Marketing Manifesto – #7: Be consistent

I remember when I was young and my mother watched Sherlock Holmes films and TV shows. She loved his character and when she was watching a British television series starting Jeremy Brett as Holmes she would intently focus on our TV screen. She followed the story with such laser beam attention that she would completely ignore us if we talked to her during interesting bits.  Of course, Jeremy Brett was eerily engaging – I can clearly remember his face when he was deep in concentration on a mystery – it was kind of scary how intense he looked, which of course only added to his mystique and effectiveness in the role of Holmes.

Wikipedia notes that Sherlock Holmes is the “most portrayed movie character”, with some 75 actors playing the character in 211 films. So my mother was not alone in find the character fascinating. There is something about him and his uncanny ability to solve mysteries that makes us want to see into his world and learn his mental secrets.

When I think of why Sherlock Holmes, the detective, was so good at solving his cases, I can think of one particular reason: He was unfailingly consistent in his analysis of clues and his following of logic to their natural conclusions. Where lesser detectives would lose their way in a trail of clues, Sherlock Holmes, by some quirk of nature, was able to hold onto even the most tenuous thread that linked disparate clues together logically.  He worked step-by-step through a case, being utterly consistent in his thinking.

I wish that Sherlock Holmes was also a marketer because I bet he would be a good one.  Because I believe that consistency is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s tool kit.

Which leads me to the next Marketing Manifesto principle:

A Marketing Manifesto

10 principles and practices of great marketing:

#7: Be consistent

Of all the challenges I have ever had getting marketing “right”, being consistent has been the most devilishly difficult.

It is not that I am inconsistent by nature. My mother is Swiss, so I was raised to be consistent.  I can count on one hand, for example, the number of times I was late for school as a child.  Well, actually, I can’t count it – because I can’t ever remember being late for school.  That was how consistent she was in getting me out the door every morning.

Our own minds are the problem

No, consistency in my marketing has been devilishly difficult to achieve because the human mind is littered with knowledge,  beliefs, values, and dreams that steer us from the truth.

Instead of finding truth, the mind finds remembered facts that may or may not be true at the present time and in the current context.

Instead of finding truth the mind finds beliefs about what the truth is.

Instead of finding truth, the mind sees what it thinks the truth should be.

Instead of finding truth the mind finds wishful thinking.  We are full of hopes and dreams.

Yup, there you have it:  We, ourselves – our own minds – are the problem.  The “stuff” in them distracts us from identifying often simple truths and stringing them together like beads in a necklace of consistent logic.

It is not just me

Having graded hundreds of case study exams my students have written over the years, I have seen consistency as one of the major challenges they also deal with.   I teach my students to follow something called “The Marketing Method”, which is an iterative marketing analytical methodology I created.  It is a straightforward, step-by-step flow from customer needs through to advertising at the end. Between customer needs and advertising,  target markets are identified, products to position to meet target market needs are “created”, and channels for getting those products to the target market are identified.

Unlike Sherlock Holmes, my students regularly lose the thread of consistency and logic.  For example,  when a target market of “women between 25 and 60 years of age” is considered for the sale of the Chevy Volt electric car, the students think nothing of stating that the best channel for selling the Volt is a regular dealership staffed by male salespeople who do business in very traditional ways. This conclusion is after the students have already clearly identified that this particular target market is buying the Chevy Volt for different reasons than a typical car might be sold, and with very different expectations of the buying process, which do not include being subjected to a regular male salesman doing his regular “sales thing”.  Instead of specifying a marketing channel setup that is consistent with all previous analysis (values based sales process, women salespeople, a special dealership process, etc.), they choose what they already know: That cars are sold through dealerships that represent the brand.  The Chevy Volt, therefore, should be sold through the regular Chevy dealership. Period.

On the case study exam from which the above example was taken, only 3 or so students out of my 30 MBA students actually identified that the dealership experience had to be different in order to meet the target market’s expectations and emotional goals when considering the Chevy Volt as a vehicle to meet their needs.

And of those 3 students, only 1 created a perfectly  simple, consistent, and interlinked marketing plan for the Chevy Volt, even when the case study gave them all the data needed to do so.  Most students did a great job in their analysis of the case – they are smart MBA students after all – but only one was able to create a truly consistent plan for the Chevy Volt.

(As an aside, I read a surprising reason why there are not more female car salespeople:  Female car buyers do not trust female car salespeople. Apparently female car buyers don’t believe female car salespeople really know what they are talking about when explaining mechanics and technical details of a vehicle. Only male car salespeople do.  Hmmmm….)

Want to be consistent?  Get all that  “stuff” out of your head.

Consistency, I believe, is the result of undivided focus on truth.  Not remembered truth. Not perceived truth. Not dreamed of truth.  Truth. Real truth.  And the only way I know of getting to that Truth is by emptying my conscious and unconscious brain of the clutter of  “stuff” in there.

This is not a lesson in deprogramming your conscious and sub-conscious minds but the indication that it would be really useful for you to do this emptying if you want to find truth and be consistent in your marketing.  How can you learn to do this deprogramming?  There are dozens of useful tools available, all of which are well documented on the internet and most are distributed and taught for free. Check them out.

In summary,  consistency is a cornerstone of Sherlock Holmes’ ability to solve mysteries.  And consistency is also a cornerstone of successful marketing.

Want to do great marketing?

Be consistent.

Elementary, my dear Watson.”

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