Today, when we want a quick culture check on the relevance of a theme, we turn to Google as our barometer-in-residence. So I've done some searching on our engine oracular to get a fix on how obsessed (and deluged) we are with information about marketing.

There were, at the time of this writing, in decreasing order of popular obsession:

  • 72.5 million hits for "marketing"
  • 2 million hits for "entrepreneurship"
  • 1.2 million hits for "starting a business"
  • 254,000 hits for "small business marketing"
  • 33,500 hits for "small business advice"
  • 2,400 hits for "starting a pet shop." (I wonder if that includes the proprietor of Phil's Pocket Pets, the retailer who sold the Gambian rat infected with monkeypox who bit the prairie dog who bit the little girl who came down the with disease, as was reported recently in the New York Times.)
  • 1,610 hits for "starting a coffee shop," which shows that the Starbucks lattekrieg doesn't leave all of us despairing of opportunity

This little exercise raises an obvious question: Why oppress you with more marketing advice? Why launch's Marketing Headquarters at all?

Well, in a way that kind of capitulation would be like saying "there are a lot of businesses out there that do "x" or "y" -- there are even a few brave souls trying to make a go of "z" -- so why start another one? We intend to separate ourselves in the same way that successful businesses do -- with a well-executed vision and plan, and by satisfying needs that aren't fully satisfied by existing alternatives.

Or, put differently, you are surrounded by empty-calorie information obesity, and as such, aren't close to being fully nourished. My experience as a marketing professional has shown me that there is an enormous appetite for focused, cogent, source-sifting, brain-alerting, authoritative ideas about how to market, brand and promote companies and products. We plan to satisfy that appetite with columns, weblogs, input from far-flung sages, Q&A forums, well-tended links to other worthy Web resources, and sources of information that engage marketing in its fullest expression: branding, advertising, public relations, corporate identity, packaging, CRM, guerilla marketing.

How do we plan to make your visit to our resource center worthwhile? Well, we're different from the other Web resources you might encounter:

  • We have good genes. We are an offspring of Inc. magazine, the leading voice for growing businesses of all kinds, and the trusted authority for business management issues.
  • We plan to take real advantage of the medium, taking on the debates and burning issues of the day with the brio and immediacy that the Internet affords. Marketing is a fast-changing game, and we need to be at the leading edge of the discussion. We also plan to be participatory in the best sense of the word, inviting sharp minds and idea-spinners to share their provocations with you via our columns and weblogs.
  • We are not in the recycling business. We will judge our success by the quotient of ideas we urge your way that you won't hear elsewhere. As an entrepreneur myself -- I run a company that is involved with consulting, branding, advertising and custom publishing -- I live with the buzzy drone of the shtick du jour. We'll do our best to separate out the has-been ideas and to only cultivate the most effective, innovative strategies.

While you'll often find answers to specific questions here, another role this site plays is to prepare you for the unexpected. There is a story about the Normandy Invasion, which might be apocrophyl (and who cares if it is, we live by those invented lessons, don't we?). General Eisenhower had just arrived on the beach, and he was immediately surrounded by reporters who asked "General, General, did the plan work?" To which he responded "The plan didn't mean anything. Planning was everything."

I like that story, and I believe it has special relevance to what we intend to do in this space. It points to a difference that is critical for those who run businesses today: the distinction between the wisdom of readying oneself for the unanticipated but not wholly unimaginable -- a kind of informed fluidity -- and the danger of following staid plans in a changing environment.

Indeed, of all the areas business leaders face, marketing is probably the most challenging, the most in need of the action options that Eisenhower was referring to. After all, marketing has no strict set of rules, the way, say, accounting does. It can't be tested via the scientific method. Nor can you succeed alone -- you've got that pesky customer to understand and satisfy.

Nor is it getting any easier. (Perhaps you've noticed). Customers have become more demanding and more fickle than ever before. They know how to use their muscle, they have fruit fly loyalty, and they are educated, informed, and unyielding.

Yet increasingly, success will be defined by how well products and services are marketed as opposed to their intrinsic superiority. And I use "marketed" in its most resonant sense -- how an offering is articulated, presented, and packaged.

Differentiation isn't one-dimensional anymore; as F. Scott Fitzgerald write on the first page of the Great Gatsby, "Personality is an unbroken string of successful gestures." Helping you navigate through this -- to create your own unbroken string -- is at the center of our mission.

Please let me know when we succeed -- and when we don't. I trust you will. After all, you are our very own fickle, demanding consumer.