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Beaver, Skunk Disagree Over Marketing: A Marketing Allegory, Part 8

Skunk Logic

In case you missed past installments of this marketing allegory, Charlie Hatchet is the busy-beaver owner of Moosepicks, a company that makes toothpicks for moose. Back when Charlie’s new company was almost going under, marketing consultant Fred Squirrel helped him turn things around. With Fred’s help, Charlie found a target audience, created a company name and brand, and developed a unique product. Manufacturing is no sweat for Charlie, but he continues learning the ropes of marketing.

The rising sun topped the ridge, scattering sparkles across the rippled surface of the lake. Charlie Hatchet took one last lap around the perimeter before heading for the shore. He always looked forward to his morning swim. It helped clear the night’s collection of cobwebs from his brain. This morning he had been thinking about reorganizing the Moosepicks warehouse. He was pretty sure they could increase their production with some strategic equipment and storage rack relocations.

As Charlie groomed his fur, Karl Skunk came down the trail to the lake. “G’morning, Charlie,” he said cheerfully. “My nightly amble took me past one of your signposts last night. It had good visibility. Those firefly surround teams do a great job of providing lighting.”

“I’m glad to hear it was lit up nicely,” Charlie replied. “Those signposts with extra lighting are expensive.”

“Isn’t all marketing expensive?” Karl asked.

Charlie hesitated. To be honest, the same thought had crossed his mind before, but he was suspicious that this view was too simplistic. “Maybe,” he replied slowly. “But on the other paw, it might depend on your definition of marketing.”

Karl finished drinking and lifted his head. “That’s easy,” he said, flicking a drop of water from the end of his nose. “Marketing is spending money on leaf-lets, the Cloudpuff, signposts, catalogs. All that advertising stuff. What else could it be?”

Skunk Logic

Charlie looked up at the sun. It was time to move on. “I’ll have to think about it,” he said, and headed up the trail. He was looking forward to sketching out new potential floor plans for the warehouse. Logistics and manufacturing were more fun than marketing any day.

Hannah shares her opinion.

“Are we going to the Forest Fire Department fund-raiser tomorrow evening?” Hannah Hatchet asked Charlie that evening. The lodge was quiet since the kits had already gone to bed.

“I figured we would,” said Charlie.

“Sounds good to me. Anything noteworthy at work today?” Hannah liked to hear about Charlie’s day, and asked the question every evening. Occasionally it resulted in Charlie sharing an interesting tidbit.

Charlie told her about his ideas for reorganizing the warehouse. “I think if we laid things out differently, we could be more efficient. We could fill large orders faster and cut costs at the same time.”

Then he remembered his early morning conversation with Karl Skunk. Hannah was a better thinker than he was. Maybe she could tell him why he wasn’t ready to agree with Karl Skunk’s definition of marketing.

He told Hannah what Karl had said about marketing. “I don’t know why, but I think there’s got to be more to it than that,” Charlie said.

Hannah agreed. “It seems to me that Karl Skunk is talking only about the surface of marketing—the leaf-lets and signposts. And you probably have been around Fred Squirrel long enough to know that there is more to marketing than most forest folk think. But, hey, we have a full day tomorrow. It doesn’t matter to me right now what Karl Skunk thinks about marketing. Let’s go to bed.”

Fred Squirrel zeros in on communication.

The meadow where the Forest Fire Department fund-raiser was being held was packed. Charlie figured half the forest was there. He saw Max Moose giving rides to youngsters, and Smokey Bear demonstrating how to put out a small fire by scraping dirt over it.

Charlie and Hannah grabbed some food and found an empty spot at a table under a pine tree. Fred Squirrel came by carrying an ear of corn. “Sit here with us,” Charlie invited. “I’ve got a question for you.”

“I’ll be glad to,” Fred Squirrel said. “What’s happening at Moosepicks these days?”

“Business as usual,” Charlie replied, “except we did have a little mishap today.” He told Fred how one of the kits had smashed a hole in the side of the warehouse with the log mover. “He wasn’t being careful.”

Hannah spoke up. “Maybe he wasn’t being careful enough, but he also told me that he didn’t understand your directions about operating the log mover.”

Charlie nodded. “I was in a hurry,” he said ruefully. “I guess I didn’t communicate very well.”

“Communication is a challenge,” Fred Squirrel agreed. “But that’s one of the things I like about marketing. Marketing is all about communication.”

Fred Squirrel sketches an overview of marketing.

Charlie watched as Fred Squirrel started drawing on his napkin. It reminded him a little of how he had sketched out his warehouse drawings the day before.

“First, marketing starts with identifying a problem someone has, and then developing a solution to the problem.” Fred sketched out a square and a circle. “Square peg, round hole represents the problem,” he said.

“What is the solution? In this scenario, a good solution would be a cutting die that turns the square peg into a round peg that will fit the hole. Here, does this look like a cutting die?” Charlie watched, fascinated, as Fred sketched out a simplified version.

“But we aren’t finished yet. The solution must be communicated to potential customers. Marketing creates communication elements that educate prospects about the problem and the solution, and that motivates them to purchase. ”

For this part, Fred’s sketch showed a hammer driving the peg through the die and into a round hole—a perfect fit. “These communication elements include both written copy and visuals like photos.”

Fred Squirrel Explains Marketing

“I apologize for doing all the talking,” Fred said. “I’ll be finished soon.”

“Keep going—I’m learning,” Charlie replied. He noticed that Hannah had left the table to visit with some of her friends.

“These communication elements are designed into layouts and then placed into vehicles that get them to customers. By vehicles, I mean things like leaf-lets, signpost messages, Cloudpuff advertisements, and Nutshell ads.”

“Fourth, marketing sends the vehicles on highways that take these messages to the customer.” Fred drew a box with arrows coming out of it in different directions. “Highway delivery methods include signposts, the Cloudpuff network, catalogs, and mailers.”

Charlie interjected, “Karl Skunk was telling me the other day that marketing is simply these last several things you mentioned—Cloudpuff, signposts, and so on. But are you saying that the marketing process starts long before that?”

“That’s right,” Fred Squirrel replied, eating a few more kernels from his neglected ear of corn. “Many businesses think marketing only includes advertising. They don’t realize that their advertising won’t be effective if they don’t have a product that solves a problem. Neither will their advertising be effective if they don’t convey the right messages through that advertising.”

Charlie learns how marketing touches everything.

Charlie’s mind went back to when he had started his business. “Do you remember the first time you helped me?” he asked Fred. “I had a product, but I couldn’t understand why I had no customers. It was because the product didn’t solve a problem for anyone.”

Fred chuckled. “I remember. That’s right. You were making sharpened logs, but no one in the forest knew what to do with a sharpened log. So we did some market research and discovered that moose needed a tool to remove stuff from between their teeth.”

“Was that marketing?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, I would say it was,” Fred said. “And it was marketing when we decided to brand your new product and company as Moosepicks and when we developed marketing messages for your advertising.”

“To hear you talk, it sounds like almost everything I do fits into marketing,” Charlie said. “I am thinking about redoing my warehouse layout. Surely that isn’t marketing.”

“Maybe not, but maybe so,” Fred Squirrel answered. “Marketing isn’t just what you do to acquire new customers. Everything you do to better serve your customers and give them a positive experience is connected to marketing in some way. Let me guess you aren’t going to reorganize your warehouse just for the fun of it, like my missus moves stuff around in our nest every few moons.”

“Well, no,” Charlie replied. “We can be more efficient with a new arrangement. This will enable us to provide our customers faster turnarounds. We will be able to stay profitable while keeping our prices steady.”

“Sounds like a good marketing idea to me,” Fred Squirrel said. “Your customers win and so do you.”

“Maybe I need to resign myself to doing marketing every day,” Charlie said with a fake groan. “I was just thinking yesterday how much more I enjoy working in the warehouse than I enjoy marketing.”

On the way back to the lodge in the darkness, Charlie gave Hannah a quick rundown of what he had learned from Fred during the evening. “I wonder what Fred will teach us next,” he said. “We have a reasonably successful business, but I’m sure I’ll need his help again.”

Moral of the story

Beware of limiting your concept of marketing to spending money on advertising. As you can see from this definition of marketing from Investopedia Commentary, marketing covers a wide scope: “The total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.”

Another definition of marketing comes from marketer Phil Kotler: “Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.”

Anything you do to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them falls under the umbrella of marketing. So does product development, because your customers’ needs must influence what product you create and what features it has.

Even order fulfillment is an important part of marketing. Without on-time and accurate delivery that lives up to your promise, you will fail to meet customers’ expectations and they won’t be likely to buy from you again.

Developing a solution, engineering the mechanisms to deliver it, creating the marketing and sales process to generate orders, and confirming that the solution is delivered as promised is all part of marketing.

Can you relate to Charlie Hatchet’s challenges? Rosewood Marketing is your Fred Squirrel for the real world. Would you like someone to walk alongside you to help solve your marketing challenges? Call 717-866-5000 or e-mail