Marketing’s Civil War

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Jacques asks if we’re in the midst of a culture clash between branding and measurement. The answer is yes — and in financial services, it’s more than just a culture clash — it’s a civil war within marketing. And there’s no question in my mind that branding is winning. How else could you explain the following:

Direct magazine reported that Scotiabank “figured out how to measure the impact of its brand advertising.” Since it “already had a handle on direct mail and email”, the bank measured the “success” of TV, print, and outdoor ads in driving consumers to its web site to sign up for a plasma TV giveaway. Since no direct mail or email was sent, site visitors who registered for the contest were credited to the TV spots. According to the article “Scotiabank has joined the parade of brands that’s trying to bring direct marketing’s accountability to brand advertising.”

No mention of how many sweepstakes entrants became customers, mind you.

At first, I couldn’t believe that someone at the bank would say it “had a handle on direct mail and email.” But then I realized that if it was a quote, it probably came from a branding warrior being dismissive of the direct channels.

But — as financial institutions increasingly move from gross to net measurement to gauge the success of their direct marketing efforts — it boggles the mind that Marketing at Scotiabank can get away with this kind of justification on its ad spend, and would even flaunt it as a measure of brand accountability.

Anybody can give away plasma TVs. N-E-Bah-Dee.

That branding is winning this war is somewhat of a paradox, when you consider that many execs — especially CFOs — want better quantitative justification for marketing investments. But they don’t “get” analytics and database marketing like they “get” advertising. After all, everybody is an advertising expert.

Can the measurement/database marketing army stay in the game and make it a fight? Sure. The “Competing On Analytics” Harvard Business Review article and book by Tom Davenport helps — but only slightly. While a number of analytic-types I know see this as proof (hope?) that analytics can rise to the strategic level, I’m not so optimistic. I think it’s more likely that the branding folks will find a way to hijack the term “analytics”, throw away the “brand equity” moniker, and start talking about “brand analytics.”

What will happen in some firms is akin to what happens in real-life civil wars — one side turns to outside assistance to help fight the war. Where database marketers will turn — or should turn — depends on whether their firm is marketing-, sales-, or finance-driven.

In sales-driven firms, smart database marketers will enlist Sales’ help. It won’t be easy, of course, if Sales isn’t happy with the quantity, quality, and distribution of leads generated today. Improving on these areas can be one way for the database marketers to gain Sales’ support to fight the battle with branding. In finance-driven firms, database marketing will align with the CFO organization. Again, the analytic side may have some credibility-building to do.

But enlisting outside help risks exposing the internal battles within Marketing, airing its dirty laundry to the rest of the organization. And credibility-building efforts may take more time than some have the patience for.

In financial firms that are already marketing-driven, I’m not at all optimistic that the analytics side can win the budget and justification battles. In these firms, it will likely take a drop in sales and profitability to force a change in culture and org structure to give analytics a shot at winning. And if that does happen, I’d still bet that the firm either brings in a new CMO from the outside, or promotes someone internally from a completely different function altogether.

On top of all this, remember — this is just one aspect to marketing’s civil war. It doesn’t even address the warring factions within the branding camp, who fight over the distinctions between (as Jim puts it) “branding” and “the brand.”

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