In a recent interview, Andrea Bonezzi hit on a common and alarming misconception about marketing.

The assistant professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business told Direct Marketing News that new students entering his core class view marketing as “all about advertising, consumer communication and some kind of consumer psychology.”

But Bonezzi argued that in reality a marketer’s foremost responsibility is managing a profitable brand.

“I try to get students to think of themselves not only as marketers, but as entrepreneurs. As people who are managing a business,” he said. “For sure there is going to be an aspect of communication, the aspect of understanding the psychology of consumers, the aspect of advertising, and all of those things. But besides that there are much more businessey aspects of your job.”

This misconception Bonezzi highlights is also pervasive at banks. All we need do is look at the hot topics on the American Bankers Association’s marketing bulletin board website to see the industry undervaluing the skill set required of the profession.

The trade association’s bulletin board lists topics like: Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, crisis communication, customer appreciation events and promotions — all forms of communicating with customers. In reality, these functions barely qualify as marketing and don’t come close to the core function of marketing: produce bottom-line results. But for too many bank marketers, these kinds of topics are how they regard their to-do list.

A focus on the superficial aspects of the job may be attributed to several factors.

For one, marketers are often inadequately prepared. Perhaps they lack a solid marketing education or received only on-the-job training. A public relations or communications background won’t provide the requisite tools, for instance.

But much of the responsibility for superficial marketing can be traced to senior executives who have low expectations for the position. Many CEOs are too willing to accept low levels of production. Bank executives may have a concept of marketing rooted in the less competitive ’80s or ’90s when marketers were little more than PR practitioners, salaries were low and expectations even lower.

However, banks have too much to lose to settle for anything less than top-notch marketing. Competition is unprecedented and likely to get even more intense.

So instead of the negligible results ascribed to Facebook postings and logo revisions, bank marketers should spend their time on more productive endeavors such as analyzing product profitability, creating new products or delivery channels or assessing customer potential. Marketers should also research attitudes and behaviors, pinpoint friction points along the customer journey and unearth trends by digging through internal data. In short, their analytical skills and knowledge of consumer behavior should add value to a bank’s strategic plan.

Data-driven marketers can give chief executives the insights and information needed to make smart, carefully considered decisions — skills that are needed to forge a path through the landmines ahead.

Kevin Tynan

Kevin Tynan

Kevin Tynan is senior vice president for marketing at Liberty Bank for Savings in Chicago.

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