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The Perfection of Marketing

After carefully reading nearly 200 pages of this work by a professed brand guru I was left without one nugget …

After carefully reading nearly 200 pages of this work by a professed brand guru I was left without one nugget of new information. However, shortly after finishing the Perfection of Marketing, I read an article in Advertising Age by a real brand expert – Al Reis, which was in just 4 pages captured the epitome of an explanation of what marketing perfection is really all about.

Jim Connor tried to explain what Al Reis pioneered in his seminal tome “Positioning – The Battle for the Customers Mind” with his partner at the time Jack Trout – the concept of “positioning”. Unfortunately, his description of a “Sales Moment” was about as bad an example of branding as he could have picked. On the other hand, Malcolm Gladwell did a good job of explaining another aspect of positioning with “Blink”, in his excellent book of the same title.

Connor tried his best to capture a definition of a brand by saying “a brand is a single mental image that tilts (?) sales in your favor”.

Hmm, I thought brand identity was the instantaneous recognition of a value proposition prompted by the brand image, sound or smell. Like when you hear the Intel “bing”, you don’t have to wait for the “bong”. Or, when you see the Nike “swoosh” logo, of the Polo symbol of the polo player, their value propositions immediately “pop” before your eyes.

Somewhere along the line in the process I guess you could assume that an image “tilts sales in your favor”, but it is a poor selection of words to capture what positioning is all about.

The rest of the book had a smattering of good examples, but for the most part it was repetitive and still unclear as to what the perfection of marketing is about. In Chapter 15 Conner states that “Marketing is most successful when company leadership gets involved”? From my experience management in most company’s I have worked with and studied are not marketing conscious, or else we would have a lot more successful company’s than we do.

Al Reis, in his article concludes “There’s a growing disconnect between U.S. management and U.S. marketing. Management wants to build a business, while Marketing wants to build a brand”. He concludes that the two are often diametrically opposed and I agree.

Connor goes on to state that “the CEO is responsible for what the brand stands for”. I think what he meant to say is that the CEO should be responsible for what their brand(s) stand for. Reis makes the case in his article that all of the CEO’s of the U.S. auto manufacturers “fell asleep at the wheel” and certainly are responsible for all the poor branding decisions that they made.

Connor’s summary for Chapter 16 is “when rolling out a brand, a CEO has two choices to Grow Fast or Grow Slow”? I wish we lived in such a predictable world. The customer and your marketing ability to create brand awareness dictate how fast your brand will grow. How many forecasts have been made for new products that were never achieved.

When GM introduced Saturn they forecast annual sales would grow to 500,000 Saturns? Where did that number come from? There was no way that could have happened given the lack of marketing expertise, auto market dynamics, and absence of customer consciousness at GM.

Actual Saturn sales in their best year topped out at 286,000, or only 43% of what was forecast.

What Jim Connor completely missed in his attempt at explaining the Perfection of Marketing is that branding is a long term process that requires investing in getting a share of mind, and then investing in keeping it.

Maybe Jim Connor should have read A.G.Lafley’s (CEO of P&G) good book “The Game Changer” wherein with his co-author Ram Charon they describe what the best marketing organization in the world – Procter & Gamble, has done to achieve the perfection of marketing.

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU’s Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.


He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING – A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  Email Bob at: rmdonnelly@chiefexecutive.net

About Robert M. Donnelly

Robert M. Donnelly
Robert M. Donnelly is CMO of Flo-Tite Valves & Controls, a U.S. based supplier of valves and components to the process control industry in North America. A coach, educator, and advisor to founders/CEOs of growing firms, he is a serial entrepreneur, having started, grown and sold several technology based businesses. Previously he held executive positions at IBM, Pfizer and Exxon.