Marketing Standards?

Subject: Marketing Standards?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: David Tinsley <dtinsley -at- ndigital -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 08 May 2006 09:29:29 -0400

Isn't that subject line an oxymoron? <gdr>

David Tinsley reports: <<I have been given the task of trying to convince a group of product managers (who each serve a different market) that adherence to a corporate marketing "look and feel" is a good idea.>>

One word... or perhaps two: "cross-selling" and "branding". You might remind them that while it's all very well to pimp their own products, they'll do better as a whole if they make the overall company healthier, and one way to do that is to establish a sense of brand. If all the company products have a similar public perception, at least in the ways that establish brand identity, and are quality products, customers learn to purchase other products from the same company.

Of course, if your managers don't understand either term, you may be in some difficulty here... From what you say below, it sounds like your company doesn't have a Marketing manager. Though many of us tend to look at this as a utopian situation <g>, it can actually create some significant problems. A _good_ marketing manager can add significant value to your company and make everyone's life easier. A bad one? Well, at least you can write to Scott Adams and ensure a long series of marketing jokes in Dilbert.

<<Currently each product manager goes their own sweet way with the result that there is very little consistency between product lines.>>

At least superficially, that's not inevitably a bad thing; Nike shoes and Nike eyeglass frames don't have an awful lot in common other than the infamous swash logo. Different products, and particular those with largely different markets, do require different strategies. The problem comes at a deeper level, when you lose opportunities to establish and strengthen a brand and to use that brand to cross-sell.

<<The latest gem is that something as fundamental as our website URL has been changed by one product line!>>

Again, so long as you don't lose some of your visual identity and don't lose ties to the main Web sites, this isn't a problem. Consider, for example, the "Campaign for Real Beauty" site ( there's no obvious tie to the Dove family of products until the page actually loads and you see the unmistakable Dove logo.

Then there are movie Web sites, most of which are now named after the movie rather than the studio, and the same is true for theatre. Hunt down just about any current movie online and you'll find it has its own Web site. But somewhere on that site, and certainly in the movie trailer (usually the first thing you see), you'll clearly see who produced the film or show.

The similarity in each case? The site name and the product may be very different from the producer's name, but there's always a clear presentation of the corporate brand, not to mention a link to the main company's Web site and thence to other products.

<<Of course, each product manager can see nothing wrong with the way they are doing things and tell me "It works for my market".>>

It's tremendously difficult to change something that is working well. The trick here is to find out whether it _really is_ working as well as the managers think. One way to find out might be to talk to the Sales department to find out whether they have statistics on cross-selling and information on how well clients for one product know about other products ("the brand"). If Sales is having difficulty in these areas, they could become an unstoppable ally. After all, love sales staff or hate them, they're the ones who pay your salary.

<<I have no experience in marketing, other than knowing that we need a consistent approach to layout and style so any help or advice would be most welcome.>>

Who are your company's main competitors--and most particularly the ones who are eating your customers for breakfast? Demonstrating brand consistency and cross-selling by those competitors is a great way to make a point. You can see this at any computer or software Web site.

<<I am also thinking that I will present the idea of a marketing literature style guide, similar to the TechComm style guide we have for manuals. Any thoughts on that idea?>>

Like any style guide, it only works if someone has authority to enforce it (usually the Marketing manager) and even then, you'll have an easier time if your colleagues buy into the idea. To get buy-in, you need to make a compelling case for the advantages (see above for some thoughts), but you also need to make the style guide so easy to use that it's actually harder for them to develop their own solutions than it is to simply adopt yours. For some insights:

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Marketing Standards: From: David Tinsley

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