Of course marketing matters in Manufacturing. However, it is often more transparent to some than others. This blog post is centered on the coolness of learning when learning wasn’t the intent. This very true story unfolds during our company’s Friday afternoon break…which took on a life of its own in 2017. The 15 minute work break, known within Pine as “2:45 Coffee with Dave”, entailed open and light discussions about random topics. Often, the topics included humorous discussions about this foreign concept called marketing.
You see, in our company of technical experts, chemists, and engineers, where our products are known world-wide based on reputation, design, engineering and customer care, marketing has not exactly been a focus. This subject of marketing that I spent a small fortune earning a bachelor and master degree learning and practicing has occasionally been the butt of many jokes internally. All in fun, of course. Thankfully, I take things in stride but not without having a little fun of my own. I decided to take on a personal challenge to “enlighten” my left-brain colleagues on this subject called Marketing.
Our marketing exercise started very innocently from a bottle of coconut water. Not a coffee drinker, I was inclined to bring a beverage that I (and maybe others) might enjoy over coffee. So, I insisted that our small group try this new and curious drink. As the passing of each week, a new and different bottled water would make its debut during break. We quickly found ourselves analyzing the packaging and being thoroughly amused at the interesting claims and marketing efforts used to sell…water. Each appealing to a very specific market. The uniqueness and creativity used to sell each bottle of water provided fun entertainment on the sparse and quiet Friday afternoons. With exotic origins like New Zealand, Italy, Hawaii, Iceland and Fiji, some of our favorite water propaganda included:
- “Purified water infused with molecular hydrogen”
- “Naturally filtered through pristine lava rock…the source of an epic life.”
- “Mother Nature is the best chemist…”
- “Naturally Hydrating”
- “Live Healthy…Porous Volcanic Rock filtered Water”
- “Wild prickly pear cactus water”
- “HappyTree – Lemon Maple Water”
As the year went on, Friday afternoon breaks were approached with great anticipation; what would we be analyzing, tasting, and discussing this week? Did the water taste different from last weeks? How did we feel after drinking it? Would we buy the product again? You know…all those questions and tactics used by marketers to promote and sell products and services. There were a few weeks where our analysis expanded to organic teas and kombucha. To add to the fun, someone donated a package of those cute little 2oz mini red cups for sampling. And just like at home, we all wrote our name on the cups for the coming weeks.
After months of informal marketing analysis, I’ve seen evidence within the team of genuine understanding and an appreciation of the works of marketing. Some are more cognizant of the “how” and “why” of certain purchases. But more importantly, many understand the role marketing serves within our company and to our customers. Sometimes it’s just not enough to have a great product; that a little marketing might be required to reach the intended target. We’re learning that details such as branding, consistency, packaging and messaging all matter. A mere $194 billion was spent in media advertising in the United States in 2016 with estimated expense exceeding $200 billion in 2017. If marketing has no teeth, then why would companies blow this kind of cash? Wikipedia defines marketing as the study and management of exchange relationships. Marketing, in part with many other factors, is used to create, keep and satisfy the customer. Granted, we may have had a little too much fun as we learned a bit about marketing at the expense of bottled water. And we mean no disrespect or insincerity toward those companies and their marketing efforts. On the contrary, it was rather impressive – the creativity used to differentiate and promote water. And in every case, we walked away with our thirst quenched, more hydrated and smiling from the experience.
The lesson in all of this is that we must listen to what matters to the customer. And with high integrity and accuracy, we must represent and market our products and services that best serve those needs. Re-visit our websites, marketing collateral, print and digital ads with a fresh (but critical) eye routinely. Do we deliver what we say we deliver? Does the customer actually want and need what we are selling? Are we honest and intentional with our message and value proposition to a new customer? Do we accurately communicate why a customer would want to do business with us?
What started as a little Friday afternoon fun, turned into a year-long lesson in marketing. Whether it be through the lens of a consumer or a supplier, take note of how marketing has triggered behavior. Was it delivered with honesty and integrity? To understand the “what, where, when and why” of consumer engagement is to appreciate all the marketing efforts backstage. And yes, without question, marketing always matters. It matters in every aspect of business, our community and our personal lives.