Our first weeks as Next Generation Marketing Professional trainees are already behind us. In addition to a range of projects, I’ve been involved in various onboarding activities and had a chance to discuss with all sorts of marketing professionals. Besides inspiring topics, there was one comment that I’ve given quite a lot of thought to:
“Everybody has an opinion on marketing.”
Variations of this idea have come up a number of times and in one conversation a colleague gave one of the obvious reasons: “One of the goals of marketing is to show and arouse ideas, and naturally this will be noticed and will fuel opinions.” This is so logical that it puzzles me that this occupational hazard has only now caught my attention. There is certainly no lack of examples: Posti and its withdrawn campaign in the fall, Pepsi and Kendall Jenner, H&M and ‘the coolest monkey in the jungle’ shirt… And you don’t even need to go to such extremes: on a smaller scale, it is easy to hear people talking about boring logos, ugly packaging or lame TV advertisements almost everywhere.
Criticism – inevitable and valuable
If you work in marketing, criticism is inevitable. I had personal experience of this earlier in my career: while helping on a large website renewal project. Despite some drawbacks, it was delivered on time, and my colleague sent a message to our colleagues explaining that unfortunately the technology did not allow us to place headlines exactly as we would like, but that this would be fixed soon. It didn’t take long before someone came to tell us how weird the headlines were and how for once he would have liked to be able to show something cool and new to his friends. The numerous discussions on which words to use in social media and which not are another example. And when a new version of something is presented, some people will say it is dull, others that it’s too bold or peculiar. One of my colleagues said that these days, she even avoids asking other people for their opinions because it might undermine faith in the project.
This is a thin line since comments from others and input in general might be very valuable, and in the best case may help the project to reach new heights. One colleague with a lot of marketing experience suggested a useful way of visualizing this. Imagine a continuum with “I” at one end and “you” at the other representing the different opinions. Halfway between is a mild compromise. But the sweet spot lies somewhere between halfway and “I”, where you have tested your idea enough and responded to other views, but without watering it down too much by trying to please everybody.
Remember who is the professional
If you are a freshman in the world of marketing, what means do you have to recognize when to take other opinions into account and when not? Today’s digital tools, and market research in general, are excellent methods to help you ensure that you are heading in the right direction. It’s easy to stay focused if you have some numbers to boost your arguments, for example by testing your campaigns before the actual launch.
And beyond that, I would say based on recent conversations that I’ve had that the most important thing is to remind yourself that you are the professional. Only you can know what kind of compromises you need to make between SEO friendly words and brand tone. Only you can know the numerous conversations regarding packaging materials. (How much energy does the manufacturing process consume? How easy is the material to recycle from a consumer’s point of view? What happens if the package is not recycled and ends up in the environment?) Only you can know who your target audience is: it doesn’t actually matter if your neighbor thinks your advertisement is silly if he or she doesn’t belong to the segment targeted by this specific brand.
As a young professional, the sweet spot on compromise can be hard to recognize, but while waiting for experience to accumulate, the feeling of ownership of your work can help. Even when respecting others’ opinions, you need to know what you are aiming at with your brand, communications campaigns or other projects. You will have reasoned with yourself and your team about the reasons for choosing a particular approach. This can be a heavy process requiring many market analyses and discussions about the pros and cons of different solutions, but once it’s done, you have the ownership of your work. This will be your shield against other opinions, which are just that – opinions formed without all the background information that you possess as a marketing professional.
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