I was a judge in the final round of the recent 14th MarkProf Marketing Leadership Bootcamp Challenge — an annual event I co- founded with Ding Salvador, then ASEAN president of Johnson and Johnson. Since 2003, MarkProf annually searches for the 25 most promising young leaders from graduating college students who excel academically (grade point average of at least 85% is required) and are also active student-leaders.
Close to 1000 students vied to be shortlisted. From them, 100 were chosen for the next screening. Then after another elimination, the Top 25 finalists were selected to undergo the free 7-Saturday Bootcamp where they will be mentored by a dream team of CEOs and CMOs. They were graded based on the quality of questions they asked and were forced rank with an open grading system — every participants get to see their class standing after each session.
Below are the 8 tips on how to crack a marketing challenge that I shared with the MarkProf finalists.
1. Start with “Why”.
One of the cases was about a brand not being top-of-mind in the online travel booking space. Instead of immediately coming up with a communication campaign, ask why the brand is not top-of-mind in order to further understand the issue or even reframe the problem.
2. Distinguish symptoms from the root cause.
Keep asking to generate a chain of issues that can pinpoint the source of the challenge. As marketers, keep asking and distinguish symptoms from the root cause. The chain of meanings derived can lead to a valuable insight.
3. Ensure problem definition is clear before offering solutions.
Marketers should not rush to offering a marketing campaign by merely accepting a marketing challenge without validating the problem. Otherwise, it may become just another marketing activity that solves the wrong problem.
4. Be relevant before being unique.
Many times, differentiation is offered without solving existing pain points. Other times, pain points are solved without any differentiation. Have a basic understanding of the dynamics between consumer needs and wants.
5. Talk to customers.
Don’t be a swivel-chair marketer. Avoid presenting big ideas without any basis. Conversation with target consumers is very crucial. Prepare simple questions to know barriers to consumer adoption; and discover their “likes” and “wish list” to give way to user-generated ideation.
6. Don’t fall in love with creating hashtags!
Hashtags are cool, but only after getting marketing problem right, as well as matching it with appropriate marketing solution. #BeRightBeforeBeCute.
7. Formulate value proposition before marketing campaign.
Marketing mix has the value proposition part, composed of product and price; as well as the marketing plan part, composed of place and how the value proposition will be promoted. Marketing campaigns cannot exist from nothing; it only follows value proposition–hopefully a compelling one.
8. Persuasion is not decided in the board room; it is decided in the marketplace.
Separate noise versus the data that creates value. Some data that are available and shared are just ‘noise’ not needed to be considered. The final arbiter of sustainable marketing is never in the board, but in the marketplace where consumers vote with their wallet. That’s how board members should also decide.
The MarkProf seal now serves as a resume equalizer and a head start advantage to the Philippine young marketers. So far, there are 337 alumni in the Markprof’s Leadership Network. Many of these then-young leaders have grown to be movers and shakers in their respective industries.