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Monday, July 11, 2016


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Marketing is losing its relevance. This results from failing to provide a clear line of sight in creating customers and driving business outcomes. Consequently, most corporations view marketing as a cost center as opposed to producer of results.


Poor marketing practices negate achievement of favorable business results and undermine the role of marketing. This is the fourth in a series of articles (shared in 3 Parts) that will tackle critical marketing mistakes, those slip-ups, oversights and poor practices, and address what needs to be done to make marketing matter (more).


This article deals with the lack of attention to stimulating customer behaviors, which are essential to creating, maintaining and building loyalty of customers.


“BAD” Behaviors

In order to ring the cash register (i.e., make a sale) we first have to trigger a customer behavior. It doesn’t matter if we are referring to a consumer, healthcare practitioner, B2B customer, etc. We need to trigger a behavior. Get our customers to do something. Not just anything but what we need them to do.


Everything we do in marketing should be to stimulate, or contribute to, the achievement of a behavior. In this manner we are able to engineer the growth of our brands and, hopefully grow them faster and more profitably than the market and individual competitors. Unfortunately, many marketers are engaged in “bad” behaviors.


  1. For one, they pursue activities with no thoughtful connection to generating specific, essential behaviors for growth. They’re blindly doing things for the sake of doing things, since that’s what has been done in the past, and expected of them in the now. If they’ve been involved in the use of social media, education or medical congresses then they continue to pursue these inherited activities, never questioning whether they are leading to essential behaviors. Perhaps then, these marketers do not fully appreciate the relationship between behaviors and sales. Specifically, we all need to understand an activity must trigger a behavior in order to earn a sale.

  2. For another, they misstate or misidentify behaviors. For example, they might use the term “trade-up” or “upgrade” to identify the behavior they seek from moving a user of a competitive product to their product. The thinking is that the customer is moving from an inferior to superior performing product. Hence their use of this term “upgrade.” But this is not an upgrade. This is a “switch.” A true upgrade is an internal switch from one of the organization’s brands to another of its brands (that is typically premium priced, offers higher margins, affords more patent protection, creates new market segments, etc.). Going from a competitive product (no matter the perception of lesser utility or value) to your brand is plain and simple a switch!

  3. Third, they confuse subordinate objectives with superordinate behaviors. For example, they may state “trial” as a behavior. But “trial” is not a superordinate behavior. Instead, it is subordinate to achieving behaviors of “adoption,” and/or “switching.” We seek trial as an objective in order to generate the superordinate behavior. Trial is typically an objective of promotion. “Awareness” and “access” (or “distribution”) are also often confused as behaviors. Again these are subordinate objectives! Awareness is a media, call frequency or promotion schedule objective. Both access and distribution are worthy objectives for without them the results from any attempts we make on generating behaviors will be retarded.

    Penetration” is a strange one that straddles misstatement and confuses subordinate objectives with superordinate behaviors. Like “trial” we really need to think about what we are doing. In seeking penetration are we looking for adoption? Are we going to achieve penetration via switching? Both will lead to penetration. So, penetration is a result, just as sales is a result, of achieving specific behaviors.

  4. Fourth, they will ask their marketing initiatives to do more than they are capable: namely achieve more than one behavior. For example, they may ask that advertising achieve both “adoption” and “switching” behaviors. But the messaging needed for each is very different. If the behavior is adoption then the messaging should be about the benefit of using or prescribing (namely, taking-up) the product. If it is switching, then messaging must be about the advantage of using the brand versus already established competition. We need to make choices. If we don’t, it is highly unlikely we will achieve either since we will not have the proper focus. Unfortunately, this is important for senior managers to recognize because in many of those cases where marketing managers make a choice their senior managers will push them into doing more than the initiative can handle.

  5. This next is typical bad behavior by global marketers. Specifically, this is about foisting needed behaviors in developed countries on undeveloped nations. Building on adoption and switching in the previous point, global marketers will establish switching as the key behavior since it is usually the way to incremental growth in developed countries, where they are headquartered. However, adoption is often the essential behavior to growth in undeveloped nations. A message created to stimulate switching will likely not work in an undeveloped nation where adoption is primary.

  6. Finally, there are no goals established for essential behavior objectives. Therefore, there is no attempt to measure the impact of marketing activities on their ability to generate the achievement of the behavior objectives. So neither the marketers nor their organizations know if anything is working, no less the level of productivity of their efforts. More will be forthcoming on this subject in another issue in this series.


Now that we’ve identified “bad” behaviors, next week we will cover “good” or what we refer to as “authentic” behaviors.


Best wishes, 

Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney



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Richard Czerniawski

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