Please accept all cookies to ensure proper website functionality. Set my cookie preferences

Part 1 of this article covered the first four of the 13 worst marketing mistakes. Here is the next batch.

5. "Marvin, what do we do now?"

At the end of the 1972 hit movie The Candidate, Robert Redford's character suddenly finds he has become so focused on the next step that he has forgotten where he is going.

You can have the best strategy and plan in the world, built on game-changing insights, with great financials and distribution and cost structure, but if you don't know what your destination is, you're giving some smart chess player the chance to beat you in the endgame. Worse, you'll find yourself committed to going in the wrong direction, headed toward limbo.

Back in the '80s, author Stephen Covey said, "Begin with end in mind," and it's still great advice. What are we trying to achieve? Who do we want to be when we grow up? Why does all this work matter? If you can't answer those queries at the start of a journey and at every stop along the way, your greatest accomplishments will likely be built on sand.

Mariners throughout the ages have relied on the pole star to guide them. They have known they can tack with the winds, get blown off course, but still find their way.

Similarly, all businesses, brands, and marketers need a vision and mission to remind them where they are going and why. Refer to you vision and mission often; let them be your pole star.

6. "'Twas ever thus"

Change is the one constant. We all know that. We just want to forget. So every time you think, This is how we've always done it, it's probably time to consider options.

Shake up your process. Tear down your walls. Build a bonfire from your axioms. Reach for the outrageous. At worst, you'll have a good giggle. But maybe you'll invent a new market or at least a happier, more productive organization.

Yes, there are unchanging principles. A few. Everything else is spinning in the washer and dryer of life. So be audacious and see what you can make happen.

7. "If we build it, they will come"

That mentality begs the two questions at the heart of the marketer's discipline:

  1. Who are they?
  2. Why should they care enough to come?

Every marketer understands that, but how often we forget! The siren song of technology lures us to discussing features rather than benefits. Talk about "the consumer" tricks us into forgetting that the market is an aggregate of different segments, and segments are aggregates of unique people with individual needs.

The Who are they? question involves a whole range of possible mistakes and will be covered later. For now, our challenge is creating reasons for them to care. The relevant 3M (major marketing mistake) here is not having a plan.

"But wait!" you exclaim. "You're double-dipping! You already harangued us about strategy." Yes, but here is the crucial equation: Strategy ≠ Plan

You knew that but forgot—and that's the problem. Many marketers are so enamored with their strategic brilliance that they forget they need to (a) develop a plan and (b) execute the plan—brilliantly. Strategy stays in-house. Plans, also called tactics, are what stir the real-world pot. Therein lies the key to creating caring.

Let's say that your product-development experts have surpassed every one of your specs and created something that, once sampled, creates raving, devoted, loyal-for-life fanatics. So what?

You are still going to want distributors or retailers to care enough to make your widget available, aren't you? What's your plan?

You are still going to need end users to care enough to agree to that life-changing first experience with your product, aren't you? What's your plan?

You get the drift. Sometimes, a mediocre product and mediocre strategy with terrific plans and execution succeed in the market (for a while). But a great product and a great strategy with poor planning or execution will fail. You can build it, but they won't come.

8. "My logo's better than your logo"

Hey, I'm a huge believer in the value of branding. In many categories, your brand is the only tool you've got to create distinction and advantage. Countless studies have shown that strong brands can command price premiums and better margins.

But what is branding? It's not just a logo or a new carton design. It's not just about creating awareness or driving recognition. Those are just tactics and executions. They're not game winners.

A brand is a symbol of a promise, a covenant, a relationship. It stands for trust, innovation, quality, or compassion, or some connection that you offer to your customers and that the customers accept because it somehow enriches their lives. I don't believe anyone is good enough to create that with new graphics alone.

Sometimes logo redesigns get you something at the margins—better shelf presence or better fit of image and strategy. But if the new look isn't part of an integrated, comprehensive campaign to enrich your relationship with your consumers, you should look for bigger battles.

Meaning is created by relationship and context. There aren't many words you can spell with a single letter. You need to reach deep into the Scrabble bag, figure out how to use all those tiles to spell a great word, and then determine where on the board to place them to make the most points.

9. "All we want is our piece of the pie"

And why should anyone slice it for you? Just because you show up at the party doesn't mean that anyone's going to hand you a beer.

OK, I'm cheating. This is a retread of an error we've already discussed. Still, it's so critical that it is worth repeating: If you plan to enter a market and aim too low, or don't even have an idea about how you're going to win, buy a lottery ticket instead. Your chances of winning will be about the same, but it won't cost as much.

10A. "The world is our oyster"

Here's the brutal reality. You can't be all things to all people, and you can't even be anything to all people. You not only need to position your brand but also need to choose the target you're positioning to.

Imagine you're at a party and someone says to you, "I make the world's best videos." OK, ho-hum. You weren't thinking about videos and don't need them.

But what if she says, "I specialize in making business-building videos for your industry." Well, you still don't know that you need a video, but now you know she's talking to you specifically. You are probably polite enough to give her your attention, and now she has a chance to identify your need, tap into it, and close the sale.

Target, target, target. You're always going to lose with a huge percentage of people (US presidents have been elected while losing over half the vote!), so figure out who you have a shot at winning with and don't worry about anyone else. Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a minnow in the ocean. The latter is also called food.

Next week, the final batch of the marketing mistakes you should avoid at all cost.

Continue reading "How to Ruin Your Brand, Your Business, and Your Career: The 13 Worst Marketing Mistakes, Part 2" ... Read the full article

Subscribe's free!

MarketingProfs provides thousands of marketing resources, entirely free!

Simply subscribe to our newsletter and get instant access to how-to articles, guides, webinars and more for nada, nothing, zip, zilch, on the house...delivered right to your inbox! MarketingProfs is the largest marketing community in the world, and we are here to help you be a better marketer.

Already a member? Sign in now.



M. P. Friedman is founder and principal of FastGrowth Advisors (, a Boulder, Colo.-based consulting and coaching firm. He tweets as @MPFriedman and blogs at Reach him via

MarketingProfs Partner