Marketing: what’s the point?

Ashgrove Marketing’s new recruit Georgia Seaward reflects on the misunderstood art of marketing and how its importance is often easily under-estimated

It’s been an odd year (and a bit), having graduated from university and begun my first full-time job at Ashgrove whilst navigating the never-ending time warp we call ‘the pandemic’. I have been incredibly lucky not only to land a job, but to keep hold of it when I know so many others my age have struggled.

The pandemic definitely made the student-to-employee transition a little complicated but it has also allowed, at times, a level of independence when working that I might not otherwise have been given. However, perhaps the biggest discovery I’ve made since starting work is that marketing is still very misunderstood.

At university, I studied International Business, which covered a variety of topics focusing on strategic business decisions for operating internationally, although I cherry-picked marketing modules where I could. Looking at my degree retrospectively, I’ve realised just how integrated marketing is into every aspect of a business. But the way we were taught, it was as if the marketing element was almost a hidden element of an overall strategic approach.

It was the same in almost all of my modules, where marketing was never given full recognition because it was buried in the overall ‘business strategy’. This begs the question that if the education of business ‘hides’ the importance of marketing, how can business people be expected to understand its value and the importance of doing it right?

There was also a wide-spread assumption that marketing was an ‘easy’ subject and that’s a view I’ve come across in a work setting too. Sure, we don’t have to go cross-eyed trying to figure out double entry bookkeeping (thank God!) but it’s by no means easy. Performing an in-depth analysis of a client, a client’s competitors, and creating a fool-proof marketing strategy takes just as much skill as is needed for many other professions. Yet marketing continues to be perceived as a less worthy or important part of the business compared to finance, compliance and operations.

Clearly, I have a natural bias towards the subject but it’s been frustrating to see that, for some, marketing still isn’t considered a priority. Even in the short period of time I have been working, I’ve come across clients who question the point of marketing campaigns and feel their money could be better spent elsewhere.

While I do understand that people want to know exactly how each marketing activity will help their business grow before signing budget away, in reality marketing should be treated as an ongoing process, offering the opportunity to genuinely connect with and understand your audience. Not only should marketing activities promote your brand and provide you with valuable research material, but they are the chance to create strong relationships with your customers and encourage them to come back for more.

Let’s take some of the largest brands in the world as an example: McDonalds, Lego, Coca-Cola, or Nike. THEY NEVER STOP MARKETING. They are giants within their industries, and yet here they are, continuously marketing their brands.

Over the years they develop their branding to fit the new ‘now’ and update their marketing activities to adapt to upcoming trends, channels and other resources that have become available. Why? Because there will always be the threat that someone else can do what they do, but better. So, they make sure their audience knows they are the best. That’s the point.

Those brands invest in their marketing and they hire the best marketers they can to keep ahead of the competition. They don’t perceive marketing as ‘easy’ and they certainly don’t rely on reading about the ‘Top 10 Social Media trends for 2021’ or writing a witty post on social media and hoping it goes viral. They have well-thought out integrated plans that ensure their brand messages are communicated and amplified to their audiences.

They also recognise that any form of marketing could be the first point of contact with a customer, whether that’s through a website, an article in a magazine, or an advert on the side of a bus. It’s incredibly important these are crafted in the right way and they should all be treated with the same respect and care.

Perhaps part of the problem is that marketing isn’t a quantifiable commodity in the same way that other aspects of a business are. Although you can break down Google Analytics to the nth degree and see if something generally is or isn’t working, it’s often hard to quantify the impact a campaign, website design or social media graphic has on each individual that sees it. The success of your marketing activities may not always be tangible in the short term and it can take some time for new business to be realised.

The true value of marketing is in building long-term relationships with your customers. Ensuring they come back to you time and time again. That your brand is recognisable and customers know what to expect. This isn’t something that is “easy” but it is something that requires a well-thought-out marketing strategy and some strong creative talent.

Without marketing, some of the largest brands in the world would still be invisible to this day. Marketing is how you are seen and heard. And that’s why it’s important!