BAND-AID® Marketing.

My kid loves BAND-AIDs. She believes that, any time she’s wounded, a BAND-AID strip will make it better. I’m not talking about bleeding, here – I mean, if she sprains her finger, the dog steps on her foot, or if she has a stiff neck – a BAND-AID will fix her right up. My apologies to the fine folks at Johnson & Johnson, but that ain’t necessisarily so. Don’t get me wrong…adhesive bandages serve a useful purpose in the healing process, but they are not the one-size-fits-all, universal cure that my daughter would have me believe. (If they were, I wouldn’t mind our anual expenditures for BAND-AIDs, which seems to be a significant portion of the family debt, since she’s taken to putting them on EVERYTHING…)

But this is not a post about medicine, except as it relates to marketing. Too many people look at marketing as a kind of BAND-AID for their branding, their advertising, and their sales. And far too many take a BAND-AID approach to marketing itself.

Here’s the deal: marketing should be a carefully thought-out approach to communicating your products or services value proposition(s) to your prospects and customers. That’s it. If we use a fishing analogy, the fish is the prospect, the bait is the advertising, the pole and reel represents the media, and the fisherman is you – the company, group or individual selling something. Think of “marketing” as the fishing guide that tells you where to fish, what kind of bait to use, what gear you need, and teaches you how to reel ’em in.

The biggest problem with marketing is that it is so seldom understood by the people that need it the most.

The second-biggest problem with marketing, is that so many clients think of marketing as an afterthought – a sort of “cart-before-the-horse” thing. They will expend large amounts of time and money coming up with a great idea or concept for an ad or a campaign, then turn their attentions to “marketing.” They’ll try to concoct a marketing rationalle to do whatever it is they want to do – justifying their actions with a “marketing plan.” When the campaign falls flat, they blame marketing.

The way things are SUPPOSED to work is that you first sit down and identify your goals. (It’s hard to know if you got there, if you don’t first decide where you’re going.) Next, you try and ascertain if these goals are realistic. (Many is the marketing plan that fails because reality and expectations were not even in the same zip code.) After you’ve accomplished that, you turn your attention to developing strategies and tactics to realize your goals. Only then should you start thinking about the uber-cool ad you wanna run, or the insanely great promotion you have in mind. If it doesn’t help get you closer to the goalline, you need to let it go and try something else.

For instance, let’s say your goal is to increase sales by 20%. Taking the BAND-AID approach, you decide that what you need is a big newspaper ad campaign. Will it work? Depends. But regardless of it’s odds of success or failure, it’s a safe bet that you’re gonna be less effective with the campaign than if you’d started with a well thought-out marketing approach, instead of the traditional BAND-AID marketing.

Instead, let’s assume that you do a little research first. You look at your prospects demographics – let’s say your product appeals to those between the ages of 18 and 25. Demographically-speaking, almost NONE of that age group reads the paper. Doesn’t matter if you do – they don’t. So a newspaper campaign will fall flat. What about the newspaper’s online site? Maybe – you’d have to look at their demographics. A better approach would be to survey some 18 to 25-year-olds and ask them “what do you do with your day.” You might find that they have a phone super-glued to their ear, spend 5 hours online, are addicted to SMS or IMs, and get most of their TV from YouTube.

From this data, you’d learn that TV spots are a waste (thank you Tivo), newspapers are deadly, but viral marketing through MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube might reach your target demographic where they live.

Of course, this creates a whole ‘nuther set o’ problems, namely, how to effectively use this kind of media to reach your demographic, without alienating them (inauthentic = certain death).

On the other hand, if you’re marketing Metamucil or Dentu-Grip, anything online is a waste, and newsprint is your savior – it all depends on your goal and how your prospects want to be reached. BAND-AID marketing says “let’s throw money at the problem until something works.” Marketing-centric marketing says “let’s think about the goals, analyze the market, then craft a solution that we think will work, and finally test it to see if we’re right.” Taking a marketing-centric approach is not a magic bullet, and it won’t guarantee results. But it works far better than doing something to stroke a corporate ego, and trying to ex post facto justify it with some marketing mumbo-jumbo.

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