One of my friends recently invited me to lunch. I always knew he had a reputation and to be honest my ’empathy’ antenna was out and working, as I awaited his arrival. He is an analytic by nature; late thirties; single and I’m not sure, but I think he’s living with his Mum. All the signs should have told me he’s a ‘tight wad’. Not that every analytic, single, thirty year old, mummies boy is mean, but something about this guy just stinks of ‘miserly’. Sadly, I wasn’t mistaken and I suffered through the worst lunch I’ve eaten in twenty years at…? You guessed it ‘Harry’s Cafe de Wheels’. Apart from the fact that it was downright unhealthy – I’m into low cal – it was nasty, but it was, as he continued to tell me “a cheap meal”.

Napolean Hill once said, “In every adversity there’s a seed of equal or greater benefit.” So it was with this intent that I looked for something positive by which to comfort myself. It occurred to me, while attempting to stomach a grizzle ridden, meat pie that ‘cheap’ is pretty much misunderstood. What the hell does ‘cheap’ really mean anyway? Surely something is only ‘cheap’ if it was good in the first place and you are able to pay less for it. The emphasis is on it “being good in the first place”. That led me to thinking about businesses and the way they view marketing.

In my experience marketing budgets come in only one form – ‘reducable’. Here’s the voice of the client and it goes like this; “We’ve reluctantly decided to spend as little as possible to let the punters know ‘we’re here’ and ‘we sell this’…” now wait for it “…but if you can spend less, that would be good!” Here’s my response and with it a warning. If you can find a so called ‘bargain basement’ marketing plan, let me know and we’ll all use it. The warning is this, don’t ever believe that a marketing problem can be resolved with a cheap solution. It’s not just an unrealistic expectation, it’s illogical and downright stupid.

Marketing is not so much a profession as a series of disciplines and like a chemical formula if you try to replace the elements with cheap imitations you’ll finish up with something you don’t want. Consumers are so much smarter than company executives give them credit for. They know when you’re being a cheap skate; they understand when you’re skimping because it impacts right through the projection, from the media choice to the content. And here’s how it turns sour for you.

When I left my friend that day, I vowed I’d never lunch with him again and worse I thought seriously about the friendship. Why? Well it maybe short sighted of me but, do I have any real worth in his mind? Am I only worth a greasy pie and chips for lunch, because if I took him out to lunch it would have been somewhere special, after all he’s my friend and he was worth something.

Next time someone walks past your product to get to your competitors, or refuses your service in favour of your competition, remember how much you thought of them when you developed your marketing budget. Next please!