The tools in our recently released book, The Accidental Marketer, come from reverse-engineering marketing’s greatest successes.  A study from the July-August 2014 Harvard Business Review adds more fuel to this fire, underscoring what leading firms do differently than lower-performing organizations when it comes to marketing.

The Marketing 2020 study was featured in the HBR article entitled The Ultimate Marketing Machine,” written by Marc de Swaan Arons, Frank van den Driest and Keith Weed.  The article summarizes the findings from what is billed as the most comprehensive marketing leadership study ever undertaken.

The findings reinforce some of Impact’s most strongly held principles.  Below, we have summarized some of the key findings of the study (go here to gain access to the entire article: – and highlighted the Impact tools and the chapters in our book that will help you to execute on them.

Key Finding:  Brands/companies positioned around emotional and societal benefits and values not only perform better — they feature better internal alignment as well.

“Big Data” is helping companies understand what customers are doing better than ever.  But the HBR study found that the best performing companies are relentless in their pursuit of understanding why customers are doing what they do.

These leading companies are learning that emotional needs underpin virtually everything that consumers and business people do.  They then make sure that their brands and strategy connect to customer’s “emotional and societal” benefits sought –sound positioning strategy indeed.

But the study found another advantage to making this emotional connection: it helps employees align around and execute on the brand’s promise.

Doesn’t it make sense that the clarity and higher calling of an emotionally-based strategy helps cross-functional personnel support the brand better than flat, functional approaches do?

Chapter 2 in our book The Accidental Marketer helps strategists find emotional and societal benefits sought by customers (we call them “values”) using our Benefits Ladder tool.  Chapter 9  shows how to turn insights into a unique, important and believable positioning statement that can motivate customers — and align your organization.

Key Finding:  High-performing companies utilize customer data and needs information to create meaningful customer experiences. 

According to the HBR study, better performing companies are using what they know about individual customers to increasingly personalize their offerings.  It seems that businesses are getting closer to delivering the 1to1 customer experience that our friends and colleagues, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, PhD., first wrote about in the early 1990’s.

A key step in this journey comes from dividing your customer base into needs-based segments for purposes of creating segment-specific value propositions.  This approach can help you start “treating different segments differently,” on the road to smaller segments, more intense personalization and, eventually, 1to1 marketing.

Chapter 3 in our book helps readers to understand how needs-based segmentation is different from other forms of segmentation, and provides a technique for creating them.  Chapters 8 and 10 features ideas and tools for building powerful, needs-based offers and experiences.

Key Finding:  The marketers in high-performing organizations are orchestrators of strategy, operating around a single marketing language and approach. 

 The study reports that many leading companies are setting up internal academies for the express purpose of creating a single marketing language and approach.  They are acting on the fundamental belief that today “marketing is too important to be left just to the marketers.”  Conversely, the HBR study found that under-performers are underinvesting in marketing training.

At the center of all of this activity is the strategic marketer, fulfilling a challenging and exciting role:  marshaling resources to understand customers, create optimal strategy and align the organization for successful execution.  In the Closing Remarks of The Accidental Marketer, we called marketers “the orchestrators of a company’s strategy.”  We were gratified to see the HBR study use the exact same language to define marketing’s role in high-performing companies.

There’s never been a better time to be a marketer!

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