What Marketing is NOT?

Commonsense image

Marketing students (MBA, BBA) and professionals are still confused about marketing and its application in the real world. Dear friends, your precious education and experience are not an easy one to learn, trust me, it has been adapted as an exclusive tool. In this article, I will try to resolve a major misconception about marketing.

This article will provide guidance to young marketers and students of marketing and business, who have been asking simple questions about marketing definition and after completion of course, ending up no where. However, before understanding the definition of marketing, we have to understand the most important part of marketing. I call it “______”. I’ll tell you later, I promise! Keep reading.

We’ve learned that marketing is nothing but a common sense. “Every one can do it. Even I can do the business better”, thinking goes, “look around you! Without having marketing and business education, businessmen are doing well.” Right? Wrong!

I agree that everyone can do business without having marketing and business education, but that would “only” be a business having no brand. Yet, businesses, without any brand, suffer; moreover, these businesses are also not responsible of increasing the GDP or GNP of the country in the long run.

If your pocket is jam-packed with money. I tell you what to do: Go to China, get a container of emergency lights, sell them in Pakistan and make huge profit. But how many times you’re going to do it?

Forever? Forever without a brand? There’s no need having business education for doing simple plus and minus math.

OK leave this! Ask yourself! Can you win in a court effectively without having law education? Can you win a war without having military education? Can you save the taxes of your company without having accounting education? Well, if your answer is no. Try this question:

Can you win in a marketplace without having marketing education?

Of course not! Ask any top marketing guru all around the globe and you will get the same answer.

Al Ries, the co-father of “Positioning”, said in an interview.

(I’ll appreciate if you read EACH WORD carefully)

“Marketing principles are not common sense. Marketing is a discipline and it’s more complicated and confusing and harder to learn than legal or medical or any other discipline. And I think there’s not too much recognition on the part of CEOs or management people today that marketing is a discipline. They tend to override the advice of their marketing people all the time; I see it everyday.” (Marketing News)

Despite learning what marketing “is”, we have to learn , what marketing “is not”. Guess what? Marketing is NOT a common sense. Hence, before understanding the definition of marketing, we have to understand the most important part of marketing. I call it “Marketing Sense”.

Marketing is an art, not a science. There’s always room for exceptions. The good part is, generally, those exceptions possess marketing reasons. Like science, we marketers, have no formula to put in to get exact results. And it makes marketing more difficult then any other field on the earth. It’s difficult to study, even more difficult to apply.

Like military’s strategy, marketing is 90% strategy and 10% execution. It’s recommended not to use your common sense in 90% part.

(Note: We don’t need to discuss the 10% execution part, reason being that, most of the people are already learning from their experience. And students will learn after their completion of their degrees.)

Common sense is mainly a management issue. Management thinks marketing is a common sense, but educated marketers always talk about “Marketing Sense”. Now how many CEOs, marketing managers or directors, you’ve seen, who use their “Marketing Sense”? Very few.

The best CEO I have found is A.G Lafley, P&G America. Just because of that remarkable guy P&G is having outstanding results, winning both in the marketplace and in the consumer’s mind. Not only in USA, but also all around the world. Pick any P&G’s brand you’ll find almost each brand having its own positioning, own identity, own market. They’ve different brands for higher-end customers, different brands for middle class and different brands for lower-end customers.

What is Brand Extension? A common sense!

Here’re some interesting excuses behind brand extension, marketing guys and CEOs, have to make:

1. Brand Extension is an easy way out. Launching a new brand requires time and resources plus a new idea. (Who wants to do that, “We’re not paid enough for extra work”, people think)

2. Our successful brand has too much goodwill in the marketplace that any customer going to buy it.

3. It increases sales. Increases the portfolio and shelf space.

4. CEO has to prolong it’s tenure by showing growth and to increase their take-home pay.

5. CEO has to answer the board of directors.

6. Stock brokers also need to earn some bucks.

7.That’s why, stock brokers ask CEO “How much your profit or sales is going to grow in next quarter or year? ”  

CEO lying to exceed stock brokers’ expectations. CEO calls  in marketing guys to tell them to increase sales and profit. “And your deadline is the next month”. Poor marketers go back to their department and start thinking how to increase those awkward sales. And that’s normally leads to wrong decisions. Wrong strategy! That strategy talks about Brand Extension.

And “Brand Extension” is a common sense. Of course it is!

So how can we grow sales in next quarter? We need a shortcut! Let see what does common sense tell us? Well commonsense tells that you should put your most successful brand name on each of your brand, like Nirala Sweets, Gourmet, Haleeb are doing.

Kamil’s BONUS 1: Yes, your sales will grow rapidly but you have an advantage for the short term, not for the long term.

What happens with your brand in the long term?:

In the long term, there will be no positioning or identity in the mind of consumers.

In the long term, you’ll lose sales to “specialized” brands that have their own identity, certainly!

In the long term, your brand won’t be having any reason to be bought.

“But Hye! I’ve got the reason”, common sense wisdom goes,“Our brand got quality, one day customers will know that and they will come to us.”  Alas! That day will never come.

Let me tell you this in the long term, quality does not matter for the strong successful brands.

Are you sure Rolex gives more accurate time than Timex?

Are you sure your tailor makes better cloths than Hugo Boss?

Rolex gives you prestige. Now where’s the quality of the product in it? It’s the quality of the brand! Quality resides in perception of the consumer. Now ask yourself another question, if you are a coffee lover, will you go to the special coffee shop (Gloria Jean’s) or a restaurant that sells everything?

Kamil’s BONUS 2: Positioning: Gloria Jean’s = Expensive Coffee Shop

Speciality also creates the perception of quality. That’s also one of the biggest reason why Brand Extension is a disease for your brand.

Now this point leads to another Marketing Sense:

It is, “Marketing is the battle of perceptions, not products” wrote Ries and Trout in their books.

Does it mean that we should not care about quality at all? No, I’ll rather suggest you should build your quality but it has little to do with your brand success in marketplace.

Kamil’s BONUS 3: Develop the perception of quality in your brand.

Let’s talk about our favorite Pakistani vocalist brand, Atif Aslam. Remember his song “Hum Kis Gali Ja Rahay Hen”? You might know that critics didn’t like it due to several reasons.

Did Atif Aslam sing it bad? May be. Does it matter? May be not.

The song was a big hit and must have brought alot of money to Atif Aslam.

You see? There’s no correlation between success in the marketplace and quality of the product. We have very few experts or critics in each field. Consumers have alot work to do and they want an ease of mind by staying with the brand. And by the way, who wants to be a laughing stock by going against most of the people? Experts are few.

We all know that, blind tastes proved that Pepsi-Cola tastes better. Coca-Cola reacted with New Coke. Learn from Coca-Cola’s mistake:

Coca-Cola produced a sweeter cola and conducted 200,000 tastes tests that proved the sweeter cola is better than Pepsi-Cola and their original Coca-Cola. Did you know they end up with zero result? Still the original coke, Coca-Cola Classic, outsells all colas in America. Consumers believe what they want to believe. Lesson Learned: Perception is the reality!

Trust me all marketers! You have a great power to influence brands, and ultimately this country’s economic development. It depends on you! With great power, comes great responsibility (I learned from movie, Spiderman.)

So next time, if you’re working on the project in your office or studying a marketing course in university. Do just one thing:

Keep your “Marketing Sense” alive!




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  • Kaloyan Roussev

    Problem with business is that almost everyone involved with the positions possessing power is left-brained.
    Problem number 2 with these people is that they think very short-term! Line extension is like cocaine – it gets you high for the next few hours and then it drains your power, and makes you an addict.

    I loved your article, have you considered gathering your articles and producing a crash course, free e-book to give away to your list?

    • “Line extension is like cocaine – it gets you high for the next few hours and then it drains your power, and makes you an addict.” Perfectly said @f6017fd8258cc16652c2717132981f9a:disqus , Wow, what a bold statement! Thanks for your wonderful comment!Sometime line extensions works, e.g It works against weak competition and brands.
      left-brainer management do not understand it! 

      I’ve thought about a  free e-book to. And about crash course, it’s already going on (from basic to advanced marketing concepts) in the shape of world’s only marketing cartoon videos: Here’s the link http://kamilali.com/category/marketing-basics-and-cartoons/

      • Kaloyan Roussev

        I will check that link out now.

        BTW, In my country’s mobile phone services market, I observe all three competitors making every branding mistake in the book. But when they are all equally bad, the leader is the one that makes the least number of mistakes, right 🙂

        So line extension survives through time because EVERYONE in a market does it. The lucky companies who have a great branding strategy and specialize a brand to a single word, these are the ones who can easily break into a category and take leaders down!

        • I totally agree with you. Wow, I don’t find many people who give very nice statement specially regarding line extension. It seems that you have deep knowledge! Good to have you here. We’ll enjoy the discussion:)

          One eyed man is a king in the land of the blind. Line extension work is several cases. Like you have explained is so true situation.
          Marketers care about brand, where they are supposed to think about creating category. I think, if they can remember this, many problems could have been solved. 

          What do you say @f6017fd8258cc16652c2717132981f9a:disqus ?

          • Kaloyan Roussev

            I think talking with you ignites my passion for branding again :)))

          • I’ll keep on doing that @f6017fd8258cc16652c2717132981f9a:disqus  and you keep on doing that too. Promise?:)

          • Kaloyan Roussev

            I do! 🙂

  • Nidhi

    Dear Kamil
    Congratulations for introducing interesting and useful videos for all of us.
    I have a doubt regarding brand extension.Example Crest is originally a toothpaste brand from P &G.Earlier it introduced Crest line extensions with 12 different toothpastes.Then they went on to launch Crest mouthwash,toothbrush,floss,tooth whitening etc and did their “brand extension”.You say in the long run brand extension will dilute the brand value or positioning.But is it not like that introducing brand extensions would make Crest an expert in complete oral health care or oral hygeine? Will it harm the brand in the long run or will it benefit the brand image,revenue and positioning.Thanks