Industry News

How to invest in better marketing - Part Seven

Editor’s note: This is the last part of a seven-part series on managing your marketing portfolio. Check out parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Marketers must avoid “messaging drift” like investors should be watchful of “style shift” in their mutual fund managers.

Marketing experts agree that to avoid “messaging drift” in their media channels, the trick is not to rely on the popularity and quantity of topics to dictate your brand’s future social strategy. Having a lot of people talking about your brand is good, but having them finish their conversation with the right idea about your brand is the true goal.

And just as “messaging drift” can erode brand equity, “style drift” amongst mutual fund managers can erode the investment integrity of your portfolio. Because just like social strategies driven solely by positive usage metrics can take a brand off its optimal course, “style drift” can derail your original investment objectives.

This happened just before the tech bubble in 2000 when everyone at cocktail parties was talking about their high-flying tech stocks. Many investors who felt they were missing out called their brokers to purchase tech funds and equities, in some cases adding 10-20% more exposure to the technology sector. These same investors were totally unaware that the funds they already owned had managers who were in the midst of their own “style drift”, purchasing more tech to raise their returns. So now, instead of the investor having 10-20% of their portfolio in tech, they had 35-45% of their portfolio in tech. Then pow! The tech bubble burst and so did a large chunk of their net worth.

To avoid “messaging drift,” marketers must hold all of their messaging across all their channels accountable to the brand idea, in much the same way that investors must hold investment advisers and fund managers accountable.

Often, paid media focuses on conveying the brand idea, while social media focuses on lifestyle connectivity, but few do both. The linkage is critical. Similarly, fund managers get paid to increase yields, but doing so by shifting the investment strategy established in their prospectuses, undermines the foundation of balance in an investor’s diversified portfolio.

Yet there are some CMOs who believe that strategic message alignment should be expressed in terms of the “desired brand takeaway” rather than the popular “single-minded message” idea. This leaves creative teams to explore different paths to bring the idea to life in much the same way that fund managers feel that “style shift” is not something bad, but simply a different path for acquiring higher yields. Their “brand takeaway” is, “well my large cap fund was in the top 1%, that’s what you hired me for. What does it matter how I achieved that.”

Picking a financial adviser is as difficult as selecting a marketing adviser.

Financial media, social media and online forums make it easy for investors today to share investment tips and strategies, resulting in many Americans now managing investments on their own—instead of hiring a financial adviser.

It’s no coincidence that a lot of marketers are also handling their advertising and marketing on their own. They use new online tools, free social media platforms, inexpensive website templates, and easy access to a wide variety of out-of-work talent from advertising agencies to staff in-house marketing departments—instead of hiring a professional, full-service marketing firm.

And just as many Americans lack the basic financial literacy to be any good at disciplined investing, many of today’s do-it-yourself marketers lack the marketing savvy, research capabilities, account planning experience, media buying skills, creativity and discipline to effectively build their brands in the long term while driving sales in the short term.

Although many American investors are going it alone, nearly 75% of investors told Gallup that they’ve sought professional advice to create a financial plan. But whose advice are investors taking? Since brokers, advisers and financial planners all have different credentials, different cost structures, different methodologies, and different obligations toward clients, the choices are many... and confusing.

Similarly, marketers are confused about whom to hire for their initiatives because there is an ever-increasing fragmentation in the market place.

Today there are more web marketing, web design and SEO firms than there are advertising agencies. Today, PR firms are doing social media and multi-channel campaigns. Full-service ad agencies are doing social media, SEO, SEM and web marketing to keep their clients “in the fold.” Clients are asking themselves, “Should I hire a web marketing firm, a PR firm, a full-service advertising agency, a freelancer, or work directly with one of my local cable stations, newspapers or printers who will do my ads for little or no cost.”

And just like the investor choices mentioned earlier, all of these advisers have a different set of client experiences, pricing models, depth of staff, and expertise in different channels and industries that makes the decision process even more confusing.

As Ben Franklin once said, "An investment in knowledge pays the most interest."

Perhaps that says it all.  

Stuart Dornfield is an award-winning freelance creative director and copywriter with 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. A former senior vice president and creative director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13th largest agency in the U.S., and the co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, the third largest agency in South Florida, Stuart now offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami.