Just don’t

There are five things that marketers should never do.

The Times recently published an article on ‘eight things never to do at a restaurant’. It got me thinking about the faux pas of marketing. Marketers make plenty of costly mistakes when we should know better. Here, then, are five things never to do in marketing.

1 Never say your brand is a quality brand

I have never yet, in 35-plus years in the industry, met a brand manager who doesn’t describe their brand as a “quality” brand. Quality has become a meaningless descriptor. Find a better one.

2 Don’t use brand values. They have become devalued

Many brands pride themselves on their values, plastering them on their walls and proclaiming their deep commitment. But have you ever analyzed those values? So many are generic and predictable. Over the last ten years, I have looked at the published values of Interbrand’s ‘most valuable brands’. Caring, integrity, customer centric, innovative, collaborative, and, of course, quality, all regularly appear in the top five. Values encourage brands to gravitate towards easy-to-agree-with ‘motherhood-and-apple-pie’ statements. Yet an approach which pushes brands to instead define their principles creates content that is more actionable and distinctive. This is maybe because a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money. Be principled, not valueless.

3 Don’t ask for radical innovation unless you’re willing to be radical

There is no point asking for radical, game-changing, disruptive ideas unless you’re truly willing to adopt them. Is your organization willing to be controversial? Is it happy to upset people? Will it – or can it – do things differently, even if this means not utilizing all that expensive capital you have invested in current production processes? Asking for radical ideas and not using them is just a waste of time.

4 Don’t ask what is the one thing that differentiates your brand

This a throwback to the USP (unique selling proposition or point) era, which was ‘invented’ by Rosser Reeves based on no scientific evidence whatsoever. It is a concept that many marketers have been brought up on, and it’s become a mindset that many find difficult to throw off. But very few, if any, brands are chosen for a single reason. Why do you use Amazon? The prices, yes – but probably also the convenience, the speed of delivery, the easy returns and the fact that they sell just about everything. Don’t oversimplify. Recognize that it may not be what you do, but how you do it, that differentiates you. The USP that’s relevant today isn’t a unique selling proposition, it’s a unique selling personality.

5 Don’t conduct unnecessary research

I’m not saying don’t conduct any research. What I am saying is that you should think carefully about whether you actually need new research. Ask yourself: can we recycle some existing study? Is there something in previous research that just hasn’t been identified or used yet? Only if the answers to those questions are ‘no’ should you consider commissioning something new.

If dining etiquette is your biggest worry, you’ll need to look elsewhere for tips. But if you want to improve your marketing impact, putting a stop to these five time-wasters is the perfect place to begin.

Giles Lury is a senior director at brand consultancy The Value Engineers.