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Breaking the cycle of bad marketing

Author's avatar By Danyl Bosomworth 03 Oct, 2013
Essential Essential topic

Do you recognise these 5 Marketing Sins?

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not referring to some of us heading towards winter. We’re reviewing the results of this year's marketing efforts, rueing some decisions and celebrating others. We’re also looking to next year and asking “where do we go from here”? Dependent on this years results you're possibly busy justifying, arguing, rejoicing and, if you’re smart, we’re planning what’s next.

Are you about to screw it up?

The next three months is when, we’d suggest, you’re most likely to screw up next years marketing, and it'll be down to what you don't do. A marketing screw up will most likely be down to one or more of five dynamics - we call them The Sins. Unfortunately they tend to fall into each other and accelerate, like the proverbial plug-hole. The good news is that, it's all fixable with some planning and focus.

What are the 5 marketing sins?

The 5 Sins of Bad Marketing and How to Fix them using Marketing Planning from Smart Insights

Do you recognise these symptoms? I have also added some suggestions on steps that can be taken.


Sin ONE. Chaotic:

  • Unplanned and short-term thinking is fundamentally what kills businesses, ones just like yours, and it does not matter how big you are since that only determines the height of the fall. Chaos is typically where you’re horizon is so low you’re about to trip over you’re own feet. Campaigns become irrelevant, siloed technicians sit separately from each other. By technician I mean any one specialist who is focussed on their "one thing" only whether that's copywriting, creative, developing, Social media or SEO. It's a recipe for chaos - you will fail if there is no integration, harmony and a shared vision.
    • Fix the chaos: Have a purpose, a vision for marketing, offer leadership and make sure it’s our vision and not yours. Why are you and your team even here anyway? Give context to specialist areas through integrated planning frameworks to connect the specialists and technicians on a shared mission with relatable KPIs. Ground creatives, planners and strategists in the reality of today too. Define where you are going with a believable plan - commit and persist in the execution of it.

Sin TWO. Inward:

  • The bigger or more established the brand, and this is likely the biggest sin of all. Product, service and sales promotion led marketing make it about you and not your audience. Making marketing primarily about your shiny new thing misses the point and will fail to connect with your target audience, they’ve never been more bombarded with so many brand’s average, new stuff. You are not Apple, and so those people do not care.
    • Help your audience care: Put the customer front and centre, genuinely. Effective marketing starts with your CURRENT customer base, your existing tribe, not an abstract audience “in Facebook”. What motivates and bothers them? How can you serve that? Building and deepening relations with your existing tribe of customers and fans is the smartest marketing move that you can make and how you can achieve scalable reach. It’s also what social media marketing is actually for.

Sin THREE. Hyperbole:

  • The latest, greatest, newest… in the large part, forget it for now. Sure we all love to read what the experts say, what’s next and what’s hot, what the big brands are doing. And, you must filter that into your reality, and more importantly for the reality of you audience. Do not get distracted from what needs to be done today, avoid chasing the next shiny object unless it really is relevant.
    • Focus: Deliver on relevant models of innovation, use the shiny new stuff and the big brand campaigns as means to inspire and re-imagine what is relevant to you, your audience and your plan. Create a space to process what’s new and exciting in order you can filter it into your own plans.

Sin FOUR: Isolation:

  • This is a tough one. Everyone’s a marketer these days - you’ll have accountants telling you dumb-ass things to try - I’ve been there - and a word of caution, they don’t like to receive accounting advice back. However, telling yourself that “they don’t get it” and scurrying into your corner is not a solution and only isolates the marketing function from commercial reality, it also starts to suggest your time is up and you need to move on (which may well be your best option), assuming not though…
    • Get aligned: At whatever cost, no matter how much pride you need to swallow, how much teeth grinding initially, central to your mission is aligning marketing to commercial success. Do this and respect is yours, influence is yours and the keys to the kingdom are yours. Work with data and fact-bases. Develop business cases that show mature, calculated risks. Understand bigger commercial objectives (if there aren’t any, demand them) in order you can translate them into marketing objectives, strategies, plans and KPIs that enable you to open up the perceived black-hole of marketing to a management team. That team will love you for it, they just don't know how to do it, but you can. This is key and gives so much power to marketing to make positive change.

Sin FIVE. Unimaginative:

  • Dull, un-resourceful marketing is a slippery slope. Worrying about what used to happen, what competitors are doing, how the market might change only leads to asking the wrong questions, doing the wrong work and ultimately you will lose customer trust. You no longer speak “to me”, you’re another average brand in an ocean of average noisy brands. I cannot hear you, I don’t want to and you’re not relevant or even worth talking about.
    • Imagine and persist: Focus on bringing your brand to life through the service and entertainment of your audience. How can you do that? What tools, information and tactics might be employed in marketing in the service of your audience. Imagination is the key to it. Failures on the way are an inevitable means to adjust direction, they are not absolute and nor are they the end. If something isn’t working you will know (due to your commercially aligned KPI dashboard), so re-think it, re-shape and if needed, plan again. A plan affords a means to measure and navigate obstacles on your way to success. If you don’t re-shape your thinking, someone else is going to do it for you. That means bad things for you.

How can you Plan to Succeed?

We've compiled a Slideshare and shared a number of free planning tools on our #PlanToSucceed campaign page, where we will be sharing advice on tips for better planning through the Autumn of 2013. Take a look here. We hope these free resources are helpful.

How do you see it? What's your experience, what can you challenge or share?

Please let us know in the comments below or ask a question about planning in our Answers forum...

Author's avatar

By Danyl Bosomworth

Dan helped to co-found Smart Insights in 2010 and acted as Marketing Director until leaving in November 2014 to focus on his other role as Managing Director of First 10 Digital. His experience spans brand development and digital marketing, with roles both agency and client side for nearly 20 years. Creative, passionate and focussed, his goal is on commercial success whilst increasing brand equity through effective integration and remembering that marketing is about real people. Dan's interests and recent experience span digital strategy, social media, and eCRM. You can learn more about Dan's background here Linked In.

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