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The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing

Centuries ago, Pope Gregory the Great was credited with identifying the infamous seven deadly sins — lust, gluttony, greed, laziness (back then, it was more vividly termed “sloth”), wrath, envy and pride.

Though we’re pretty sure the pope was talking about personal actions that could land you on the fast track to a fiery inferno, these sins are surprisingly spot-on when it comes to the ineffective practice of marketing.

Read on to see how a few smart moves can help you sidestep marketing hell.

1. Lust.
These sinners find themselves coveting every shiny new object. TikTok! Account-based marketing! Insta Stories! Just like in the dating world, lust is great for about five minutes. But it doesn’t always lead to a rewarding, long-term relationship.

Step back, take a breath and ask yourself, “How will <insert shiny object name here> get us closer to our strategic goals? Does it replicate something we’re already doing well? Do we have the resources to manage it?” New channels and tactics may indeed have a place in your marketing strategy. But you’ll only know that by thinking rather than simply reacting.

2. Gluttony.
This is really a spin-off of lust. How do you know you’re guilty of gluttony? When you lust after not just one new thing, but everything all at once. Now. It’s the marketing equivalent of the red-faced toddler in the checkout line screaming, “Because I want it!”

How to handle gluttony? Push back from the conference table and recall that strategy trumps gluttony every time. Just ask the guys at Instagram. Their laser focus on doing one thing extremely well scored them a billion-dollar payday courtesy of Mark Zuckerberg.

3. Greed.
It used to be primarily larger companies that bought into the “greed is good” mantra, but lately it seems that companies of all sizes are guilty of this sin. Many businesses want to be all things to all people. When asked about their ideal client, these are the marketers who quickly answer, “Everyone!”

Unfortunately, greed can soon lead to overexpansion, inefficiency and dissatisfied customers. It’s no secret that good marketing takes focus. Even companies that sell many products across multiple markets must establish a clear, consistent marketing position for each one.

4. Laziness.
This happens when management refuses to put real marketing muscle behind the company’s sales efforts. These companies leave the heavy lifting to their beleaguered sales force and then blame “the feet on the street” for poor results.

As Al Ries has said, marketing is not selling. To sell in today’s marketplace, you first have to establish a clear identity for your brand — and that takes some work. Working in concert, marketing and sales can identify customers’ primary needs, then develop a position and a marketing plan perfectly designed to meet them.

5. Wrath.
Ever been on the receiving end of a customer’s anger because your product or service didn’t quite live up to your brand promise? Imagine arriving at Disney World and being greeted by nasty ticket sellers, a garbage-strewn Main Street USA and broken-down attractions — not quite the “Happiest Place on Earth” you were promised.

Don’t stake out a position you’re not prepared to deliver on, because hell hath no fury like a customer scorned.

6. Envy.
Does any company not suffer from this one? “Why are we always second out of the gate with a new idea?” “Man, their website makes ours look like &%$#@*!” “What a smart campaign — why didn’t we think of that?!” After a while, every marketer becomes myopic about his or her own product, brand position and industry. That’s why every company can benefit from the occasional dose of outside expertise.

Lucky for you, this one’s an easy fix. Call in a hired gun — creative agency, copywriting team or marketing consultant — for some fresh ideas that’ll make you the envy of competitors far and wide.

7. Pride.
Look out when a company starts feeling infallible. Stops innovating. No longer keeps an eye on rising stars and potential threats. Tunes out customer comments, both positive and negative. Believes their own press. No organization can afford to rest on its laurels.

To stay on top, you need to remember how you got there. Noting the missteps of others is an effective way to dodge the pride trap. Companies as diverse as JC Penney, GNC, Hertz and Friendly’s prove that no company or industry is too big or too smart to falter.

Though God may forgive all, your customers might not — that’s why avoiding the seven deadly sins is key. With a few smart moves, you’ll be trading in your horns for a halo in no time.

Fahoury InkThe 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing
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