The Case for Brand Marketing in a Start-Up World

I love Mad Men. But I also hate Mad Men. To be clear, I love the show – the acting, writing, and art direction. However, I dislike that it’s somewhat stunted the idea of marketers for our culture in the 1950s and 1960s era. The man in the gray flannel suit. And the scotch. A huckster applying taglines, jingles, and ads to products.

Fast forward to today. Start-up tees, laptop stickers, and caffeinated pitches. We’ve embraced a more entrepreneurial, start-up culture that pitches and workshops the next big business idea. While this emphasis on starting is great, it sometimes comes at the expense of marketing, which struggles to be seen as something more integral to the operation than just a sloganeering ad-man that can be looped in after the fact.

We focus on innovation and starting which are critical but the growth phase that needs to follow is one that relies heavily on the art and science of marketing.

The Best of Times

As an educator who works with marketing students and a marketing strategist that works with businesses, I’m fond of saying there’s never been a better time to be in marketing. Take any other business discipline — accounting, economics, management — and you’ll find that though new discoveries have impact, the bedrock remains constant.

That’s not the case with marketing. What we do has forever been disrupted by the Internet and the marketing tools it has brought about. We don’t just communicate in one-way 30-second bursts and interrupting eye candy. We have multi-directional conversations and create helpful content. As businesses, we actually have to listen now. Our activities aren’t always focused on short-term sales either, as the web has taught us all the value of long-tail relationships.

Brands Remain Constant

Regardless of these tectonic plate shifts in how we market, one constant remains the same. In addition to social media use numbers going through the roof, Americans are also following more brands each year as well. We do business with people and brands we like. Social media gives us an even better medium for interested parties to like our brands and build those relationships.

That’s why you need to be carefully crafting your brand blueprint right from the start. We focus on refining ideas and sparking innovation but we can’t throw the brand out with the bathwater.

During and After the Start-Up

All of this makes the case for ensuring that there’s a place at the table for marketers during this start-up revolution. A solid foundation of branding and marketing can make a good pitch great and transform a bold idea into an innovative brand. If planned correctly, there really should be very little daylight between your business plan and your marketing plan.

In the end, this may come from at times feeling like one of those Dapper Dan hucksters by the cool kids with the start-up tees. However, it’s also frustrating as both branding and marketing are more critical than ever given the sociological and technological advances in our culture.

Starting is a powerful first step but to get to where we’re going we need to remember that marketing paves the way to real innovation and growth.