How difficult is marketing?

This is the question I ask myself.

  • The smartest people mostly do difficult stuff such as engineering, accounting, medicine and nuclear physics.
  • The most creative: paint, write books and design beautiful things.
  • The most business minded run companies, become investors and go into banking.
  • The most entrepreneurial start businesses and become millionaires.

Is it just me, or do the mediocre middle end up in marketing?

It is with this in mind that I found fascinating a recent article where two of the smartest companies in the world talk marketing. Both McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm, and Google are known for employing only the smartest, most analytical people. So when a principal consultant from McKinsey’s New York office interviews the head of global marketing at Google, you can be sure some tough questions will be asked – and answered.

Here follows my summary of a few key points from this interview with Lorraine Twohill, senior vice president of global marketing at Google – it provides great insight into how the smartest people on the planet approach marketing.

On what makes for great marketing:

It’s about creative excellence: “a great central thought, great writing, great creativity”

On knowing your customer:

It’s about “understanding how we can help them”

On product launches:

It’s about creating excitement: “we create something that the world will be excited about”

On the power that “digital” brings to marketing:

It introduces measurement to marketing: “We’re very rigorous. Impact matters, results matter, tracking matters”

On the role of data in measuring marketing success:

It’s not just about the data – great marketing will always be about creativity: “I have a colleague who is writing a paper on the future of marketing: it’s data, data, science, science. I’m like, it’s not!…it is those things, yes. But if you fall down on the art, if you fail on the messaging and storytelling, all that those tools will get you are bad impressions”

On how do you break through the clutter:

Focus on one person that represents your ideal customer: “We start with the user, and we focus on what we call ‘one real user’…if we are going to interrupt you with something that we think is important to you, we have to find a way to tell you about it so that it resonates”

How do you make sure your marketing resonates?

Answer these questions: “Okay, why does the world need this? What is going to change in a person’s life if they have this? What’s unique about this? What’s truly great about it?”

On what’s given marketing such a bad name?

“Substance is really important. And I think that’s what gave marketing a lot of its bad name in the ’80s and ’90s. There was an awful lot of hype”

On the role of marketing in a company?

“to really be the champion of the consumer”

On how marketing can stay in touch with prevailing trends:

“You have to leave the building. Not enough folks do that; too many become very internally focused”

And the most important question: On how marketing fits into the Google culture?

“You have a seat at the genius table with people that can code, people that are creative, and are extraordinarily talented. To have a seat there, you need to raise your game”

My conclusion: marketing is as difficult as you want it to be. The really good marketers will always aim to raise their game and have a seat at the table with the best engineers, accountants, entrepreneurs, business owners….and rocket scientists. Dare I say that it is only a handful of marketers that push themselves this hard.

Image source: Flickr