One Size Does Not Fit All

One Size Does Not Fit All

One of the things I enjoy most about my career in marketing is the variety of organizations and industries I get to work with.

Each business has unique needs, and while all marketing programs involve similar ingredients, no two recipes have exactly the same mix.

I have found that no matter if it’s small or large, every marketing program can be interesting and successful if it is designed to fit the business.

Marketers can determine the right marketing mix for a business by evaluating strategic goals, budgets, and time-to-market requirements. But while these factors are important, a marketing program will only succeed if organizational culture is also considered.

It was famously stated (and sometimes debated) that "culture trumps strategy every time."  Compared to the data-oriented comfort zone of many marketers, organizational culture is murky territory. Harvard Business Review lists six components as key to a great corporate culture. These components fall into three areas – leadership, environment, and brand. These areas must be evaluated in order to predict how culture will impact marketing success. Here are some ideas on how to do that: 

1.   Leadership – Failure to evaluate the cultural dynamics of the organizational leadership will almost certainly derail your marketing plan.

Consider the personalities of the people at the top. Are they informal and direct, or reserved and deliberate? What are their personal priorities? How do they measure success? Is their approach data driven, intuitive, or political? Are they relatively new to the organization, or well established? Are they consensus driven or hierarchical? What conflicts exist between the people in charge?

Be strategic about how you involve leadership in your marketing program and align your management style to the approach that will achieve the best result.

2.    Environment – Evaluating the environment involves understanding how the people, the practices, and the place all come together.

 Consider the physical, emotional, and business environment. Is the business climate growing steadily, rapidly, or not at all? How mature is the market? How politically charged is the climate? Is there insecurity in the workplace? Does change come easy, or are people entrenched and struggling to innovate?

Be clear about the degree to which you plan will or will not align to the current environment. Define a strategy to manage through it.

3.    Brand – It’s well known that branding and marketing are intertwined, but the relationship between the two is often misunderstood.

Brand extends way beyond marketing, in some cases becoming a company’s biggest asset. I recently heard an interview on Corner Office from Marketplace with Paula Schneider, CEO of American Apparel. She was asked why she took on a job that involved fixing a company that was in dire financial straits. Her first answer was "the brand.” A brand incorporates a company’s values, vision, and narrative - key components of corporate culture. American Apparel grew to a huge size without clear processes and formal procedures because of the strength of its brand.

Consider the strength of the company’s brand. Is the brand promise bold so that it gets noticed? Does it matter?  Are the visible and invisible elements of the brand compelling and unified? How much cohesion exists between what the company says it represents and what the employees believe?  Does the brand help create communion between the company, its employees and its customers? Or is the brand weak? Does the grand need nurturing (because the company is growing, for example)?  Or has it been tainted by negative events associated with it?

Evaluate all aspects of the brand during marketing planning so you can be explicit about how branding will impact marketing success.

As our marketing sandbox becomes dominated by all things digital, it’s tempting to focus on metrics and KPI models to the exclusion of qualitative indicators. While analytics are indeed important, we are ultimately creating things by and for people. Finding the right fit means being human centered. It means planning from the beginning to factor in the squishy and difficult to measure aspects of a business that comprise the leadership, the environment, and the brand. Doing so is not easy, but it will enable you to plan and execute a successful marketing program for even the most enigmatic of organizations.   


Punk Rock at 45


Punk Rock at 45

Punk isn’t about the way you look or the music you listen to. It is an attitude of rebellion against what people tell you to do and believe.

For me, and many of my fellow Gen Xers, my punk attitude came from growing up with people I didn’t relate to running the show.