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Marketing myths

Customer ServiceA myth is defined by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary as an idea or story that is believed by many people, but that is not true. There are many myths about marketing. Understanding and addressing them assist managers in making their teams more effective. Here are three of the most common myths:

Myth 1: Marketing is someone else’s job  
In Marketing for Managers, Leyland F Pitt reminds us that it is an organisation-wide prescription to be market oriented. All people working at an organisation are in fact constantly busy doing marketing, because all of them project an image of the organisation to the outside world, as well as of their division to their colleagues. Image projection is a PR (public relations) activity which is part of marketing. That makes all employees marketers of the organisation, over and above the requirements set out in their job descriptions.

The problem is that many employees are oblivious of the fact that they are projecting image; that a long face or negative attitude shapes what people think of them and their organisation or division. It is their manager’s responsibility to bring this to their attention. Managers are however also, more often than not, unaware that this is part of their jobs. The time and effort managers spend to get their teams performing as they should are cancelled out to a large extent if some members project a negative image of the team. Once a negative perception of the team has been created, the attitude and behaviour of others towards the team become negative as well.  This is because perception, not fact, is the biggest influencer of behaviour.   

Myth 2: Marketing, selling and advertising are all the same thing
In their book on marketing management Kotler and Keller point out that the days are long gone when all the sales force did was ‘sell, sell and sell’. Sales reps, they state, need to know how to diagnose a customer’s problem and then propose a solution. Selling as a function is part of marketing; it is not marketing in itself. When the goals of an organisation are all about selling to get the customer to part with his or her money, that organisation is not doing marketing, it is conducting a hit-and-run business. Such organisations are not sustainable. Unless transactions are mutually beneficial to both seller and buyer, the latter does not come back for more.

Likewise, advertising is not marketing; it is part of marketing. Advertising is but one of many ways of communicating with customers. Other elements of the marketing communication mix include sponsorships, sales promotions, PR, direct selling, publicity, etc. Communicating with your customers is crucial, but communication alone is not sufficient to win the hearts and minds of customers. Talk is cheap.

Myth 3: Marketing is done as and when it is needed
This myth feeds off myth 2 above. When we equate marketing to selling or advertising we believe that it can be done quickly, because it is possible to place an ad or make a sale quickly. One cannot quickly do marketing though. By the time your customers are looking for solutions elsewhere it is too late to do some quick marketing.  As in the case of personal relationships, customer relationships are built on trust. This trust is referred to as customer loyalty and, as in the case of personal relationships, it has to be earned. To do that you need consistently to deliver on your promise over time; it cannot be done quickly. 

Building and maintaining sound customer relationships is much the same as working on a personal relationship and is based on three simple principles. Firstly you can never take your customer for granted. Customers have their own free will and can take their business elsewhere. They can make some other plan to get their needs addressed if they are not satisfied with how you treat them. Secondly, customers want to be communicated with and, more importantly, listened to. If they feel ignored they will ignore you. Finally, customers know that you care about them. They are not interested in what you cannot do for them and what your policies allow and do not allow. They are interested in getting their wants or needs addressed. Throwing the rule book at them is not conducive to building relationships. What they want to see is that you are making an effort to accommodate them. Even if you are unable to do so in some instances, the mere fact that you have tried goes a long way to building your relationship with them.

A loyal customer base is a very valuable asset of an organisation.  It is referred to as brand equity. The huge value of well-known brands such as Coca-Cola, Google, Nike, etc. is based purely on the perception that customers have of those brands.  That perception is shaped by those working at the organisation – all of them. They need to understand the responsibility that they have in this regard and the first step towards achieving that is to remove the marketing myths. 


Mike Du Plessis
Mike du Plessis is a faculty member at USB Executive Development (USB-ED). His area of expertise is Marketing.

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