FlashPointLabs' Most Common (And Costly) Marketing Misconceptions

This is gonna’ be fun. We’re not high on our own supply, but we’ve been to a couple state fairs and a rodeo, as the expression goes, and we have validated thinking to share on the difference between how marketing actually works, versus how it’s widely practiced. 

Trends have value in human civilization; they facilitate learning and enable alignment for movements and even culture involving large groups of people. Imitation is a heuristic that’s highly adaptive. 

But sometimes, it’s not the best option. Tech legend Peter Thiel asks candidates he interviews for key roles in his enterprises: “What is everybody else wrong about? What’s your ‘secret sauce’? What is the most valuable truth that you know, that nobody else knows?”

This question is probably the simplest articulation of the value proposition a candidate can offer, all things being equal (intelligence, competency, etc.). We couldn’t say it better. The wins are in the margins, where there is uncommon discipline guided most by uncommon wisdom. That’s where the competition is thin, and the relative or absolute yield is highest – in diverging from the masses. Here are some common bits of wisdom that are just not correct.

Myth: Marketing and advertising are substantially different and need to be segregated.

Fact: These disciplines are blurring, for a few reasons. Marketing is determining how to get the word out, and executing that. Advertising is the ‘word’, the message or the creatives. Marketing includes ways of getting the word out that don’t involve those creatives, like sponsoring events. 

It’s almost like the Army and the Navy: traditionally, the Navy would ‘give the Army a ride’ to where the battles were. Marketing used to serve as the delivery vessel – through ‘marketing channels’ – for the message, or advertising. So, in 1955, the ‘Advertising’ department for Macy’s might come up with a Fall Campaign, and ‘Marketing’ would work to deliver that message, through various broadcast media. 

But a few things changed. First off, the Internet brought down the cost and complexity of producing creatives – even opening access to global contractors. So, it’s no longer impractical for the person or people placing ads to also design those ads. 

Second, there is a cost, complexity, and labor savings for integrating marketing and advertising.

Third, as access to markets has also been expanded, compliments of the Internet, smaller and smaller startups and solopreneurs simply find it impractical to segregate the message and the medium through which the message is transmitted.

Fourth, advertising has a history of being linked to ‘brands’, and with very few exceptions, people don’t care about brands anymore. They care about products. The brand is just another layer of abstraction and data point for a data-saturated public to ingest, and they don’t care to.

Finally, paid advertising, which is largely comprised of advertising ‘creatives’ (versus ‘content’) doesn’t work nearly as well as it did before Web 2.0. 

Myth: You need a substantial marketing budget to get noticed.

Fact: Money can help, sure, but it really depends how it’s spent.

Content outperforms paid marketing campaigns, 3:1, and is 1/3 the cost.

So, if we’re discussing content marketing, then more can equal more.

That said, large ad spend – through content or paid channels – is often wasted a) if a product or service offering is substantially differentiated, b) there’s a demand for it, and c) you have a highly-competent marketer who understands the New Rules of Marketing, and that it’s easier to offer than to ask. 

In cases that meet these criteria, a relatively modest budget and a ground floor of professional design elements, copy, and branding will do. 

Throwing money at a problem of visibility without understanding how marketing actually works is one of the ‘rookie mistakes‘ new marketers make.

You end up flooding the market with ads nobody responds to, either because it’s ‘interruption marketing’, or because it’s interruption marketing without a differentiated product. 

And one should never forget: the conversion rate for paid ads is not good. 

Myth: If your ROI or ROAS are more than 100% (show any gains), then scaling it up will – logically – produce more of those gains.

Fact: No ROI or ROAS curve trends perpetually upward. They’re a Sine Wave, and so they climb and then plateau.

There is a ceiling limiting the positive relationship between increased profits as a function of ad spend. The returns won’t fall to zero, they’ll just fall closer to the ad spend, and potentially below ad spend, over time, depending on a bunch of market variables.

At that point, in AdWords, you will see CPA or CPL, or Cost Per Acquisition or Lead, begin to rise.

If you are able to scale ad spend upward and still keep it profitable, you then have to consider you company’s ability to complete deliverables. 

There is absolutely a sweet spot in terms of paid ads and visibility.

Myth: Since companies that write blogs get 70% more monthly traffic than those that don’t, the blog must be the cause of that increased traffic.

Fact: Correlation does not equal causation. While there are domain analytics that can tell you – specifically – what content or aspect or feature of a site is bringing in that increase in traffic, companies that bother to blog are likely doing a number of other things correctly, including: 1) creating websites with a larger footprint and better technical management, 2) creating buyer-centric content that the public finds useful. They’re more likely to have a service orientation and mentality, in our opinion. 

It’s not just the blog. 

Myth: ‘Demand Generation’ is a thing.

Fact: This is marketing aimed at informing the public (creating awareness and from that, interest), which is really the core function of marketing in the first place.

It’s really ‘marketing marketing’; it’s redundant and not helpful as a descriptor.  

You can’t generate demand. You can discover it. You can’t seed it or create it. You submit your funded startup to the market, and what they do is up to them. You don’t get to control it.

Perhaps it’s just a linguistic trifle we’re pointing out, but the language matters: ‘demand generation’ inculcates an attitude of control over and even disrespect for the public, which doesn’t align with Web 2.0 best marketing practices.

Myth: ‘Growth Marketing’ is a thing.

Fact: We have yet to see marketing that’s not pointed at growth (in traffic, leads, sales, or some combination of the three), so ‘growth marketing’ is really ‘marketing marketing’. 

Myth: Using marketing technologies competently is sufficient for marketing success.

Fact: Using marketing technologies and ad platforms is not equal to ‘marketing’ any more than typing on a typewriter makes someone Ernest Hemingway. Access – which has become increasingly lower-hanging – to the the tools pros use doesn’t make one a pro. 

This is especially true as we enter the paradigm shift to buyer-centric Buyer Journeys and sales cycles

The technology commonly used in marketing mitigates losses; it’s bean-county and lagging edge. It cannot, on its own, create wins. 

Myth: Any idea can succeed with sufficient marketing.

Fact: This is patently untrue, and sadly, not everyone with an ambition to create a business or launch a company has the sense required – either about market temperament, viability, demand, or startup or operations and deliverable costs. Even the luck of timing or circumstance made some companies a success. Bubba Gump Shrimp succeeds because all the other shipping boats are destroyed in a storm. Gig economy startups like AirBNB and Uber exploded after the mortgage crisis.

Most businesses don’t make it, and it’s rare that marketing budgets are determinative. It’s more often that marketing competency is determinative, but as the expression goes: you can’t put lipstick on a pig. 

There’s only so much you can do with marketing if there’s not market fit, and other factors are working against you.