On why marketing and communication matters

Via my latest Working Knowldge newsletter from the Harvard Business School, I found my way to this blog post from John Quelch about how marketing won Barack Obama the recent Presidential election in the US. The key message for me was that marketing matters – big time.  And the news isn’t lost on me in terms of my professional work – information management and knowledge management.

The first observation I want to make is that even small actors can make a difference. The blog says that over half of the $639 million of campaign funds raised by the Obama camp came from people making donations of less than $300 each. Aggregation matters.

The second observation is that the Obama message used as many communication channels as possible. This is really important – just because the message goes out on one channel doesn’t mean that there is no need to send out the same message (in appropriate form) using other channels. Naturally, one must consider the overall costs and benefits, not all of us have the Obama fundraising power. However, what we can do is look at the different communication channels and seek to exploit as many relevant channels as possible within our defined limits. Remember, many web-based and digital networked communication channels are very inexpensive. Communication channels extend your communication reach.

Thirdly, while it may be comforting to appeal to your current or known audience, it pays to go that bit further and extend your target zone to people that could come on board. That means looking where the potential gains are with the message and the service you are delivering.

Finally, the marketing pitch from Obama was both emotional and functional. Establishing an emotional response to products and services was something I learned in Marketing 101, but the fact remains that we obtain a greater sense of personal value and satisfaction if we can look beyond just the function. After all, do Ford, Renault and Mercedes just make cars?

I was asked recently about how I would improve the standing of an information service within an organisation. There are three critical responses: deliver to the customer what the customer needs, make the information service visible through marketing and communication (after ensuring you can deliver a quality service AND have the capacity to support new business), and keep up the level of personal communication with your stakeholders AND potential stakeholders, thereby generating trust and emotional engagement. An information service is more than just a function.

The key is communication. And marketing is a form of communication. Marketing is a good thing – use it wisely and it can yield tremendous results.

And if you’re still not convinced, go to your local ABC shop and buy yourself the DVD of the Gruen Transfer – an essential look at advertising and marketing.

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