Help Stamp Out "Creeping Meatballism"
My old friend, Wes, was upset by the glorification of jobs and functions that are mislabeled with elevated status. He called it “creeping meatballism.”
For instance, our mayor has hired a newspaper reporter to be the city’s “brand manager.” [Editor’s Note: The mayor’s new brand manager, Mary Cashiola, was a reporter for the Memphis Flyer, a sister publication of MBQ.] She’s a good and professional reporter. I’ve enjoyed reading her for years. Nevertheless, I doubt that the politicians have any intention to allow her to make decisions regarding management of the brand that is “Memphis.”
It sounds like the mayor intends her to be the city’s publicity manager. It’s okay for the city to have a publicity manager. On behalf of all true brand managers, though, it’s not okay to call a publicity manager a brand manager.
Brand management is a lot more than reputation management. For one thing, brand management requires a substantial dose of marketing, itself another victim of misuse. “Marketing” has become mere jargon. A roll-up synonym for advertising, sales promotion, and selling. Yet, marketing is the very heart of every organization.
The late Harvard Business School genius, Ted Levitt, is acknowledged as the father of modern marketing. Levitt exemplified marketing in 1967 in his timeless paper, Marketing Myopia. He pointed out that simply how one defines a business is a key element of marketing.
If railroad owners had defined their business as transportation, instead of railroading, he said, the railroads would have developed the airline industry. Instead, owners exercised a “Me Railroader” mentality. By defining their business too narrowly they failed to recognize a major opportunity.
Defining marketing is simple. It’s the process of maximizing an organization’s assets. It begins with an inventory of existing assets, followed by a search for opportunities, followed by employment of the assets to take the greatest advantage of the right opportunity. Defining’s easy. Executing’s hard.
For fear that I may be sounding like Andy Rooney on steroids, I went looking for backup. FedEx, I thought, might be a company that takes marketing seriously. So, I went to FedEx.com and found a job listing for a “senior marketing specialist.” The job is described in a list of 12 functions, such as:
◗ “Create and execute detailed plans for upgrading existing features and adding new services and features.” (Read this as, opportunities for product and service improvements and greater customer value.)
◗ “Manage voice of customer issues, problem resolution, product roadmap … ” etc. (Read this as, listen to the customer to identify opportunities for product and service improvement and greater customer value.)
◗ “Leverage market research tools and/or usability testing to discern customer pain points, service opportunities, and competitive gaps.” (Read this as, use research to identify opportunities to make things easier for the customer and make FedEx products and services better than competition’s.)
These are marketing functions. Not one includes “advertising, sales promotion, or sales.”
Join the fight against creeping meatballism. Use words that mean what you mean and titles that actually define the job functions.
John Malmo is president of John Malmo Marketing Consulting, Inc. If you have a marketing question of your own, go to askmalmo.com.