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March 2008

Why Can't Sales and Marketing Learn To Get Along?

In all my years working in marketing and communications departments (both large and small), it still continues to baffle me as to why sales and marketing teams don't seem to get along. Yes, there is mutual respect to some degree. After all, everyone is interested in the same thing - how to craft a creative and persuasive message that will attract people's attention and prompt them to action leading to increased revenues.

The difference between sales and marketing isn't always obvious, but one could say that:

  • Marketing is the process of defining and/or creating a market niche(s) in which to "sell" a product or service. To do this requires a fairly structured and managed process that involves input from numerous stakeholders and a plan in which to "attack" the market.
  • Sales is the tail end of the process and is focused on getting the order.

Considering that they both share the same end goal, why is it that sales and marketing departments don't get along?

Here's my theory (gained from years of experience working on both sides of the fence):

1) Sales departments often don't have a keen understanding of the dynamics and thought process behind the creation of effective marketing strategy

2) Marketing departments are often seen as "dumping grounds" for marketing and communications materials versus places where strategic thought is originated

3) Marketing professionals often play on the stereotype that salespeople are 'pushy' people with no other goal in mind than chasing the almight dollar - the image of a "slick" salesperson comes to mind

In the midst of all this misunderstanding, one thing remains true. For a company to make profits, both departments need each other. Without the preparation needed to bring a product or service to market, sales teams would be wasting valuable time in the field chasing prospects with absolutely no potential. Without an effective sales team, product wouldn't be sold, and this would have tremendous impact on the bottom-line.

So, before you resort to that corporate practice of game playing and start "passing the buck" to other divisions...remember that it's in a company's best interest to learn to get along. Without sales and marketing, there would be no product and no sales. And, as we were all taught in business school, nothing happens without a sale.

What experiences have you had working in sales and/or marketing departments? Did you sense tension between the two areas? What, if anything, were you able to do about it?


Citibank Card Helps Customers Write Their Story

Logociti Citibank's (citi) new ad campaign offers an intriguing look into the lives of some of its credit card customers. The campaign, entitled "What's your story", shows how the Citi card can help us design a life that is both different and creative.

The March issue of Vanity Fair magazine features an ad highlighting the story of a self-confessed big city shopaholic called Grace who uses her card to redesign her small apartment. Grace, who is unable to cook, decides to turn her kitchen into storage space complete with organizers and racks to fuel her passion for shopping. After redesigning her "kitchen", Grace decides to leave some space for a large drawer stuffed with take-out menus.

What's interesting about Grace is that she appeals to so many women who choose to live the big city lifestyle. In a manner reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw, Grace makes no excuses about her inability to cook and decides instead to turn her kitchen into a walk-in closet. The ad not only appeals to a large demographic of women who fall into this category, it also portrays Grace as being creative, smart and innovative by choosing to turn a potential "negative" trait into a positive. She can't cook - but who cares. Who needs to cook while living the hip big city lifestyle anyway?

Stories appeal to people because they are real. Real stories about real people attract attention, something citi is hoping will lead to increased sales of their product. Whatever your story, the citi card will help you write it.

What do you think of the citi approach to advertising? Do you think potential citi users will identify with Grace and decide to take the same approach to writing their story? Do you think the ad sets a bad example by implying that people like Grace have to use a credit card to "get it done?"


Your Life Story in Six Words or Less

LIFE STORY...six words or less

In November 2006, editor Larry Smith posted a challenge on his website smithmag.net, asking people to write their life story in six words or less. Smith received 15,000 replies within the first two months, the best of which have been published in the New York Times Bestseller "Not Quite What I Was Planning."

The Toronto Star decided to pick up where Smith left off, and threw the challenge out to Star readers. Here are some of the most memorable entries:

1) Started out strong, what went wrong? (Robert Smith, Boston)

2) Evidently, I was homeschooled by nuts. (Christopher Murphy, Toronto)

3) Overeducated janitor: My ambition lacks ignition. (Chelsea Maloney, Dunnville)

4) Financially good - everything else a bust. (Emanuel Samuel, North York)

5) I have not accomplished much - yet. (Daniel Rudmin, Vancouver)

6) I was good to my dog. (Frank Green, Paisley)

7) I have lived in total obscurity. (Sonia Holder, Hamilton)

Here's a shot at my own: "Didn't listen to my parents. Oops..."

Someone once said that everyone has a story to tell. What's yours? Can you tell it in six words or less?


Why The Movies Are A Reflection Of Ourselves

There's something about the movies that brings out the best - or the worst - in us. From a very young age, we are able to relate to heros on the silver screen. We sit there mesmerized watching Spiderman and Superman save fellow citizens from impending doom. Their world became our world, and soon enough we found ourselves donning a homemade towel cape and jumping off our living room couch shouting..."I'll save you!" Through interaction and involvement in the story, we wanted to be (and for a brief moment) became our heros.

70years_2The movies have always been magical. Even as adults, the big screen and the characters in it seem larger than life (or lower than life), yet movies and stories speak a universal language that knows virtually no bounds.

What we often miss in our everyday lives is the sense of adventure and drama faced by our movie heros. Their dogged determination and fierce belief in a cause are things we admire. Our heros are usually up to something "really big", yet in many cases they went through incredible obstacles to get there. On some level, we identify with their struggles. We're there when they win and beat the bad guys, and we're there when they lose and have to give it all up. Yet it's the defiant hero, the one who fights until the end without giving up his scruples or beliefs that wins our hearts.

Mel Gibson in Braveheart is one such example. William Wallace's fierce determination and rebellious streak were traits needed to lead the Scottish uprising against English tyranny in the 13th century. This fear of living under someone else's rule is something just about everyone can identify with. In a sense, his war becomes our war, and we follow him on his incredible journey to rule out injustice and ruthless domination.

Then there's Jimmy Stewart in the classic "It's a Wonderful Life." A man is driven to despair by circumstances around him, and wonders if anything he has done has any real consequence in the world. Suddenly, everything around him lacks meaning until an angel appears to reveal an entirely different story.

And what about James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause? Who couldn't identify with the classic tale of teenage angst at its finest?

We even learn from the bad guys. Remember Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street? How many of us were proud that we weren't like him? On the other hand, how many of us almost secretly wished that our personalities would allow us to be ruthless and greedy enough to be able to accumulate Gekko's wealth and lifestyle? On the one hand we despised him, yet on another level we wished we could be more like him.

Regardless of our stage in life, there's something about the movies that reminds us it's not all bad. When faced with the most desperate times on the silver screen, directors always have a way of showing us that there's beauty to be found - if only one took the time to look for it. Good advice as we continue to face complex challenges in a world that shows no signs of slowing down.

Heros on the silver screen can inspire us, move us and lead us to action. We will always have this insatiable need to act out some lived (or unlived) part of our lives through characters that live in the make-believe world of motion pictures.

Which heros did you identify with as a child? Has that changed in adulthood? What qualities of your heros did you wish you had? What is it about the movies that can inspire us to believe in something bigger again?


Has Technology Killed The Hollywood Story?

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Will the advent of technology and developments such as YouTube, reality shows and video games mean the end of business as usual for the Hollywood system as it exists?

In the March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, Michael Wolff describes what Hollywood would be like without its driving force of plot driven narratives. A world where legions of producers, directors, agents, executives and writers cease to operate as "business as usual", because the medium in which they were taught to write and operate no longer exists. When scores of writers are taught to write for a medium that no longer exists - and the Hollywood elite (fast approaching their 70's) have no idea how to adapt their business for radically different audiences and distribution systems - what happens to story as we know it?

The business of Hollywood is the business of story. Without a story, there is no film. Conventional storylines are plot driven with many replicating proven formulas that have a good chance of driving box office receipts.

But what happens when the formula changes? What happens when the new audience is radically different than the old one? What happens when the technology changes to include radically different new means of distribution? Will Hollywood as we know it, cease to exist?

Reading Wolff's article leaves me with mixed feelings of sorts. On the one hand, traditional storytelling faces potential extinction as video games continue to rival box office receipts. In 2007, video game receipts totalled $8.7 billion, while box office receipts came in at $9.7 billion. On the other hand, should the migration towards more interactive and mobile technology not trigger some sort of business opportunity for Hollywood's power elite?

If Hollywood players could find a way to incorporate story into the increasing demand for more interactive types of technology and network television, then perhaps story as we know it wouldn't be dead. Maybe the opportunity is just sitting there, waiting to be reborn.

It's time for Hollywood to take notice, and shift their way of thinking from being players in the entertainment business to being players in the technology business. Wake up Hollywood - a new world awaits!

How do you see Hollywood capitalizing on new technology? Is there some way to incorporate elements of moviemaking and storytelling into video games and reality shows? Is technology such as YouTube a threat or an opportunity to the traditional Hollywood establishment? What's the new form of story in the future?