Marketing Improvisation Defines Market Success

Joe Paterno Penn State ChampionshipProduct Launch.  Mention that to any savvy marketing person and you’ll likely get an interesting reaction that reflects a blend of euphoria and post traumatic stress disorder. As contemporary marketers, we do many things during the regular season – positioning, branding, demand generation, etc. – but we live for the post season when we bring products to market. Unlike professional sports, our postseason begins with a loud bang and then goes on for a while. Though it may be several months before we know whether we’ve taken the championship, we do have a good sense of the outcome early on.

Any launch is an exercise in planning, timing, creativity, and improvisation. Legacy marketers may shudder at the last element, but the need to improvise is often the key to a successful launch.  Recently, while wrapping up an international product launch, I stopped by a bookstore at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. By habit, I went over to the business section and began thumbing through a marketing book, one that was published by a well-known business magazine. It positioned marketing as some orderly, recipe-structured process: just follow these steps and you’ll be successful with your products. Trying to be open minded and warding off a visceral, negative reaction, I thumbed through a few more chapters. No change on my end; the author clearly spent his time on the bench and hadn’t experienced action on the field when the best laid plans don’t work and require organizations to think on their feet and improvise.

Good marketing does require good planning, but great marketing adds real-time, event-driven tactical response, which may well decide the championship. Sure, you can have a detailed and exhaustive playbook, but what if your competition (or your customers) don’t fit into a play? You can’t run back to the locker room. Be good with your playbook, but be great with your improvisation on the field.

Rob Ciampa

Photo Credit: The Pennsylvania State University

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