June 1, 2022

Put the crayons away and do some marketing

By Blair Burchill

“Get the crayons, the marketing department is here…”

You may have that joke around your organization. Funny? Not funny.

I’ve worked in advertising agencies and on the client-side in marketing for my entire career, and I’ve never understood that viewpoint. 

Along my journey, I’ve been surrounded by sharp minds who solved complex communications challenges in competitive consumer and business markets. I’ve been involved with high-pressure sales and performance-driven marketing departments with multiple KPIs to meet to drive the business forward. In the whole time, I’ve encountered very few people who were handy with crayons, apart from drawing stick-people to entertain their children at home. 

Even in a decent-sized advertising agency, “crayon” work like illustrations for storyboards or ad concept mockups was often outsourced to a freelance illustrator.

The real thinking went into the strategy:

  • Understanding the target audience, the consumer insight, and the competitive threats
  • The unique selling proposition to bring to life
  • The creative direction for said proposition
  • How to execute it within the client’s budget
  • The media channels to use (traditional media and digital formats)
  • What the website should deliver
  • How to apply the idea in social media
  • How to collect testimonials
  • What blog topics would support SEO or branding goals
  • And so on.

Illustrations were the last thing we thought about.

During my MBA program, when the marketing classes started, the range of reactions amongst my classmates hovered persistently in the “shock and dismay” end of the spectrum.

Many of my classmates were engineers, scientists, accountants, entrepreneurs, and so on. Clearly they thought they were in for an easy ride to breeze through the class, saving their brain cells to focus on the “more serious” subjects.

But in the midst of this, one classmate (a renewable energy/solar engineer) came up to me and said, “my goodness, I didn’t realize there was so much to marketing!” There was definitely a high level of emotion and disbelief in his voice. *

“Yes, young padawan,” I said. “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”

It’s vital to resource your marketing department correctly 

I hope I have helped to convey the true scope of marketing and advertising. My only request is that you provide sufficient respect for the value that they can add when done correctly. 

To get the best value from your marketing department, you may need to invest in an experienced and well-rounded professional to lead your marketing team, rather than a more junior or narrowly-focused individual. Sadly, it appears that anyone who can place Facebook ads and write social media posts is well placed to land a position as marketing director these days. Of course, many of these people are good at this part of marketing, but there is a lot more to it than that — as my classmates would now attest! 

Another smart investment lies in finding a design or advertising agency to bring your campaigns to life in a compelling way. The difference that strong, unique, and engaging creative can make is significant, which is why large and famous brands invest in great advertising agencies.

A good agency will also offer a different perspective on your consumers, challenges, and opportunities because they do this work day-in and day-out, on a range of businesses both like and unlike yours. It is a collective of experience that no single VP or CEO can match.

Fact: large and serious brands invest in their marketing and advertising because it really matters, and it works just as well for smaller brands. 

* In case you’re interested, here are the lecture topics we covered. Does your VP marketing or marketing director provide value in these areas? 

  • Sales forecasting and market intelligence 
  • Market research
  • Market segmentation
  • Target markets
  • Consumers and building consumer relationships
  • Differentiation
  • Positioning
  • Taglines and slogans
  • Competition
  • Product strategy
  • Product life cycle
  • Launching new offerings
  • Distribution channels
  • Logistics
  • Retailing and retail display
  • Pricing strategy
  • Sales promotions
  • Advertising campaigns (traditional media)
  • Evaluating advertising
  • Digital advertising
  • Evaluating digital advertising
  • Guerrilla marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • The list goes on…


Blair Burchill , Strategy Director + Fractional CMO

Blair has 25+ years experience in advertising agencies from Ottawa to Brisbane to London. His experience transcends consumer brands from airlines and lottery operations in Australia, to petroleum and fast food in the UK, to government and public utilities here in Ottawa. His aim is always to find a point of difference for a brand that is based on an inherent truth, and bring it to life with campaigns in targeted media channels from traditional to digital and social. In addition, Blair spent over two years on the client side as the national director of marketing for a Cisco UC provider in Australia, working on B2B lead generation campaigns. His interests are advertising, rugby and summer.