Everyone Works for the Marketing Department

Last night I was fortunate enough to make my way with Heather Mosley to deCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA for Marketing Profs Smart Marketers Tour – Boston. In addition to a gorgeous venue and evening, the crowd was lively and the speakers – interviewed by Matt Grant of Marketing Profs – were excellent. I’m also a big fan of Marketing Profs Chief Evangelist, Ann Handley – so anytime I get to see her and chat for even a minute is a bonus.

As a former Harvard Square resident, I was very interested to hear the lessons learned – and continued innovations of – Harvard Bookstore’s Jeff Mayersohn, who bought the store in 2008. He talked about the challenges of buying a book and mortar business in an industry that has been rumored to be dying. He mentioned that many people told him he was “insane” – and I believe it is that kind of insanity that helps us reach disruption. You also have to be a little bit crazy to be an entrepreneur – it’s the only way to survive. Jeff’s craziness has obviously paid off, as the business has doubled its growth under his tenure, through online marketing, innovative events and unique offerings such as the Expresso Book Machine, which prints any book in just five minutes. In addition to his interesting tales of business and marketing success, Jeff reminded us why technology isn’t going to replace books but rather, can enhance the experience of reading and buying them. He had plenty of powerful and interesting quotes that rang true for me, such as “When you go into a bookstore, the best experience is finding a book you didn’t know existed but you just have to read.” He’s right – it’s akin to any online shopping for me, really. Online is about speed and convenience, but it is never as fun as going into a funky store draped in goodies that I can touch, feel, try out and discover.

The second guest was Lou Imbriano, the former vice president and chief marketing officer of the New England Patriots and current president and CEO of TrinityOne, a marketing strategy and business advisory consultancy, and author of Winning the Customer. Lou is a character. In addition to his self proclaimed “freakin’ brilliant” marketing ideas, he is chock full of sound bytes that had everyone Tweeting away during his interview. Lou took it well when members of the audience chided him a bit for touting his success for an organization that has different challenges – and deeper pockets – than most traditional marketers face. Nonetheless, Lou gave us interesting insight into his experiences in marketing a beloved brand through good seasons and bad, and how he continued to create new milestones for himself and his marketing team to surpass. I also loved that he talked about teaching everyone in the organization why marketing matters. In fact, one of his most controversial quotes of the night was,

“Everyone works for marketing; everyone needs to be a custodian of the brand.”

Now, non-marketers might not like this. Sales, HR, customer service, maybe even the C-Suite might take offense. But if they can set aside their egos for a minute and think about it, they’ll realize that although not technically accurate, it’s true. And of course, marketing works for every division in the company as well. Lou had some of his own great examples of this – such as the receptionist of the Boston Red Sox answering the phone in a shrill voice and having someone have that as their first interaction with the brand. I’ve said before in previous posts that marketing’s work is wiped out if the other departments of a company don’t hold up to and follow through on the promises marketing publicly makes to customers and prospects every day. Marketing can work consistently to develop a beloved brand, but no doubt that even one bad customer service experience can tarnish all that hard work faster that you can say “Twitter.”

In fact, I had my own such experience on the way to the event. I had recently received a new credit card from TJX – after many trips to Marshalls and as a self-proclaimed “Maxxinista,” they finally convinced me to open a rewards card useable across their stores. So while driving to the MP event, I called to activate my card. Only I couldn’t because they kept telling me that my birth date was inaccurate. (Um, no.) After 15 excruciatingly frustrating minutes of just trying to get off with the computerized system and on with an actual human being, I finally explained the situation and thought surely, this customer service rep could help. I was sure she’d recognize that human error on their end (inputting my DOB into their system incorrectly) meant they should run my social security number and see that they indeed had my DOB wrong, and simply fix it so I could activate my card. But no, this woman explained to me that it would a multiple step process on my end to fax in a bunch of information in order to fix this issue that was their mistake. By this point, I was beyond agitated and explained to her that I thought it was ridiculous to put the customer through all of these extra steps when 1) the error was clearly on their end and 2) they could run my ss# and all other details and confirm that they indeed have my DOB wrong and simply fix it. She didn’t seem to care that I was frustrated and just offered to cancel the card. That further irritated me because anyone knows that opening and closing credit cards haphazardly can negatively affect your credit rating. Furthermore, I found it absolutely ludicrous that in the end she actually did offer to activate the card for me – but told me I couldn’t pay it online or access my rewards. In other words, without my correct DOB I can still spend and shop with the card – but I CAN’T PAY YOU in the fastest, easy way possible (online)?

This experience – a cumulative 20 minutes – just tainted my feelings about the TJX brand even though technically, it’s probably the financial institution behind the card that is to blame (well them, and the woman behind the counter at Marshalls that made the error in the first place and is thus causing me this massive headache just to SPEND MONEY WITH TJX). Case in point – even your partners work for your marketing department. This partner of TJX left a bad taste in my mouth for going back in and spending more money with them any time soon.

So, what Lou said resonates with me – and it should resonate with you. You likely pay a lot to market your company, product and brand. Why not let other departments recognize their role in “working for marketing” – upholding those brand promises in every single interaction they have with customers? From the customer service rep to the receptionist, intern at a networking event to CEO speaking at a major conference, everyone does indeed have an impact on the marketing of your brand.

Christine Perkett and Heather Mosley of PerkettPR at Boston's MPTour

Thanks for the soundbytes, Lou, and for a great event with many fascinating lessons, Marketing Profs!