What use is a good marketing strategy if it’s not executed properly?

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16/07/2019

Customers don’t see marketing strategy, they only see execution. Does that mean a well thought out strategy isn’t important? No way. But it does mean that we must have the end goal from the very beginning.

Once upon a time, a member of our team worked in senior leadership in one of the big banks. There was a particular occasion when they were with a brand agency discussing an identity refresh. One item on the agenda was debit cards and credit cards. The agency had painstakingly come up with an esoteric design that was indeed beautiful.

Lost in the blue sky thinking

However, by the time all the necessary restrictions and guidelines had been applied, very little of it was visible and the beauty of the design was lost. The result was that when the product was tested, no one in the research group had a clue what it was supposed to be. The agency’s response was ‘they don’t get the strategy’.  The answer to which was, of course, ‘well why would they?’. One might have also added – ‘and why should they?’

We can all be forgiven for getting a little too carried away with data, theories and (that awful phrase) ‘blue sky thinking’. Especially in a world with so much information at our disposal to inform the way we brand and market our products. Huge documents are painstakingly put together. The kind you need a PhD to understand. But there’s a danger that it’s more a way of complicating and intellectualising strategy than bettering the outcome. The result is that it can be easy to get caught up on the inside of an organisation and lose sight of how it might be received by consumers.

The division between form and function

Of course this will all be heavily based on a fact book. All of which is essential ground work for a solid brand or marketing strategy. However, it means very little unless you can translate it into something that a customer can relate to. Another area that adds to the disconnect between strategy and execution is more functional. Like many big organisations, the bank we speak of divided things functionally within the team and this is often where the problem comes in. The strategy team was doing the designing. Once that was done, the item in question was handed over to a separate implementation team.

Importantly, if you take our bank card example, the danger of strategy that doesn’t translate at execution, is that the downsides will be more obvious to a consumer than the upsides. For most of us, while we might appreciate a beautifully designed bank card, we will be significantly less impressed if it doesn’t work. If a carefully designed curved edge doesn’t fit into the cash point machine perhaps. We will be really irritated if the security code rubs off after three uses so we can’t shop online. And we will be perpetually annoyed if the colour and design of the card means we can’t read the sort code without strategic manipulation of the light.

An outside perspective can make all the difference

So what’s our point? It might sound obvious, but it’s remarkable how often this basic tenet of marketing is forgotten.  While good implementation without good strategy is probably luck, good strategy should go hand in hand with good implementation to really make an impact. After all, customers are not going to know the strategy. And if marketing is done well, they shouldn’t have to.

Talk to gigCMO for an outside perspective that could make the difference between a well executed and a poorly executed marketing strategy.