8: Good marketing doesn’t always work

Posted on Posted in 15th Anniversary

week eight

I have recently been working with a client that is going through a significant amount of internal change. This has resulted in a major disruption of all their marketing. As I have navigated through this change, I have experienced anxiety and frustration. Part of this is coming from the natural tendency we all have to resist change, but there is also a deeper truth I uncovered.

A major confession?

The clarity I have gotten is the result of a somewhat uncomfortable truth about marketing: I don’t know what part of their marketing works! Divulging that you don’t know what works sounds like a confession, but it’s a truth of marketing that has not changed. Some time in the 19th century a successful marketer, John Wanamaker (1838-1922) lamented “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”. I have found this statement to be very true, and yet when people look to you for expertise it is hard to not feel you are letting clients down. The hardest part of this truth is that it takes time for marketing changes to effect results. Sometime a long time. If you are doing good things and you stop, it will not show up for a while in your marketing results. Likewise when you start doing the right things, you won’t see positive results for some time.

Good news in the bad news

There is a silver lining in marketing in 2018. In the internet age, it is a lot easier and less expensive to try new things, test ideas, and monitor activity. The risk is jumping to a new strategy to soon. It is important to have a good marketing system in place so you have a benchmark. Experimenting with new things will then helps you improve or confirm you are doing things well because you can measure against your benchmark.

While I would not recommend gutting your whole marketing strategy overnight, I am trying to learn from the experience and see it as an opportunity to examine each aspect. Sadly, I still don’t know exactly what works, but because I have a set of marketing metrics I use to chart and benchmark, I can clearly watch what is going on and discover what works.


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Jeffery James
Jeffery James
Jeffery is the Creative Director and Principal of Spire2. He brings marketing expertise from a variety of industries. He excels at understanding clients' corporate objectives, translating them into brand positioning and executing marketing materials that exceed expectations.