Three Mistakes of the Marketing Fire Swamp

July 5, 2016

By Mark McNeilly, ANA Faculty

In a scene from the classic The Princess Bride, Buttercup and Westley find themselves trapped in the Fire Swamp, which no one has ever survived.

It is such a scary place, full of three terrors, that Buttercup thinks they will die together in the swamp.

Happily, Westley and Buttercup survive. While perhaps not as deadly, marketers have their own version of the Fire Swamp. Like in the movie, the marketing Fire Swamp also has three terrors which must be avoided in order to succeed in your marketing quest. Let’s take a look:

Terror One: Thinking it’s about you and not the customer.
Many are the marketers that have been sucked into this trap. Commercials that boast about company accolades don't resonate with customers. Customers don't care if you're the biggest or the leader. They only care about whether or not you can meet their needs. This is why all your marketing needs to be about the customer.

Terror Two: Mistaking yourself for being the target customer.
Many marketers fall into this hole when talking about an ad or a campaign. Their comment before the trapdoor opens is usually something like, "I don't get it. That ad doesn't speak to me." Well, it could be that the campaign is truly terrible. But it could also be that the reason it doesn't resonate with them is that they're not the target market. The only way to avoid this pitfall (unless, of course, you are the target customer) is to forget about your own predilections and immerse yourself in the beliefs, desires, needs, and wants of your target consumer.

Terror Three: Not having customer data.
When it comes to your marketing efforts everyone in your firm has an opinion. Unless you have rich data and deep insights about your customer, that's all you will bring to the table when you meet with those folks – opinions. The best way to elude this terror is to ensure you and your marketing team spend the money and time necessary to develop a strong understanding of your target customer and constantly seek new ways of learning about them.

There you have it. If you can avoid these three terrors, you can find marketing success. Otherwise, the Fire Swamp will claim yet another victim.

Mark is the author of three books on marketing strategy and lectures at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. At his upcoming ANA workshop, he’ll show participants how to take their branding to the next level and build stronger relationships with consumers.

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