The Top Five Marketing Insights I Got From B-School

May 20, 2008

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my business school experience was like drinking from a fire hose. I was exposed to so many theories, concepts and studies that I had a hard time keeping them all straight for exams, much less applying them months or years later. I despaired at my inability to judge which piece of recommended reading or which hallway aside would someday prove to be the difference between bountiful success and tragic failure. I wanted the quick and dirty solutions that I knew came with study, experience and adversity. I wanted shortcuts. I didn’t get them.

What I did get was a job marketing video games. It’s a dream job, since I’m getting paid to work in an industry I diligently supported for years. What I’ve learned in the last year or so that I’ve been at it is that I actually did get a lot of great information in and out of class. The basics were right on the money — the three C’s and the four P’s and CRM and ROI are all terms and concepts I use every day. And don’t even get me started on the web marketing acronyms — SEO and PV and PPC, RON and ROS. It makes my eyes hurt sometimes. Beyond the fundamentals and the industry specific details, though, there were little peripheral pieces of information I picked up that have come in extremely handy. I’d like to share a few of them here in the hope that they may benefit others.

1) Be The Champion

This one seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve found it’s critical to be very clear about why my products rule to internal and external stakeholders. I’m responsible for two games in our corporate portfolio. One is a dependable earner with a rich tradition in our company and in the industry. It’s also got a very small marketing budget. The other is the new hotness, a sexy property that is instantly identifiable and has loads of potential. It has a ‘AAA’ marketing budget. Every day I have to justify why the first product deserves more love, money and attention and the second product deserves the love, money and attention it’s got.

2) Memorize Your Briefs

When I’m pitching a concept for a new promotion or for a piece of marketing collateral (like a commercial or a magazine ad), I always write a creative brief. I make sure that it’s extremely detailed and explains the purpose I hope to accomplish or the message I’m trying to communicate. I provide reference material, comparisons and even write out an example or two that I think would be worth exploring.

Long story short: Nobody will read your briefs. Not the ad agency you’re paying millions, not the lawyers who need to protect you from liability, not the business owners who share your fiscal responsibility. A good boss might read them and provide feedback, but don’t count on it. Just memorize them. Memorize them down to the last detail. When you’re in a meeting and nobody has read your briefs, the faster you can bring them up to speed on your brilliant ideas and keep everyone on task, the more likely you’ll be to get a result that you’re happy with.

3) Know Your Customer Inside & Out

On any given day I’m not just positioning games and services for consumers in the marketplace, I’m also interacting with multiple functions inside the business. I need to remember that the legal department has a different set of needs than the website group, and that the database team isn’t interested in the same details as business development. Find out the needs of the different functional groups in your organization as quickly as you can. I’m constantly changing the focus of my message depending on the audience. I find it’s the fastest way to get my initiatives implemented.

4) Branding Is Not Marketing

Marketing is when I push a message out to consumers. PR is when someone else tells you that message. Advertising is when the message gets repeated over and over again through multiple channels. Branding is when consumers come to me and ask me about my message. Guess which one I’m most interested in?

And my personal favorite…

5) Simple Stuff Works

When in doubt, go with something simple. Every industry has a list of best practices in marketing. Learn yours, and don’t be afraid to use them. There’s always a chance after work to brainstorm blue-sky, brilliant solutions that have a lot of moving parts, but when time is tight it’s good to know what works. Like blogs and lists, for example. Those work every time.


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