Mar 282007

Marketing is Like Baskin Robbins

Marketing is Like Baskin Robbins

A couple years ago, I wrote that Marketing is Like French Fries, since you can always take on one more small incremental marketing task, just as you can always eat one more fry, even long after you should have stopped. Today, inspired in part by our ongoing search for a new head of marketing at Return Path and in part by Bill McCloskey’s follow up article about passion in email marketing in Mediapost, I declare that Marketing is also like Baskin Robbins – there are at least 31 flavors of it that you have to get right.

McCloskey writes:

I submit that the über marketer who is expert in all the various forms of interactive marketing is someone who just doesn’t exist, or is very bad at a lot of things. An interactive jack of all trades, master of none, is not the person you want heading up your email marketing efforts. What you want is someone who is corralling those passionate about search, RSS, email, banners, rich media, mobile marketing, WOMM, social networks, viral into a room and figuring out an integrated strategy that makes sense.

Boy, is he right.  But what Bill says is just the front row of ice cream cartons — the interactive flavors. Let’s not forget that running a full marketing department includes also being an expert in print, broadcast, direct mail, analytics, lead gen, sales collateral and presentations, creative design, copywriting, branding, PR, events, and sponsorships.  Wow.  I’m getting an ice cream headache just thinking about it.  No wonder CMOs have the highest turnover rate of any other C-level executive.

I think Bill’s prescription is the right one for larger companies — get yourself a generalist at the helm of marketing who is good at strategy and execution and can corral functional experts to coordinate an overall plan of attack.  It’s a little harder in small companies where the entire marketing department might only be 2-3 people.  Where do you put your focus?  Do you have all generalists?  Or do you place a couple bets on one or two specialties that you think best line up with your business?

I think my main point can be summed up neatly like this:  Running Marketing?  Be careful – it’s a rocky road out there.