Rockstar Marketers

Matthew Creamer has a nice piece in Ad Age about Rock Star Marketers. Truth be told, marketing is a difficult profession where successes are hard to come by. There are so many unknowns, not the least of which is your product and the competitive situation you are in. Many a careers are made by products that are so superior that they would sell by themselves. And eventhough product development needs hundreds of people in the organization, the credit often goes to one or two marketers at the top, who go on to gain rock start status to the chagrin of the rest of the organization that wonders, what about my contribution?

But more times than not its the other way around. Products that have good attributes languish because the results don't follow the marketing hype and the organization looses interest in it. I have known many a great communicators who tell a great story and persuade the organization into investing heavily in their hyped-up ideas. However the realities of life soon catch up with most of them and the product falters. What could have been a good medium sized product appears to be a failing product in the eyes of the organization. Unfortunately its the product lifecycle investment that pays the price because who wants to invest in a product that is failing to meet the expectations?

So why do marketers try to oversell the brand? Because thats what is expected of them. And because, what ever happens to the product, generally it doesn't work out so bad for marketers. The sad fact is, in large organizations most marketers don't stick around long enough to take the accountability for their actions. In fact the organization gets so wrapped up in the hype that just getting to the point of execution is considered to be success in itself, and the marketer gets rewarded for "moving" the organization. Their so called "leadership skills" are celebrated and skillful marketers leverage that into a bigger marketing opportunity.

But if you have been hired from outside to "move the needle", then its a different story. Witness the fall of Keri Martin and Julie Roehm. A rock star marketer who cannot deliver on promised sales is tough to sell within the organization. Add to that the "envy" factor, then the only way the organization can defend itselves is by getting rid of the liability. At that point it doesn't matter that the organization followed the rockstar blindly and that the organization is complicit in the marketers failure. What matters is that the rockstar marketer failed to deliver.

The recent publc failures of Julie and Kerri and the rest should teach the organizations the value in going after substance than the hype. But I won't hold my breath on it happening. Afterall, we are a product of the communication age, where hype is part of our every day life.
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