing activity may have been perfect when it began, it hasn’t been reevaluated in years. Not good.

The world changes pretty quickly, so if a company continues to throw money at things without reassessment, it is missing opportunities and wasting precious funds. (For more information on marketing adjustments over time, read our article about marketplace repositioning and our article about marketing in a down economy.)

It’s even scarier to contemplate lack of reevaluation when you consider that many companies just increase their spend on the same activities when they stop getting results—thinking that just doing more of the exact same thing will get them improved results. Instead, it just wastes precious funds.

If a company is effectively measuring its marketing activity, it can make adjustments to account for marketplace shifts. And if it isn’t doing any sort of systematic measurement, it should absolutely review its marketing once a year and make some sort of educated judgments on what to shuttle, what to continue, and what to begin.

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