Four years ago, I secured admission to one of India’s highly ranked business schools for its MBA programme.
When the first year of the programme started, I was thinking about options for majoring/specializing via elective courses during the second year.
And while I still had a full year to go with core courses of business management before choosing my electives, I was initially a bit sceptical about choosing the Marketing domain as I had a bunch of questions in my mind:
Is marketing associated with inauthenticity and manipulation, thanks to intrusive, meaningless advertisements? Is it all about selling things to people that they don’t need?
Does a career in marketing involve talking to many people all day, being loud and aggressive, making cold calls and high-pressure sales pitches, persuading customers to buy, etc.?
But, as the first year progressed I found Marketing classes to be very interesting. I learned the fundamentals of marketing and read case studies of brands.
After talking to professors, seniors and a few batchmates I realised that many of the preconceived notions about marketing were myths. Also, I realized that it was not just me. Many others believed in these myths.
And recently, as part of the Digital Deepak Internship Program (DDIP), when I revised the fundamentals of marketing I recalled some of those myths.
This is why in this article I am going to talk about 5 myths that have plagued the field of marketing and explain why they are false. This article will be useful for students, professionals, freelancers, entrepreneurs and anyone curious to know the truth behind marketing and its fundamentals.
And to illustrate some of my points, allow me to introduce you to two fictional characters named Abhi and Sid.
Both of them are young, ambitious individuals in the early stages of their careers. But, they have different personalities and aspirations.
Abhi is introverted, practical and focuses on tangible reality. He also loves analyzing things and working with data/numbers to make decisions. He dreams of being a professional expert in his field and is inclined towards marketing. Is he likely to succeed? Let’s find out!
Sid is extraverted, intuitive and perceives future possibilities. He also loves empathizing with people and coming up with creative solutions to help them. He dreams of being a successful entrepreneur. But, does he understand the fundamentals of marketing? We’ll see!
Now, without further ado let’s dive into the myths about marketing, shall we?
1. Marketing means advertising and selling things to people that they do not need
Like the ‘myself’ of four years ago, you may have this impression that marketing is all about being loud, persuasive or pushy.
Now, let’s assume that Sid has created a product (remember his personality traits of being creative and taking quick action?) somewhere. He names it ‘Product S’ and now he needs you to buy it.
He will showcase Product S— which may or may not be relevant to you — in a TV advertisement with a catchy slogan and a good-looking celebrity endorsing it (You get a feeling that celebrity is clueless about that product but still seems to be enthusiastically saying rehearsed lines from a script).
Or worse, he will call you or come knocking at your door and persuade you to buy Product S.
All of this sounds annoying but that’s just how marketing is done, right? Somehow, Sid has to make you buy his product!
Well, the answer to this question is that this idea of marketing is a myth. In principle, this is not the essence of marketing and is not the recommended way of doing it.
Why this Idea is False:
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself… The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”
— Peter Drucker
This quote from management expert Peter Drucker summarizes the true essence of what marketing is all about. Ideally, marketing starts even before the product is created or the service is launched and does not end even after the sales or transaction has been made.
So, if Sid wants to learn the right way of doing business with a product, the first thing that he needs to do is to truly understand his potential customer!
To do this, he should select a segment of the population (say, affluent English-speaking millennials) who would then be his target group (TG).
It would be better if he gets outside of his imagination and tests his creative ideas out in that market. He must spend some time researching and understanding the pain points of his TG.
Only then can he come up with a ‘Product S’ that would help his TG go from their current state to their desired state; thus making a perfect product-market fit that sells itself as Peter Drucker said.
So, Sid can now design his product accordingly and create it with innovative features.
He should determine the product’s retail price by considering its value for his TG and his expenditure.
So far so good, Sid has his product ready for sale. But that’s not enough. Sid has to communicate to his TG that his product exists and help them develop a perception of it. Good marketing is all about good communication. It is sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
So, to convey the message Sid should promote his product by advertising on TV, billboards, online search engines, social media or any other channel where his TG may be present.
He should also decide how and where he places his product so that customers can buy it. Is it in a retail store, on an e-commerce website, or on some portal on the internet? And would he deliver his product to the customer’s home?
And once Sid’s product is sold, he needs to maintain a relationship with his customers and take feedback so that he can improve his offerings and have them buy his product again in future.
This is how one develops trust and builds a brand in the minds of consumers.
Let’s take a real-world example. Apple is perceived as a brand with great products and people feel good owning an Apple device like iPhone.
Why is this so?
Because Apple executed the whole process of developing trust and building its brand in the minds of consumers so well.
By understanding the desires of its TG, the company created its iconic touchscreen smartphone with classy sleek looks and innovative features. It used premium pricing for the product and maintained its high-end image.
Apple promoted new versions of its product by showcasing them in advertisements and conducting keynote events. It had strict guidelines on who was allowed to place or distribute its products, be it offline or online.
And once the product had been purchased Apple got new insights by taking feedback from the consumer, thus maintaining a high spot in customer satisfaction rankings.
Hence, great marketing not only helps you discover a product but also creates a perception of it. Manipulation or persuasion take place only when the product is not really good enough, and it is rather unfortunate that some brands resort to these tactics.
2. You will enjoy and succeed in marketing only if you are an extrovert or a creative individual.
Okay, you are aware that marketing is not all about mindless advertising or pushy sales.
But, you may be thinking that since good marketing is all about good communication, it requires socializing and public speaking skills. Also, it seems like one needs to brainstorm creative/abstract/quirky ideas for branding, designing or promoting things.
And personality traits of extraversion and openness/intuition are required to do all this, right?
So, if I ask you whether someone like Abhi (remember his personality traits I mentioned in the introduction?) would enjoy and succeed in marketing or not, what would be your reply?
Probably not, you say?
Well, then I’m afraid that you’re wrong. This stereotyping is another myth.
Why this Idea is False:
The truth is that the scope of marketing is huge and there is something in it for everyone. So, any personality type can have passion and talent in marketing.
But, let’s assume that Abhi is put in a role where he has to communicate well and influence people. He can still do it.
Because good communication requires cautiousness and contemplation before speaking.
Now, some traditional roles in marketing might require socializing, a gift of the gab and thinking on your feet that may come naturally to extroverts like Sid.
However, it is important to note that in some new-age forms of marketing like Digital Marketing, being good with the written word is effective for influencing people. There is also ample opportunity for freelancing and independent work in this form.
Since activities such as being cautious, contemplating, writing or doing independent work may come naturally to introverts like Abhi, this shouldn’t be an issue. (And I know people who get into such a state of flow while writing that they end up writing 3000-words long articles!)
Additionally, Abhi can opt for those jobs in marketing that require extensive market research, data analysis, attention to detail or a practical hands-on approach; the kind of work that he prefers.
And even in supposedly creative components of marketing like advertising, there is scope for such type of work if Abhi works in an advertising media strategy role for instance.
I know this because I have worked in an advertising media firm and my job entailed data analysis, logical thinking, calculating cost and estimated ROI, etc.
So basically, I did a lot of analytics/number crunching before finalizing a media plan and there wasn’t much scope to be creative or abstract about it. Abhi would have loved doing it.
Hence, although one’s personality type is relevant up to a certain extent, it’s up to him or her to experiment with different types of work in marketing and find their truths, as with anything in life!
3. Online Marketing is the best medium for marketing and beats Offline Marketing
Nowadays, online marketing seems to be a trending topic for new-age marketing professionals.
Hence, you may think that this is the future of marketing and the way to go for all brands. We might as well forget about offline marketing and traditional media such as TV, radio, newspapers and billboards, right?
The answer is no, this is again a myth!
Can you guess why?
Why this Idea is False:
If the product is generic like a soap or a biscuit with very wide targeting then TV ads would be the best as they can reach millions at a low cost.
It is a fact that TV still has a massive reach in India. (800 million to 1 billion people). Digital media’s reach is nowhere close to that of TV based on numbers. (Source: Wikipedia)
And this is probably the reason why when you are watching something like the IPL on TV you see some ads that do not make sense to you. You might just not be the TG for those brands. Many segments of the population watch IPL. So, many brands are trying to reach their TG at the same time.
Now, imagine if the product is an online life coaching program designed for affluent English-speaking millennials with modern life goals. Can you guess which medium would be more appropriate here?
It would be digital.
Digital Marketing is the best medium to reach the affluent English-speaking population in India with spending power (100 million users). (Source: Sajith Pai)
Hence, the selection of marketing media — as with any other marketing decision — depends on the brand’s TG.
4. Digital Marketing is a new technical domain
Now that we have touched upon the topic of online/digital marketing you might be wondering if this is an entirely new domain with buzzwords like SEO, SEM, SMM, etc.
Our friends Abhi and Sid are curious about it too.
Sid has decided to build a product for a segment of India’s affluent English-speaking people, and Abhi is contemplating starting his career as a Digital Marketing professional.
But, just like you, they are confused about all those jargon/buzzwords in this field. They seem to be treating it like a technical domain with too much focus on the techniques and strategies of how to do Google ads, Facebook ads, SEO, etc.
In short, they are fixated more on the digital part than the marketing part.
But, it is a myth that this is the right way to approach Digital Marketing.
Why this Idea is False:
Digital marketing is more about the marketing part than the digital part.
It is basic marketing applied to digital media. Hence, all the principles of marketing apply here.
While digital marketing is a very dynamic field, there are two frameworks that both Sid and Abhi should learn first. This is something I learned in the Digital Deepak Internship Program (DDIP) and I will explain it below:
A. One framework is called the CATT Marketing Funnel and Framework which provides a formula for creating wealth.
Wealth = n^CATT
n stands for Niche that Sid chooses as his marketplace based on the intersection of his passion, his talent and what his TG wants.
C stands for Content that Sid creates to attract people from his niche in the form of blog posts, videos, live webinars, etc.
A stands for Attention in the form of traffic to Sid’s content using SEO, Social Media, Paid Ads, etc.
T stands for Trust that Sid builds with his audience via deep marketing, marketing automation, retargeting, etc.
T stands for Transaction involved in converting Sid’s leads into customers with natural sales methods.
B. The other framework is called the Integrated Digital Marketing Framework which provides a framework for implementing the CATT Funnel by integrating different components of Digital Marketing.
Now, once Abhi becomes a professional he shouldn’t approach Digital Marketing in a way that uses every segment separately.
For example, he shouldn’t do only Content Marketing for his client and expect results. He shouldn’t do only SEO and expect sales to happen.
Instead, he should integrate all components in a way that it becomes like an engine that drives the CATT funnel.
For example, he should first focus on Content Marketing to build quality content for his client, then drive attention to it using Paid Advertising, SEO and Social Media, then build trust using Email Marketing, and then transact with his client’s customers using Sales and Conversion.
Hence, this is how the CATT Funnel is executed through Integrated Digital Marketing.
5. Marketing is relevant to only products and services of companies or brands
Let’s assume that Abhi went ahead and started working as a marketing professional. But, a couple of years later, he realizes that he wants to become a data scientist because that’s his true calling.
Now, Abhi was diligent in learning the fundamentals of marketing. It was good knowledge.
But, now that he has decided to switch careers, and is no longer going to work in marketing, and does not plan to launch his own product or service soon, all that information is not relevant anymore, right?
Wrong, and this is the fifth myth that I would like to highlight.
Why this Idea is False:
Can you guess why?
Because the fundamentals of marketing can be applied to individuals too. For branding and promoting themselves!
Yes, you heard it right. Abhi can use his knowledge to market himself as a data scientist.
This is where the concept of personal branding comes into play.
So, why is personal branding important?
Because it is not enough that Abhi becomes a good data scientist. People should know that Abhi is a good data scientist. That is when people would reach out to him.
Also, people want to hear from people, not from brands or their logos. It would be weird if a logo is talking to them.
A real-life example of a personal brand is cricketer Virat Kohli, who has a huge following on Instagram and all across the country. He is an influencer and owns a stake in the popular Clothing and Accessories brand Wrogn.
Hence, a personal brand becomes an influencer and a brand ambassador for the companies or brands under them.
So, how does Abhi evolve as a personal brand?
By taking action via the step-by-step process mentioned below:
A. Learn: The first step for Abhi is to learn the new skill of data science and become good at it by practising it.
B. Work: Now, Abhi has to put his newfound skills in data science to work by implementing them through a job or freelancing projects.
C. Blog: Then, via a blog, Abhi needs to write about what he has learned and experienced in data analytics through his work.
D. Consult: After having a personal brand through his blog, Abhi should consult other businesses on data science instead of working for them.
E. Mentor: Then, Abhi should mentor others who want to become like him; he can teach a group of people at the same time through an online coaching program.
F. Startup: Finally, Abhi can start his product or service business with the understanding and skills that he has developed over the years doing Steps A to E.
This framework is called the Mass Trust Blueprint, and this is again something I learned from the DDIP.
In conclusion, I hope this article helped clarify some of the myths surrounding marketing.
Coming back to my own story, yes, I did end up with Marketing as the area with the most number of electives for my MBA degree.
But, just like Abhi and Sid I too am in the early stages of my professional career. I have a long way to go.
And, as you have seen the scope of marketing is huge. It is an evergreen domain that is unlikely to get outdated since it is rooted in human psychology and the market out there. It applies to products, services and even yourself!
So, how do you feel about marketing now? Do you recall any other myths that I may have missed? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments section.
Also, if you want to know more about the Digital Deepak Internship Program (DDIP) then you may visit the following link: https://digitaldeepak.com/digital-deepak-internship-program/