20 Assertions from A Marketing Conversation

Last night marked my return to the classroom. Adjunct assistant professor of marketing. A dream.


I’m going to leave the classroom discussion in the classroom. Let the energy stay there. Trust builds that way.


At the same time, some big ideas were shared, endorsed, chewed over.


Hope these are useful to you. Or that you have a comment, or would like to add to the conversation. What are the basics? What should everybody who wants to know about marketing, know right off the bat?


Here are last night’s 20:


1. We market, without realizing it, all the time.


2. Understand what the term “marketing” means to you upfront. Because if you don’t, you may find yourself talking past the other people in the room.


3. The key distinction to understand is between marketing and branding. (We didn’t talk about selling, but I’m throwing it in here, b/c I should have.) Branding is long-term image insurance, marketing is medium-to-short-term awareness-building, and selling is immediate term shouting designed to move merchandise. Think meat stew versus sautéing versus broiling.


4. Innovation is tough to do mainly because of social pressure. You have to train yourself to suggest things that others would find shocking.


5. Marketers must be ethical and tell the truth, but consumer insights cannot be based on political correctness. Only on what the marketer observes in an objective way.


6. Consider the regulatory environment and the client’s unique situation before suggesting solutions.


7. Exercise your marketing muscle by engaging people in conversation and then guessing what kind of brands they like, products they buy, etc.


8. It is not clear whether personality fundamentally changes over time, but life experiences do shape our thinking because we’ve gone through them.


9. To play defense is to be dead.


10. Emotion sells, but you have to control it so that you remain in touch with the customer and don’t seem like an out-of-control lunatic.


11. Usually it’s the throwaway insights that yield the most fruit.


12. You don’t always want the end user to know about your existence.


13. All publicity is good publicity. Usually.


14. The time to build a brand is way before you have a problem.


15. Rebranding is another way to say “failed brand.”


16.  Ask stupid questions if you don’t know.


17. Refuse the conventional definition of the problem statement if it suits your purposes.


18. Marketing is a helmet that you can put on and take off. It’s important to become aware when you’re doing that, and do it consciously.


19. If nobody is listening then you haven’t accomplished anything. Stop thinking so much about your message and what you want to say. Think more about connecting with the customer.


20. Corporate culture is the most important aspect of the brand and the most neglected.


Finally, when in doubt, refer to Starbucks. I criticize abundantly, but it’s only out of respect. Howard Schultz & Co. more or less wrote the book on how to build an outstanding brand, market it, and sell its individual products successfully.


Have a good evening everyone. Let me know what you think. And good luck.




Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.