to cut costs – know what you are doing!


It is only reasonable that there should be pressure on marketing budgets. So much investment in marketing is wasted. The argument against cost cutting is, most often, that it will lead to poorer results. So, how do we cut the cost of marketing without damaging returns?

The starting point in reducing the cost of marketing involves ensuring that we understand what marketing is, and how it works.

Contrary to a common misconception, marketing and advertising are not the same thing. Contrary to popular belief, marketing and advertising, marketing and branding, and marketing and communication are not separate disciplines. In each case, the latter is a subset of the former.

There are many definitions of marketing, with some providing more insight than others. I define marketing as follows:

  • Managing the behaviour of a specified market in a way that drives a specified commercial or social outcome.

Marketing is about identifying a market, and then influencing the behaviour of that market, or members of it, in a way that causes behaviour consistent with the commercial or social objectives of the marketer.

As I have noted previously, marketing campaigns have one of four objectives – causing a behaviour consistent with commercial objectives to occur:

  • For the first time
  • For the last time
  • More often
  • Less often

The objective might be to ensure that a member of a specified market shops at Coles for the first time, or that a member of the specified market stops smoking, or that that member of the target market buys Coke more often, or that the member specified drinks less.

Every activity that can efficiently assist in the achievement of these objectives is a part of marketing. Equally, anything that does not contribute to the achievement of one of these objectives is not a part of marketing.

Further, the product, service standards, pricing, and distribution are important components of marketing, and must take centre stage in any marketing strategy.

Following this definition, awareness, understanding, liking, and even perception are only part of the marketing equation, that is, where they impact on the capacity to address one of these objectives.

Focusing on behaviour, and identifying behaviours to be influenced in order to achieve a commercial or social objective, is the first step in reducing marketing costs and, most importantly, maximising return on investment in marketing.

An election has just been announced in Australia. In that election, education will be a big issue – particularly for the opposition, which has a perceived advantage in this area. That said, it is likely that the economy will be the factor that most influences voting behaviour. Being recognised for a commitment to education, is unlikely to influence the behaviour of voters. And, at the end of election day, it is only the behaviour of voters that matters.

The same is true in the social sector. Rotary continues to promote itself, driving awareness higher and higher.  Research, however, suggests that there is no relationship between awareness and membership – if people do not like the product.

The same is true in a commercial environment where, despite the potential for repeat business and referral, a business continues to deliver a standard of service that is below expectations and  incompatible with repeat business and referral – irrespective of awareness and brand perception.


  1. Marketing and advertising are not the same thing.
  2. Marketing is all about behaviour management.
  3. Expenditure that does not influence behaviour is wasted.
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