Sunday, May 8, 2011
LEARNING FROM MOM
On Sunday, 8 May, we celebrate Mother’s Day in the U.S. to honor our mothers, wives for being the mothers of our children, and motherhood. It is celebrated in many places throughout the world at other times of the year. This celebration of motherhood goes back to ancient time, taking different forms. In fact, according to Wikipedia, mother goddess worship dates back to 6000 BC. What does Mother’s Day have to do with marketing? Well, going beyond the commercial aspects of the day, we think we can apply our learning from mom to help make us better marketers. What do you think?
Last week we shared what we could learn from successful small business owners. It focused against common sense marketing practices. Reflecting upon what we’ve learned from our mothers, our thoughts turn to those “soft skills” essential to effectively working with, and serving, others. It’s true that, even today, our mothers may not know what a “marketer” is or what s/he does, nonetheless we’ve learned valuable lessons from them.
What have we learned from our mothers that can contribute to us being better marketers?
- It’s Not All About You – When we are children we think it is all about me, me, me. We perceive ourselves as the sun around which all things revolve. It’s all about what we want (everything we can’t have), and when we want it (now). We think we are the only ones who matter. We observe these same attitudes and behaviors today, and even contribute to it, with our own grandchildren. (It’s referred to as “spoiling” them.) Just as it is important to consider others to maintain harmony and proper functioning within the family, and society, we need to apply this thinking to our relationships both within and outside of the organization. We should not and cannot think only of ourselves in our work. We need to think of others, and meeting their needs. This is important when working with members of our team. We need to create win-win situations with those who work with us from sales, manufacturing, finance, resource groups such as ad agencies, etc. to build the brand. It is also absolutely essential to keep this in mind in working to establish an enduring relationship between our brand, and organization, and our customers. We need to get beyond ourselves and think of others.
- Get Along But You Don’t Have To Go Along – Our moms wanted us to be accepted for who we are. They did not want us to compromise our principles or act contrary to our conscience. While it is vitally important to get along with others, particularly where we may have the responsibility but not the authority to get things done, we need to do what we believe is appropriate and correct. This is about doing the right thing even when it may not be the popular course of action. We should think about and do what is best for our customers. However, this cannot be fueled by an ego that says, “I know better than anyone else.” Instead, it has to be informed by and driven from the customer.
- Be Empathetic – We were taught not to be judgmental. We were told that one never knows what is going on under someone else’s hat. Our mothers examined and discussed why people behaved the way they did, particularly when it was contrary to how we thought they should have behaved. This helped us better understand others and appreciate the link between attitudes, needs, and values with behaviors. It is important for us to empathize with our customers. We need to be able to see things from their perspective. We must listen, really listen to them, and work to anticipate their needs. The better we understand our customers the better we can serve them.
- Take Responsibility for Your Actions – We learned not to blame others for what we did, or didn’t do. That leads us to think about the difference between managing via consensus or collaboration. There is a time for each. But consensus often diffuses or abdicates responsibility. It enables one to hide behind groupthink and can serve as a practice to CYA (cover your _ _ _). On the other hand, collaboration recognizes that everyone has an important piece of the puzzle, and contributes from her expertise and unique perspective. But it also recognizes that ultimately someone must make the decision, particularly when there are opposing views. The buck stops with the brand manager, or someone who is responsible for the brand (which can be the product or company brand). If something goes wrong, well, no excuses.
- Learn and Move On – We all make mistakes. No one, no matter how smart, is immune to it. Our mothers prayed that we wouldn’t make big mistakes (and we were lucky we did not). They also wanted us to learn from them so that we would not repeat these mistakes, and suffer unnecessarily. Marketing practiced correctly is no different. We need to analyze initiatives against carefully thought out expectations to determine if we achieved our goals. We need to learn from these analyses as to what to do, what to avoid, and how to make things work better. Additionally, we need to share these learnings so that the organization can learn from our experiences to become a learning organization.
- Think About The Future – Our mothers taught us to delay gratification. Well, they may have taught it by imposing it. No desert (or TV, or whatever delighted us) until you finish dinner. No going out to play until you’ve finished your homework. They wanted us to succeed for the long term. What does that mean to us in marketing? Get beyond short-term thinking. Yes, it’s important to achieve our business objectives in the short term but we have to win over and maintain customers for the long term to create a franchise. Don’t be greedy for profits at the expense of your customers. Invest in product development and ideas so that you may better serve your customers than your competitors.
- Make Do With What You Have – We came from humble beginnings. We had everything we needed, but not everything we wanted. Our moms made do with what our fathers earned. We always had food (and ate leftovers). We had clothing (even though they may have been hand-me-downs). We had a roof over our heads (though we did not live in palaces). Would we have wanted more? At the time, “yes.” What child does not want more? But as we look back on our childhood we had everything we needed. As marketers we want more resources. What marketer doesn’t? We want more resource support – both internal and external. We want more marketing funding in the form of media and promotion. But as the Rolling Stones sing, “You can’t always get what you want.” And, we don’t always get what we want. So it is up to us marketers to make do with what senior managers provide us to support the brand. We will get what we need if we can demonstrate a more favorable ROI than other investment choices within the company. Regardless, avoid making the “biggest excuse in marketing,” that you don’t have enough resources. Suck it up and apply creativity to create a winning plan.
- Do Things for the Right Reasons – Let’s face it, being a mother is not easy. We really don’t know how our mothers, or wives as mothers also, did it. Our mothers worked, and mothers today also work, selflessly in fulfilling their many roles. At the end of the day, exhausted and spent, they would be filled with love as they watched us sleep peacefully. The next day they’d begin work renewed out of their love for us. This reminds us to get beyond thinking about moving cases, writing prescriptions or growing sales. Instead, when we market Coca-Cola we can take pride in helping put a smile on someone’s face, and helping make things go a little bit better for them at that moment. When a doctor prescribes our anti-psychotic medicine we can feel good that we are alleviating the suffering of someone and helping him or her cope. When a surgeon implants one of our devices we can feel relieved that we are enhancing the quality of life for that patient. Yes, we are responsible for driving sales, and our corporation must make a profit. But, perhaps, the real reason for the existence of the organization, and our work as marketers, is to serve others.
Thank you moms for everything!
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
There are many boats and helicopters embedded in the body of this article. But here are a few others for your consideration:
1) Express your appreciation to your mom – Reflect on what you learned from your mom. Those of us who are parents should not have any difficulty with appreciating what we’ve learned from our moms. More than likely, it’s what we want our children to learn. If you haven’t done so already, give mom a call and express your heartfelt gratitude.
2) Review your brand positioning strategy statement – The BPS statement is the mother to the brand. It is our blueprint for transforming the product into an entity that creates brand loyalty. Let’s make sure it represents everything it can be in serving our customer target.
3) Compare your practices with your beliefs – There are a number of beliefs and values in the body of this article. Identify which of these are consistent with your beliefs. Then review your practices to determine if they are in synch. If not, then develop an action plan to link your practices, and those of your organization, with your beliefs.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers, and mothers to be.
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
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