There is nothing magical about marketing. It’s straight-up, process-driven work. The fundamentals are the same for every organization: attract, engage, convert and retain your customers by effectively explaining what you do, why you’re different and delivering on that promise. That’s it.
With that said, not all marketing is equal. Some argue creativity and ideas drive great marketing, but I disagree. It’s execution. As David Aaker explains in Brand Relevance, “The ability to execute is often underrated. Even great strategies badly executed will fail.” Execution is the great leveler.
Execution is more than a word
“Execution” is a word bandied about in the business community. Consultants love to use it like “solution,” “ROI” and “synergies.” It’s overuse has stripped away much of the meaning, but it’s still an idea worth discussing.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “execution” as, “The action of carrying into effect (a plan, design, purpose, command, decree, task, etc.)” I like the OED’s description, because it draws in the aspects of planning and purpose.
Doing work or being busy is not execution. Execution happens when your team is aligned and working together to fulfill a clear purpose. They have a goal, they know what it means, they have metrics and standards, and they are committed to delivering the brand’s purpose. Companies achieve results when they execute a purpose with a plan.
Execution is a commitment
Steve Jobs was a legendary perfectionist. He sent his team back to the drawing board with almost every major project he brought to market. Jobs described it as hitting the “rewind button.”
In the book Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson recounted the story when Ron Johnson and Steve Jobs discovered the design for the upcoming Apple Store was wrong. The original design was focused around Apple’s products, but Johnson realized the stores should be designed around what people do with the products. This was a major change, because the prototype had already been built and it meant hitting the “rewind button.”
Jobs explained to his team, “If something isn’t right, you can’t just ignore it and say you’ll fix it later. That’s what other companies do.” Jobs’ commitment to get it right is an excellent example of execution. They had a purpose, and they were creating a retail experience to fulfill it. Compromise is not a part of effective execution.
Execution needs everyone’s commitment
Apple can stop a project in its tracks and rewind, because the whole organization is aligned with its purpose. If it were driven by silos or mired with politics and in-fighting, rewinding a project would be impossible.
Companies that stand out in their industries have a clear commitment to execution. All the parts work together, and are supported with the right culture and values, people and processes, and strategy. It’s not magic. It’s just a group of people working together towards a common goal.