Posted by: kwbrand | September 24, 2010

The Role of Advertising in Strategic Marketing


I recently worked with the type of client that makes it easy for a brand marketing consultant love her job. Their team was thoughtful, open, eager to learn, and perhaps best of all, willing to make decisions and move forward. Love you MNU.

Over the course of the project, we talked about the difference between advertising and marketing—or perhaps more specifically, where advertising fits into marketing. For those who don’t spend their waking hours thinking about brand and direct marketing strategy, it’s easy to mistake the most visible extension of marketing as the whole of marketing. It’s fall around here so I’ll provide a seasonally appropriate example.

Envision a beautiful maple tree.

Within the tree is its maple-specific cells are the little maple-flavored genetic coding bits necessary for growing maple roots that thrive in specific maple-friendly conditions and produce maple wood, bark, branches and leaves. You might look at the maple leaves in fall and say “Those are pretty. They make me happy.” Or, for those of you less inclined to sanguinity, you might see them and say “Oh crap. Gotta get out that old rake or hope there’s a stiff wind that blows those leaves into the neighbor’s yard and out of mine.” Either way, the tendency is to look at the most colorful, waving, outward extensions of the tree and forget about the structure beneath.

So it is with the role of advertising in marketing. Many of the preliminary activities of strategic marketing happen behind the scenes and within the vital, but plainly dressed, trunk of the marketing tree. There is a progression to strategic marketing that starts inward and proceeds up and outward and typically includes activities like these:

  • Clarifying the salient parts of the organizational culture that serves like the DNA and provide direction to questions like: What do we do better than anyone else? Are there products or processes we need to fix before going public with more marketing and advertising?
  • Defining the strategic goals (sales, cultural or otherwise) that steer the marketing activities and answer the questions: What are we trying to do more, better or differently? How will we measure this?
  • Doing the market research to answer questions about the customer’s demographics, decision-making process, access points (e.g. the media they use) and emotional trigger points.
  •  Selecting the marketing tactics which will lay a solid foundation of brand awareness so that when you do advertising, people have heard of you and associate the right attributes with your name.
  • Defining a reasonable number of direct marketing tactics—such as advertising—that will reach out to the customers and draw them inward.
  • Taking care to establish collection points that track return on investment (you can call them the giant black trash-bags of advertising leaflets if you must; either way the point is to ensure that your activities are measured against the goals to assess efficacy).

For those of you who find models more useful than metaphors, this is the (oversimplified) one I used with my client.

Strategic Marketing Approach Model

Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation

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