The Backbone

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Why marketing is critical to your future success

A few years back, Daniel Dejan came face to face with a study that changed the way he viewed everything related to how consumers interact with the onslaught of marketing-related engagements they receive on any given day. At the time, Dejan was the Print & Creative Manager at Sappi North America, where his impassioned work helped solidify the importance of quality design, the integral role of paper, and their direct correlation to printing.

It was a chaotic time for the print industry, mostly due to the widely circulated and incredibly misguided notion being pushed that print was dead. As the debate raged on, branding agency Millward Brown released a groundbreaking study that showed how our brains process paper-based and digital marketing in different ways, and in particular, that paper ads caused more emotional processing.

“Marketing means you have to create a desire for what your audience wants. Your message must be relevant and timely, and it must be something your customers believe they need.”
— Daniel Dejan, Principal/Creative Director, Dejan Associates

According to the study, “Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail,” physical-based media left a “deeper footprint” in the brain. Data suggested tangible materials involved more emotional processing in the subjects—an important factor from a branding and ad recall standpoint.

“We were looking for ways to dispel this notion that print was dead and the study hit the mark,” says Dejan, who today is Principal/Creative Director at Dejan Associates. “In the New Now, the study’s results still prove how people process information and how brands set out to market to them.”

Dejan says that because we still are in the midst of a once in a lifetime pandemic, how brands get their messaging in front of today’s consumers is paramount. Strategizing your marketing strategy around a “content is just content” approach does not translate into a blueprint for success. “Marketing means you have to create a desire for what your audience wants. Your message must be relevant and timely, and it must be something your customers believe they need. Here’s the thing: If your product and/or service is viewed as a major asset, your marketing campaign will work. If it doesn’t, you’re just going to be another vendor selling on price.”

The bottom line is that your job as a marketer is to draw attention to whatever it is you are marketing—a strategy Dejan says involves being able to effectively use what he calls the 4 E’s: Engage, Educate, Entertain and Entice. “Research shows that you have between six and eight seconds to capture people’s attention. That’s the length of the average attention span. If you don’t hit on it in that time frame, you may have lost your opportunity.”

Marketing + Good Marketing = Success

Take a close look at any good marketing campaign and you will see that strategy is core to success. The power of marketing is getting your audience to know you exist, engage them, and eventually get them to buy your product or service. Good marketing is recognizing the uniqueness of your audience and presenting your product or service in a way that lets that audience know what’s in it for them.

If you ask John Sisson, President of HBT Marketing, the secret to hitting this objective on all cycles, he’ll tell you that education is key—for you, your clients and the industry as a whole. “Being a student of what’s new and what’s possible, and helping clients achieve their objectives with marketing is what drives action on the part of your audience. Our clients like success. And because we have a unique value proposition that’s focused on getting our clients’ audience to act, our clients keep coming back.”

Paramount to this success is knowing how to balance the unique, and sometimes complicated, relationship with sales. Sisson says that HBT deals with, in many cases, a self-directed audience that at times is resistant to sales. That means this audience must find what they are after—and marketing is the only way they will.

“Marketing extends a sales organization, leveraging breadth at a much lower cost, supporting sales who bring depth at a higher cost,” Sisson says. “But the audience exists for your product or service and with all the channels available to them, without marketing, yours won’t be the product or service they buy. Everything we do is measurable. We’re generally not in a position where we have a challenge in providing marketing’s success. Not all campaigns are successful to be sure, but they are generally all measurable. Measuring and testing proves marketing’s success.”

Sisson recalls a client that came to HBT because it wanted to improve its reach with a tough-to-persuade audience. The challenge was to overcome the audience’s status quo bias. HBT had to leverage a combination of direct response best practices and behavioral science to get the client’s audience to act. Using a multichannel approach, HBT helped the client double its response rate overall, improving its print profitability by 186%.

“The marketing campaign convinced them to continue with this channel, which they considered dropping, and ended up driving significant investment dollar increases,” Sisson says. “The client grew their business. That is the ultimate goal of any marketing campaign.”

The story is one that T.J. Tedesco, co-founder and VP of Customer Success of VIVIO Health, can relate to. The longtime marketing professional says that while strategy is core to success and sustainability for any marketing initiative, knowing and living it are two different things. “The sooner you realize your business is their business, the better you and your organization will perform. If you don’t understand your customers’ wants and desires, you may earn a little money here and there, but you won’t make a long-lasting difference. You’ll be just selling stuff and not building relationships.”

“Marketing extends a sales organization, leveraging breadth at a much lower cost, supporting sales who bring depth at a higher cost.”
— John Sisson, President, HBT Marketing

As the print industry—and economic landscape overall—continues to juggle the ever-changing, always complicated whims of today’s consumers, marketing’s role will be even larger than it was moving forward. “As we continue to move purchases and interactions with brands to be online and become even more isolated from one another, we become dependent on marketing to guide us to the right solution or product,” Sisson says. “Without marketing, companies will struggle to reach their audience even more than they may have in years past.”

In the end, attribution will reign supreme. The best way to show marketing’s worth and ROI is through testing, preferably testing with a hold out. By testing against those who do not receive your message, you can see lift that is directly attributable to your marketing efforts.