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What I Wish I Had Known Then

“The story we’re looking for is a story of human behaviour”

Over his more than 30 years of teaching and consulting, Ken Wong has seen an evolution in the marketing function and the management of brands. In this fifth in a series of video commentaries, Wong, Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Smith School of Business, talks about the need to avoid getting hung up on marketing concepts and frameworks, and why work-life balance is an empty idea.

The thing that I wish I had known way back is that marketing is so much more than concepts and frameworks that need to be memorized and applied.

We think of marketers as storytellers and we normally think of a story as a product or service. But, in reality, the story that we’re looking for is a story of human behaviour. It’s all around us. The concepts and frameworks are really ways of giving someone quick insight. Too often, as students we learn these concepts but we don’t take the time to step back and ask ourselves, Why is that the case? What is it really telling me about human behaviour when I see this particular framework being utilized? What are the underlying assumptions?

More often than out, what you discover is that there are huge opportunities in identifying the times when those assumptions are not true. A product that seems contrarian to others can be the perfect solution for someone else.

We are so quick to define and categorize, and everyone is looking for something that they can use to calibrate their life. The best example I can think of is the notion of work-life balance. How do people achieve work-life balance? Obviously, if we knew that we’d have great insight into the consumer. What people don’t realize is that there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s just life. I bring my smartphone to my kids’ basketball games. When they’re not on the floor, I’m exchanging emails and text messages with colleagues. Similarly, if I’m in the office and one of my children is in duress, I don’t stop thinking of them just because I walked through these doors.

The question is, How do we deal with it? That’s the area I’m still struggling to understand, even on a personal level. How do I deal with these circumstances? What works for me? If I can ever find that answer, I’ll try and codify it into something that can be put on a shelf and sold.