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Responsible Marketing

How marketing is like pushing a car

By May 5, 2008July 23rd, 20208 Comments
pushing a car like marketing

When I was a penniless college student at Gonzaga University, I pushed many a “beater-with-a-heater.”

I pushed my ’69 Beetle. I pushed my ’73 Maverick. I pushed my ’81 Chevette. I became an expert at pushing cars in rain, snow, sleet or hail. Laugh all you want, but that Beetle was sweet when it was running.

Anyway, first thing you do is you remove the emergency brake. That helps a lot.

Then you place your hands on the trunk lid, lean in and push. At first, the car will barely budge.

So you lean into it more, dig in with your feet, and put your shoulder against the trunk and push with all you have. Provided you aren’t going up hill—that sucks—the car will begin to creep along slowly.

As the car begins to roll, momentum will take over and things will get easier.

Soon, you’ll be walking behind the car, one hand on the trunk.

That’s what it’s like with marketing.

When you first get started, it takes everything you have with seemingly no results.

As you make adjustments, little things begin to happen.

And if you get the opportunity to make more adjustments to your adjustments, you can turn those little things into bigger things.

Eventually, marketing gets easier, momentum takes over and the results will come.

That’s why casting responsibility is so important: Your organization must have the right people on your team internally and externally.

All too often, organizations fire their CMO, Marketing Director or marketing firm before they’ve had a chance to make the adjustments that make the difference between success and failure.

So, how much time should a Marketing Director, CMO or marketing firm be given before you start to see results?

Comment below to weigh in.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Vineet says:

    This is the first time i am reading ur blog. I agree with what u are saying but then momentum builds up once things get rolling and this is true not only with marketing but with nearly everything we do.

    This post could have better content had it addressed the marketing momentum aspect in a bit more detail.

  • Will Boyd says:

    That is a great metaphor. Our culture has trained us to want everything, including marketing results, now. It seems that organizations that are looking to use social media for marketing are no exception. I think people hear terms like “viral” and expect that just putting something out there into the social media space will provide instant success.

    When I read “casting responsibility, I can’t help but think of organizations that won’t want to dedicate talented people to a campaign that doesn’t show immediate results. What I hear in your post, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that organizations should bed prepared to be dedicated to their message. It seems to me that if they are dedicated to their message, they will be much more likely to commit the resources (people and funds) and time necessary to tell that message responsibly. After all, even though it was tough at times, you seemed dedicated to those cars.

  • 2 years minimum. But both sides owe each other the commitment. Many companies whack the marketing guy too soon, but many marketing dept heads leave when the going gets tough.

  • Vineet: Funny you say that. I actually had a much more detailed draft on this post. So detailed, in fact, that I broke it out for a future post.

    I’ve received feedback that says some of my posts are quite good (which I love to hear) but I bit long (which I don’t love to hear). So, there will be more on the topic, but you’ll need to stay tuned.


  • Will: I agree. It can be a challenge getting to invest in a long-term integrated marketing strategy (that will have legs) vs. tactical, a la carte short-term marketing that brings a little lift now (but has little meaning in the future).

  • Neal: Thanks for the feedback. The average tenure of a CMO is 26 months, so it would seem your two year window is about the norm.

    I’d argue it needs to be even longer than that.

    It takes months to the necessary research, strategy and planning done. Then months more to deploy creative. I’d love to see at least two cycles, plus a few quarters to see if things are beginning to gain some traction, myself.

  • gp says:

    I think two years is a good base, but it probably takes 2-3 to achieve that momentum. Depending on your company, two years is a reasonable amount of time to really understand the ethos of the company, products, customers, etc. I’m one of the lucky guys who “walked” into a position where the CEO knew what he was looking for and realized ahead of time it will take some time. We’ve already had some successful campaigns in only 4 months, but time will tell. I company must have consistency over time to see results. It’s kind of like a rock band–you go through a sales cycle–you put out an album, make a video, tour, schlep you schwag at concerts, take a holiday, and repeat. That cycle tends to be about two years. The second cycle should follow the same basic pattern. In my opinion, if you survive two cycles, you’d be a fool not to go for a third. And, it is when things get tough that marketing, to me anyway, becomes fun.

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