What do you mean,
that’s not marketing?

This, too, is a marketer.

This, too, is a marketer.

Maybe it was his red face. Maybe it was the steam coming from his ears. Either way, it was clear that Brent was worked up.

Asked what was bugging him, Brent replied that, just the evening before, his neighbor said something rather insulting. “You’re in marketing?” the neighbor said. “So is Mike, down the street.” The insulting part came next: “He’s the top salesperson at an auto dealership.”

Top salesman at an auto dealership? Perhaps you can see why Brent was upset. Brent occupies an office on the 22nd floor of a prestigious tower. The tower happens to be ivory-colored, but this is surely coincidence. There, seated at a desk beside a window overlooking the city, he carefully culls and crunches marketing data. “That’s marketing,” he said, with not a little pride. To say that a mere seller of cars was a “marketer” was to trivialize the level of Brent’s expertise and accomplishment.

This was not the time to make Brent angrier. He was holding a briefcase he could easily have deployed as a weapon.

But between you and me, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Marketing” is a large umbrella covering many valuable functions. These include research, product design, packaging, data mining, creative work, media analysis, branding, programming, planning, Brent-style number crunching, and more. All of these require specialized training and expertise. But for any specialist to say that salespeople aren’t marketers would be like coaches and sports analysts saying that the folks wearing helmets out on the field aren’t football players.*

It is equally naïve and unjust to claim that face-to-face selling requires no specialized expertise. If you knew Brent, you would agree that he is the last person you should turn loose on customers, his MBA notwithstanding. He has great data skills, but he has the people skills of a ground wasp.

It’s important not to lose sight of the ultimate goal, and of what ultimately pays the salaries, of the above-listed marketing functions. Namely, getting someone to buy something. News flash: shorthand for “getting someone to buy something” is selling.

Marketing is a euphemism. It has the advantage of sounding more hifalutin and avoiding the pushy salesperson stereotype, but it has the disadvantage of allowing people like Brent to lose sight of what their profession is about.

To dismiss salespeople as not-marketers is more than snobbish. It is shortsighted. People who are daily face-to-face with customers know things that traditional kinds of research will not turn up. Input from salespeople might just add real-world perspective to all of those programs and policies descending from Floor 22.

Brent would do well to spend a bit of time on the sales floor. (Provided, that is, that he only observes. Trust me on this, you don’t want him talking to customers.) He might pick up valuable information that his numbers will never show.


*No analogy is perfect. To assert that the folks wearing helmets on the field aren’t football players may be correct in the case of teams that are not the Denver Broncos.

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A marketing warning
in a bowl of cereal

breakfast-1149903_960_720EACH TIME A NEW generation rises, supposedly every 20 or so years, two things happen.

The first thing that happens is that someone decides the new generation needs a name. There have been deserved names like “Greatest” and creative names like “Baby Boomers” and “Baby Busters.” As for names like “Generation X,” “Generation Y,” and “Generation Z,” they seem to show that whoever has the job of thinking up generation names has gotten really bored.

The second thing that happens is that marketing people who write articles and speak at conventions—yeah, people like me—drone on in hopes of sounding smart about the unique marketing challenges that each new generation presents.

Which I shall now proceed to do, based on a new
insight from global research firm Mintel

It appears that Gen Y, aka Millennials, now lays claim to posing a marketing challenge that no one anticipated. A recent Mintel survey reveals that nearly 40 percent of Millennials aren’t terribly keen on eating breakfast cereal …

… because cleanup after a bowl of cereal is such a major pain.

It’s perfectly understandable if you take a moment to think about it. I mean, you have to close and put away the cereal box and then rinse or, worse, wash and put away the bowl and spoon. If that’s not arduous and unreasonable, I don’t know what is.

Everyone appreciates simplicity and ease, but 40 percent of Gen Y-ers have managed to carry it to the extreme. This is an insight that may help cereal marketers sell more cereal, fire a warning shot across the bow of anyone thinking about marrying a Gen Y-er, and, not to be overlooked, prove instructive for financial institutions. Consider the growing chunk of your customers that Gen Y respresents. If rinsing a bowl is too much work for them, your financial apps had better require as little thought and effort as possible.

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Fiserv Furthers Innovation With INV Fintech Accelerator

Fiserv invited me to write this post for its official blog, The Point, about INV, our new fintech accelerator. To read it in its entirety on Fiserv’s website, click here. To learn more about Fiserv, click here.

Fiserv blog

Click to open the blog

If innovation in the financial services arena was ever a luxury, it is no longer. In a dizzying upward spiral, the fast pace of life today has accelerated demand for innovation, which in turn has created pressure for more innovation. This is particularly true for all things digital.

Most financial institutions have embraced the revolution, refocusing and effecting internal cultural change to the point they now think with a “digital first” mindset. However, much like the universe itself, banking innovation is expanding and accelerating at an unprecedented pace. All players in this new world are going to need an assist.

As discussed recently in Forbes, Fiserv has stepped forward to provide that assist with a new fintech accelerator, INV. Fiserv developed INV in partnership … (Read the rest of the post on the Fiserv website by clicking here

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FBI: Let us in!
Apple: No!

Apple vs FBIA fact of digital life is that the harder we work to keep data secure, the harder bad guys will work to break in.

But what happens when government wants to break in?

The FBI has been trying to break into the iPhone owned by Syed Rizwan Farook. You will recall that it was Farook and his wife who, two months ago, shot 14 coworkers in San Bernardino, California, before being killed by police.

To date, Apple’s encryption, which Apple itself has not devised a means of breaking, has proved sound enough to foil even the FBI.

Two days ago, magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to create a way for the FBI to break in.

Yesterday, Cook replied with a resounding NO. Some excerpts from his open letter:

Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create …

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession…

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government …

… ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Cook raises real concerns. On the other hand, the FBI’s interest in thwarting future potential attacks is not to be lightly dismissed. How will this play out? Stay tuned.

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Mobile’s Impact on Revenue and Attrition: Astounding



My new article for The Financial Brand on the mobile banking explosion’s positive effect on revenue and customer retention is now online. Read it by clicking here or on the image at right.







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