Monday, July 21, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Marketing - 7 Lessons From The School Of Hard Knocks

Some Things That You Learn In The Trenches

By David Miranda

If only there was a marketing textbook that told things like they really are. Here are some things that should be in new editions.

1) Everything costs more and takes longer than you think.

Make budget concessions for budget overruns. The time to ask for money is not when you're in dire straits. Regarding time line benchmarks, manage expectations along the way. The time to communicate the need to extend a deadline, is not the deadline.

2) Strong and prolonged revenue growth is more important than strong profits.

Profits at the expense of revenue growth is terminal. Strong and prolonged revenue growth is a healthy indicator. Strong profits with anemic growth is a warning sign of future problems.

3) Under-promise, over-deliver.

Consumers are suspicious of brands that proclaim their superiority without third-party substantiation. Creating high expectations and not delivering will alienate consumers.

4) Do more homework than your competitor.

There is not substitute for smart. Out-smarting competitors is more effective than out-spending them.

5) Past behavior is no indicator of future behavior.

Preference is perishable. Relentlessly give fickled consumers more reasons to buy your stuff.

6) Study behavior and not statistics.

Observe what people are doing, saying, buying, not-buying, or searching for. Perseverance without personal observations can be fatal. Find the story behind the numbers.

7) Don't take yes for an answer. Dig deeper.

Marketing is pervasive with yes people. Seek out the other side of the prevailing thought.

Good marketing!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Name Everyone You've Ever Met

Chances Are The List Is Small

By David Miranda

Our memory is generally good - but that not good. That's why we rely on Outlook, Rolodexes,photo albums, diaries, reunions, weddings, funerals, home movies, and various other tools, devices, and methods to help us remember and remind us of people we know.

From this group of everyone we've ever met or known, we all have a much shorter list that we can extemporaneously share. These are people, whether they we friends, family, or business colleagues that we have the most recent, frequent, or strongest ties with. Others, for one reason or another, have drifted away from your brain's short list - until, however, you are reminded by that unexpected phone call or email; spring cleaning of your Outlook or Rolodex, or attending that reunion, wedding, or funeral.

Such is the case with brands. Name every brand you've ever purchased. Chances are you will remember a short list, but have forgotten more than you've remembered. This is why brands need to advertise - to keep their brand top of mind with people with short memories. The brands that occupy top of "unaided brand recall" lists have a significant advantage over those that do not.

There are a gazillion brands out there, but only a few you will be able to recall without some help. Take this simple test and see how you:

Name three brands in each of the following categories:

  1. bottled water
  2. luggage
  3. shoes
  4. mobile phones
  5. shampoo
  6. SUV's
  7. batteries
  8. snack foods
  9. fast food chain
  10. online shopping sites

Considering the many to choose from, think why you made your choices.

It's probably because these brands advertised to you. Just like in personal relationships, unless one or both parties make and effort to engage, i.e. "stay in touch", they won't make the cut for your short list.

The lesson is this. Forget about your audience and you are relegated to dusty memory files in the back of people's minds. Keep your brand current or go the way of such once dominant brands as Pepsodent, RC Cola, Netscape, RCA, Atari, Motown, Timex, PF Flyers, TWA, Braniff, PanAm, etc.

Today preference is perishable in a world of uber-choice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Marketing Challenge - Preference Is Perishable

Relentlessly Give People New Reasons That Make You First In Minds (And Wallets)

By David Miranda

Marketing is a verb, not a noun. As a matter of fact, it's an action verb. If refers to the relentless pursuit of customers to prefer your stuff over the other's guy's stuff. This is particularly difficult in today's marketplace because, today, preference is perishable.

Customers are an arm's length, a phone call, a few footsteps, a mouse click, or a TV remote button from many alternatives. Marketing-centric companies have known this for a long time. They don't just sell "soap" - they market "hygiene". They don't just sell cosmetics - they market "beauty". They don't sell hotel rooms - they market experiences. They collectively know that selling a commoditized product or service is terminal. It is a recipe for poaching by more astute competitors.

Relentless marketing drives preference by continually giving people new reasons to buy.

The best example of relentless marketing is the women's fashion industry. They continually market new lines, i.e. "our spring/summer collection" etc. They convince consumers that, in spite of the fact, that they don't need that new pair of shoes, one must buy the new shoes to be "in fashion".

The example can also be seen in the technology and software sectors. Companies have convinced consumers that if they currently have the 2.0 version of a software, they need to upgrade to the new 3.0 version that is better, faster, has more features, etc. etc.

The lesson here is simple. If you want your products and services to remain relevant to customers, relentlessly give them new reasons to make your brand top of mind and wallet. Marketing's key object is to build and sustain preference that drive revenue and market share.

Otherwise, they are fair game for the other guy.

Recognition Marketing - Put Marketing Strategy First, Everything Else Next

Getting It Backwards Is Dounright Stupid

By David Miranda

All too often, firms get their order of priorities wrong with dangerous consequences for the business driven by budgets instead of strategy.

Let's use a travel example. Say you have a airfare budget of $1,000 for a weekend getaway so you go to the airport and say to the ticket agent, "I have $1,000. How far can I go for that?"

This is exactly what many firms do. They have a budget and say to their agency, "How far (or how much) will this get us?" Without a marketing plan and clear strategy, this is called stupid.

It is the marketing strategy that dictates (or should dictate) everything. The budget should be developed and allocated to implement the strategy. This approach assures that marketing dollars are wisely invested and prioritized. And if the budget is small, all the more reason for marketing strategy to lead the process.

Firms make two major mistakes without a strategy - they spend based on what has worked historically (driving using the rear view mirror) or they "me-too" spend (watching what everyone else is doing and follow suit).

If you are committing marketing dollars without a marketing plan and strategy, you are wasting your time and squandering your money.

Put marketing strategy first, everything else is next.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Recognition Marketing - Beware Of The Pied Piper Syndrome In Research

Research Should Be Viewed Through A Common Sense Filter

By David Miranda

It seems like every hour, a research firm is releasing a new report that this or that is happening (or will happen) in the marketplace whether it be in the public or private sector. Of course, the research typically has the caveat that it includes a "margin of error" of plus or minus X.

Although no one would argue the benefits of insightful research, it must be viewed through a common sense filter or the consumers of the research become the victims of well-intentioned pied piper. When this occurs, the implications could prove embarrassing or financially disastrous or both.

Take the recent political polls for the New Hampshire Presidential primary. Research pundits confidently stated that Barack Obama, after a win in the Iowa Caucuses, would handily beat Hillary Clinton by double digits. Senator Clinton won New Hampshire leaving the pundits with egg on their befuddle faces. Everyone, except the people that really counted, the New Hampshire voters, got it wrong.

It just doesn't happen in the political arena. It happens in private sector every day when decision makers utilize only research to determine business strategies and not allowing for the scrutiny that comes with common sense.

The private sector is a prolific consumer of research. It influences everything that business does. All this research begs the question - "Why do so many firms, so often, get things so wrong?" The simple answer is the "pied piper syndrome", i.e. following and acting on research as if it were the closest thing to a sure bet and, of course, we know there is no such thing.

The best way to use good research is to temper it with common sense that is based on practical observation and human interaction. Peter Lynch, famed financial guru at Fidelity, had an interesting way to pick stocks he invested in. He observed. One day, for example, his wife came home with a plastic egg. Curious, Mr. Lynch, asked his wife what it was and why she purchased it. She said she found it in supermarket on a free-standing display. What was it? L'Eggs. Inside the plastic egg were ladies' nylons. She told her husband that she was always snagging her nylons during a typical day and here was a simple and convenient solution. Intrigued, Mr. Lynch went down to the store and observed women, one after the other, going to the L'Eggs' display and purchasing. He went home and the next day invested in Hanes, the parent of L'Eggs. Does Mr. Lynch utilize research? Absolutely. What makes him different? Adding common sense and personal observation to the final analysis.

Lessons to marketers? Don't give up research, but temper it with good ole common sense. Get out there and take a look around. See for yourself whether the research findings have substance.

Don't follow the pied piper blindly. It could be dangerous.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Recognition Marketing - Avoid The Bland Leading The Brand

Drive Mediocrity From Your Enterprise - Pick The Right Leaders

By David Miranda

In a marketplace of uber-choice, consumers need to be given a clear reason to buy your brand over all alternatives. It is the essence of a successful marketing strategy. The inability to do this, puts considerable downward pressure on price as the "tipping point" for preference. This ultimately commoditizes the brand. This, generally, does not happen by design, but by default.

How does this occur and why does it occur so frequently in the marketplace? The simple answer is mediocrity, i.e. being risk-averse; being a "me-too" brand. This occurs when decision makers reward the status quo versus celebrating innovation. In medicore environments, the bland flourish while the innovators languish or jump ship. The problem lies in picking the wrong leaders.

It is almost impossible for a great idea to have upward mobility in an enterprise of mediocre leadership. Companies continually make the terminal mistake of putting the wrong people in charge of their brands - those that are risk-averse, protectors of the status quo, those more interested in doing things right veruses doing the right things.

Take Apple Inc., for example. Years ago the visionary members of the Apple board decided to replace one of the Apple founders, Steve Jobs, with an Pepsi executive, John Sculley. Sculley ultimately (and unbelievably) fired Mr. Jobs. After miserable results under Mr. Sculley, Apple brought back Mr. Jobs and the rest is history. (iPod, iTunes, iPhone, etc, etc.)

Take Yahoo!. Its board brought in Terry Semel from Time Warner. After being continually out-performed (and out stategized) by Google, Mr Semel was replaced as CEO by one of Yahoo's founders, Jerry Yang.

Take Dell Computers. Once considered a model of innovation, Dell fired its CEO and brought back its founder, Michael Dell to turn around the company's fortunes.

The message is clear. When a company allows the bland to lead the brand, innovation atrophies. This is the case with many companies today in many industries in the U.S. (airlines, automobile manufacturers, computers, retailing, etc.)

Success, today, demands that companies place innovators, risk takers, and those with entrepreneurial thinking in key leadership positions. Business needs innovative marketers to lead the charge.

Just because someone has a lofty title does not make them a great marketer.

The bland should never lead the brand. It's terminal.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Catch And Release" - Good For Fishing, Bad For Marketing

Too Many Businesses Are Letting Customers "Off The Hook"

By David Miranda

I was watching a recent professional fishing tournament on ESPN.

It was clear that understanding the venue and environmental conditions played a critical role in where fishermen fished, what lure they used, and what techniques they employed to catch more (and bigger) fish than the other competitors - and it had to be the "right kind of fish". The telecast followed many anglers as they tried various locations, lures, and techniques to find the right formula. The winner was determined by the heaviest catch at the weigh-in. A deft combination of strategy, tactics, past experience, local knowledge, and state-of-the art technology were obviously keys to success.

Marketing and fishing have a lot in common.

The fishing venue reminded me of the marketplace and the fishermen were, of course, marketers. Marketers are always fishing for the right type of customers in a highly competitive environment. Depending on the prevailing conditions, they develop strategies and tactics employing a combination of lures, techniques, and technology seeking the right formula to catch the most consumers. Like fishing, good intelligence and past experience are important success factors.

There is, however, a major difference. Anglers "catch and release", but marketers need to "catch and retain".

In marketing today, there is too much emphasis on the "catching" and too little emphasis on the "retaining" since retained customers will "spawn" new ones.

Catch and retain - spawn new business.