Marketing is big business and companies invest billions into finding out what consumers want or what will entice them to buy their goods and services. Major manufacturers are adept at long-term market planning, seeing the bigger picture and planning for the future. Yet, some can even shape or guide the industry in a particular direction. Some people can confuse sales with marketing. Sales, while linked to marketing, are easier to measure. “Did you make that sale? What is the cost and profit?” Marketing is more about shifts and trends; they can take time to show results. But the results are more powerful, longer lasting and must have feedback to allow shifts in strategies to be effective. A salesperson is typically closer, going through great lengths to make a sale. Marketing people have to evaluate the trends, predict possibilities, form alliances and have the power of influence.

Sometimes, a career shift can be eye opening as we find what we once held to be of high value may not be of the same value to another group. In conjunction with that thought, it appears when a group is challenged, confused or becomes conflicted, they often return to their comfort zone or old habits. Most groups are such because they share a set of common beliefs and values. This can have an impact on sales and marketing plans. Finding what motivates a particular group to make a certain decision is pretty powerful stuff.

The Bottom Line

Consider a custom built house: How do owners decide which items are more relevant than others? This includes the people who build them. Contractors generally tend to be driven by the bottom line, whereas architects tend to want their vision to be a reality, and the owner typically gets a compromise as budgets must be adhered to. This also explains why speculation homebuilders tend to design quickly and let the budget be a predetermining factor. Keep costs in control and only spend money on items that really count. This typically means high-end countertops and top-of-the-line appliances. Why is that? Is it possibly because marketing studies have repeatedly shown that this is what sells homes?

Architects call these items “finishes” and while they are certainly important, they can frequently take a secondary role to other items many of us tend to overlook. Architects walk the project site and focus on how to take maximum advantage of the location, including view, morning and afternoon sun, placement of windows to maximize ventilation, etc. Compare these houses to a builder’s speculation home and it is typically a world of difference. This may cost a little more but they also sell for more money, too.

So why is it that brand-name appliances are deemed to have so much more value than good building design? Then add in the frequent complaints about pricey high-end appliances and it makes you wonder. After all this, name recognition in manufacturers continues to be in high demand, at least according to marketing reports, studies and television. This made me ponder, who does these research reports?

Thinking Out Loud

Major marketing and research firms have monstrous budgets. Most of these mega firms are so large they are listed on the stock exchange. As such, they must release public budgets, yet the source of income is a grey area. These research companies report income in the billions of dollars or Euros. I was surprised to discover the CEO and top officers of these firms are often former CEO’s of the same appliance companies or other consumer goods manufacturers they produce marketing studies and reports for. Could this be why research studies verify consumer preferences align with high-end products? There seems to be a connection between the research results, the marketing giants and major corporations. Which begs the question who really is leading the trend? Is it what consumers really want or what manufacturer’s desire? Since opinions and trends can be tricky to pin down, the question is one that probably cannot be answered. However, it is hard not to be skeptical. We know some research studies with final reports were slanted to meet a predetermined agenda. We have seen this when the news reports a certain food provides great benefits, only to be retracted a year later. It is hard to know who or what research to trust.

 In preparing this editorial and doing online research, I found the slogan of one major marketing firm particularly ironic. They specialize in appliance research, and the current CEO was the former head of a major appliance manufacturer. Their slogan? “We get the big picture.” My question to you is do we really?