In my experience, a lot of marketing people don’t know much about the product they’re working on.

They don’t think the product is important, they think it’s all about brand.

To a marketing person, branding is what sells and marketing is always the answer to all brand questions.

So a marketing professional might be working on confectionary today, then two years later on cars, then two years later on an airline, then two years later on running shoes.

A breadth of marketing experience across different product categories seems like a good thing. To them, the brand is everything, the product category is interchangeable.

The answer is brand now what’s the question?

What does Bertrand Russell have to say about people who come at all problems with ready-made answers?

“To avoid the various foolish operations to which mankind are prone, no superhuman genius is required. A few simple rules will keep you, not from all error, but from silly error.

If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself.

Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. He did not do so because thought he knew. Thinking that you know, when in fact you don’t, is a fatal mistake to which we are all prone.

I believe myself that hedgehogs eat black beetles, because I have been told that they do; but if I were writing a book on the habits of hedgehogs, I should not commit myself until I had seen one enjoying this unappetising diet. Aristotle, however, was less cautious. Ancient and medieval authors knew all about unicorns and salamanders; not one of them thought it necessary to avoid dogmatic statements about them simply because they had never seen one of them.”

What marketing people call research is only ever consumer research, they ask people what they think about the brand.

Marketing people almost never research the product.

That’s why creatives have to do it, to start learning about that subject.

How it’s made, who designed it and why, where it’s sold, who buys it, the competition – the benefits and drawbacks, the history, salesforce problems, and more.

You have to go to the factory to see it being made, talk to the R&D guys, talk to retailers, talk to customers, current-users, and ex-users.

And all of that is before you actually start working on the ad campaign.

I’ve visited: car factories, breweries, TV factories, huge bakeries, tea plantations, confectionary manufacturers, clothing retailers, insurance firms, banks, development areas, holiday destinations, broadcasters, baby-nappy makers, pharmaceuticals, glass factories.

An account man, or client, or planner doesn’t do these things, because they already know the answer. For them, the answer is brand now what’s the question?

As creatives, if we want to know about the product, we have to do that research ourselves.

That’s why, as a creative, we can’t depend on someone else’s brief.

The brand is the tone-of-voice, the feeling, the image, the reputation.

The product is the actual object the consumer buys, the product is the words that go into the ads. The product is the content, the brand is the execution.

We can’t wait for the brand-planning dept to brief us on the product.

We have to go and do the research (not consumer research, product research) ourselves.

As Russell said, the biggest mistake is believing we know without finding out.

Or, as Will Rogers said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”