"P" is for Product, Above All
In classic marketing academia, the so-called "Four P's" comprising the "marketing mix" are product, price, place, and promotion. Since the dawn of the age of mass media, the marketer's job may have centered most around "promotion".
If you've had the pleasure of taking in an episode or two of the AMC series "Mad Men", I suspect that you would agree that brand promotion is the near-absolute focus of Don Draper and his creative team.
Thanks to the web, to social media, and probably mostly to Google, however, promotion seems much less important for a marketer's attention than the product itself. Despite a company's best attempts at promotion, the truth of the word on the street is likely to trump it.
Why, then, are marketers so often focused on advertising and other promotional activities, and so seldom concerned with making the product, the experience, itself better?
Given the continued rise of the service economy, the product is often heavy on "experience" and rather light on a tangible deliverable. In the case of commodity-type services—in which little differentiation exists between the end results of two or more competing firms—the experience may be the only differentiator. How can we improve the experience, if only just incrementally, step by tiny step? How can we build in a continuous and iterative means of ensuring that each successive customer enjoys a better service than the last? Smart marketers know that figuring this out will do more for the brand than any claims the brand itself can make.
Beautiful websites, compelling content, and effective calls-to-action are fantastic, but only to the extent that they represent products and services that are equally beautiful, compelling and effective (or substitute your own remarkable trait).