Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Competitive Advantage - Reduce The Gap Between Thinking & Doing

Employing Marketing's Version Of the "No-Huddle" Offense

By David Miranda

Enabled by technology, the pace of the marketplace has increased at warp speed and there is no "slo mo" or "pause" button on life's "remote". If the classic tale of the hare and the tortoise were written today, the technology-enabled "hare" would win. All things being equal, in today's marketplace, the advantage goes to the smarter and the quicker.

Competitive advantage, therefore, lies in reducing the gaps between thinking and doing - between planning and execution; between wanting and getting; between feedback and response.

Today's marketplace is a 24 X 7 global competition with no time outs. Competitors are pursuing your customers as we speak with new products and services employing new marketing channels and campaigns. In a world where preference is perishable, competitive challenges must be immediately countered and re-countered as necessary.

The best position to be in is the smartest and the fastest keeping your competitors off kilter. It's marketing version of the "no huddle" offense, i.e not giving your competition time to appropriately respond, as well as, impressing your client and customers on your responsiveness.

This approach demands reducing the gap between the thinking (what do we need to do to succeed considering the circumstances at hand) and the doing (flawlessly executing the plan).

Reducing "gaps" creates competitive advantage, so get on with it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"The Future Ain't What It Used To Be" - Yogi Berra

Marketing Insights Inspired By the Baseball Hall-of-Famer

Known for his famous "Yogi-isms", Yogi Berra, Hall Of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees should be teaching marketing at Northwestern. Even experienced marketers could learn a thing from "The Yog". Take, for example, the Yogi-isms "You can observe a lot by just watching" and "Nobody goes to that place anymore. They're too busy."

Today marketers are sometimes confused and befuddled by the state of marketing today - the traditional methods are not working as well as they used to and the new stuff is coming at them from all angles. What is a marketer to do? Well, as Yogi puts it, "How 'bout just watching?" Take a moment to have a good look around. Consumers are TIVOing, spam and ad blocking, do-not-call list enrolling, podcasting, downloading, MySpacing, YouTubing and are addicted to mobile whether it be their cell phone, Blackberry, or PDA. This should tell you something.

Now take a good look at your marketing plan. Does it reflect what you are observing or does it reflect the old status quo? Has your brand extended to new channels such as cellphones, social networking sites, blogs, or user-generated content sites such as YouTube?

And what about customer service at the retail level, web site, email, or over the telephone? Yogi said, "Nobody goes to that place anymore. They're too busy." Are customers being serviced in a prompt, courteous, and efficient manner or are they forced to wait in line, navigate a challenging web site, wait unduly for email responses, or put on hold when they call. In today's customer ADD environment, it would be smart business to recognize that impatient customers are vulnerable to competitive offerings.

Yogi puts it this way. "The future is not what is used to be."

Neuromarketing - Marketing Science Or Snake Oil?

The Lure Of The "Persuasion Rosetta Stone"

By David Miranda

For those of you that missed it, I highly recommend viewing the PBS Frontline documentary, The Persuaders, originally broadcast in 2004. The compelling and comprehensive report takes us behind the curtain of the relentless pursuit of persuasion - of consumers and citizens alike.

From market research gurus, to advertising agencies, to the brands themselves, the documentary explores the quest to discover and exploit the "code" that persuades us to buy a specific brand or vote for (or against) a specific candidate or issue. It introduces us to something called "neuomarketing" - part psychology, part anthropology, part multiple regression. part etymology.

As the marketing landscape continues to dramatically morph, marketers are desperate to find the secret formula that enables their brand to "cut through the clutter" of hyper-choice. Consumers have become desensitized to marketing "er" claims as in, "brighter", "better", "cheaper", "faster", since these are quickly "me-tooed" by competitors.

Successful brands have created a "cult-like" emotional connection with their consumers as with Starbucks, Apple, Volkswagen, and Nike, for example. The question is why.

Those proponents of neuromarketing suggests that it is the result of some "reptilian response" meaning these brands have been successful in understanding and satisfying some basic Maslow-type needs in their lives. In other words, people prefer Starbucks for more than the coffee or prefer Nike more than the just the sportswear.

Is this snake oil promoted by marketing consultants or is it marketing science? I suggest that it is some of both.

Make up your own mind.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Small Business - Do-It-Yourself Marketing Doesn't Mean "Do-It-By-Yourself" Marketing

Busting Common Myths, Mistakes, and Misunderstandings On DIY Marketing

By David Miranda

About 9 of every 10 small businesses I encounter seeking marketing advice do so because they are not achieving the business results they anticipated. Typical quandries include:

  • "We're not generating enough leads."

  • "Our competitors are eating us for lunch."

  • "We can't afford to do the marketing we need to do to get our name out there."

  • "We need to change our marketing strategy, maybe reposition ourselves."
In every case, I ask the same question - "Do you have a business plan?" Believe it or not, few small businesses do. It's like embarking on a trip deciding where you are going and the means of transportation along the way. It's no wonder small businesses "get lost" along the way.

Why does this happen, even to very smart people? Here are some common myths, mistakes, and misunderstandings and the implications of each on the business:
  • "Business plans are a great thing to have, but there are more important things I have to invest my time in." Business implications: "Seat-of-your-pants" decisions, unfocused resources, constant second-guessing. and no way of strategically exploiting new opportunities.

  • "We don't need marketing, we need sales." Business implications: Commoditized offers based on price which reduces margins. No way to distinguish offerings from those of competitors. Always being on the defensive.

  • "We don't need to explore new methods and channels right now. We will look at these down the road." Business implications: Terminal thinking - the future is now. Businesses that don't explore the new are vulnerable to those that do and often with dire consequences.

  • "We don't need professional marketing help. It is a luxury. Because we have little or no marketing budget, we do everything ourselves - branding, brochures, advertising, etc." Business implications: Not having professional marketing advice is like not having an architect involved in building your new home. Just like a new home, a business is a major investment. Bring the pros in and bring them in early in the process.
Do-It-Yourself marketing does not mean Do-It-By-Yourself marketing. Sure you can go into a Home Depot for a do-it-yourself project, but even Home Depot provides expertise to the do-it-yourselfer.

Get professional marketing advice early. It's the least expensive way to go with the greatest return on investment for your business. You can then take it from there.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Keep Your Brand Off The Endangered Species List

Self-Interest Thrives - The Era of "What's In It For Me?"

By David Miranda

A generation ago, brand loyalty was a phenomenon which could be positively exploited by incumbents, i.e. cashing in on good will built over time with constituents. Loyalty (to a product, service, company, leader, media outlet/channel, sports team, significant other, friend, etc.) has been replaced by blatant self-interest. It is a societal trend with a myriad of examples found in all walks of our daily lives. Here are a few:

A generation ago.......

...........people worked for one or two companies in their careers. Today, this is the exception rather than the rule as it is commonplace for people to have many entries on their resumes, i.e. a year here, a couple of years there. Loyalty of a company to its employees or vice versa is, for all intents and purposes, extinct.

...........people loyally consumed the offerings of specific brands over and over - everything from cars, breakfast cereals, shoes, clothing, soft drinks, airlines, telephone service, fast food, etc. Today, in a world of uber-choice and hyper-competition, loyalty is perishable and fleeting.

..........coaches and players were loyal to a specific team, in most instances for the bulk of their careers. Today, free agency and more money has turned both college and professional teams into bands of mercenaries. Coaches and athletes move frequently much to the chagrin of fans.

..........media outlets, such as local newspapers and radio, broadcast news, etc had loyal audiences and readership. Today, with the alternative choices available, audiences are loyal only to their own personal media consumption patterns.

During this shift from loyalty to self-interest, companies have responded with "loyalty" programs (frequent flier or guest programs, credit card reward programs, etc.). Let's face it. These are not "loyalty" programs; these are "self-interest" programs based on greed not loyalty to a specific brand or company. They respond to the points or miles or freebies, not loyalty.

To be fair, there are exceptions.

Apple, Starbucks, Google, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, and Nordstrom's, to name a few, have developed a "loyal" following. This enables them to charge a premium for their products and services (or stock). You can, no doubt, add to this list, but the list is short.

It's high time, however, that we call it the way it is - it is about self-interest, i.e. not just "what have you done for me lately?", but rather "what will you do for me now?" Translation: "I have lots of competitive alternatives to spend my time and money. Give me your best deal and I will consider it."

So let's get real. It's not about brand "relationship", "engagement", "loyalty". It's about self-interest. More frankly stated, it is about greed, but as the fictional character, Gordon Gekko stated in the film, Wall Street,

"The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed--for lack of a better word is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essences of the evolutionary spirit. "

Recognition Marketing - Carpe Diem: The Evolution Of Competitive Advantage

From Data to Information to Knowledge to Intelligence to Insights

By David Miranda

The world has changed dramatically over the past two decades directly correlated to the major advances in personal and networked technological advancements. The result has been a better and faster informed populace. Not only is information faster and more easily accessed, it can be accessed from anywhere and at anytime across many channels. Computing power has also enabled people to perform sophisticated analyses on complex problems to find better and faster solutions. The result? Competitive advantage

In fact, we have witnessed an evolution of competitive advantage - from data to information to knowledge to intelligence and now to insights. Insights are those unique and proprietary exploitable opportunities that are the basis for creating and sustaining competitive advantage.

This is true for businesses, but is more obvious on the customer side of the business equation. Consumers today have the power to use simple technology to do research, comparison shop, provide feedback and network their opinions to millions of other consumers - all from the convenience of their personal computers.

The pendulum of advantage has swung from the brand to the consumer who are armed with their own personal insights and opinions gathered from countless sources other than the brand itself. Brands, to succeed, must be aware and recognize the need to extend themselves employing a multi-channel strategy. This requires developing keen target audience insights on media consumption behavior to create and sustain competitive advantage.

Here are some examples of insights, based on current market conditions, and their potential impact on future consumer spending.

  • the financial health of the American middle class is suffering and the suffering will continue in 2009 due to...

  • ....the softening value of the American dollar making imports more expensive, and......

  • ....the cost of a barrel of oil is hovering at $100+ a barrel impacting gas and home heating oil prices and......

  • .....the sub-prime mortgage crisis has resulted in higher foreclosure rates and tighter credit markets, and......

  • ......health care costs are increasing far beyond the rate of inflation, and......

  • ......the U.S. is expected to be in a recession through 2009
Depending on the brand's key target audience, a brand should understand that, in this environment, consumer spending will be soft. Consumers will be more apt to comparison shop on necessities; delay major expenditures; do less leisure travel; eat out less - in a nut shell, do more with less. They will exploit the power of technology to find the best price/value opportunities.

Brands that understand these key insights will develop marketing campaigns that empathize with consumers providing the price/value/convenience that will solicit their precious dollars. The time to exploit these insights is now, not when the sales graph takes a downward slope. By then, these consumers have gone elsewhere.

In summary, brands, like consumers, should use the networked power of technology to gleen keen insights and quickly move to develop competitive advantage.

Carpe diem.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Top 10 Marketing Basics For Surviving A Recession

The Time To Act Is Now

By David Miranda

To survive a recession (they historically last 10 to 12 months), marketers must be assertive, timely, and transparent. Assertiveness demonstrates confidence; timeliness demonstrates proactivity; and transparency demonstrates open and honest communication. This is not a time for the timid, the procrastinator, or the indecisive.

The following are 10 marketing basics for surviving a recession:

  1. Don't panic. A recession is exascerbated by fear. Avoid knee-jerk reactions that appear to be desparate measures.

  2. Over-communicate to stakeholders. Silence can cause anxiety among the faithful.

  3. Be and stay aggressive. More aggressive competitors will seek to take advantage in a down market by stealing customers and, ultimately, share if they see an opening.

  4. Focus on the basics - product/service quality, customer service, value pricing. During a recession, customers seek the optimum price/value for their money and trusted brands have a home field advantage over new entrants.

  5. Concentrate on your core customers first. It is easier and less costly to get your core customers to spend incrementally more than it is to derive business from new customers.

  6. Understand the difference and impact of both revenue displacement and revenue dilution before making price promotion decisions. Displacement means that your discounting displaces higher margin business to a competitor. Example: Coffee shop "A" decides to sell $1 cups of coffee to steal traffic from Coffee shop "B". The promotion is so successful that it creates long lines forcing many customers to get their coffee at Coffee Shop "B" at a higher price. This is displacement. Dilution is discounting the price on business you already would have achieved at a higher price. Example: Coffee Shop "A" normally sells coffee at $2 per cup, but decides to distribute coupons for $1 cups of coffee to boost traffic. Regular customers who were going to pay the $2 show up with the coupon. The result is that revenue is "diluted" with the coupons.

  7. Be flexible and be ready to call "audibles at the line of scrimmage". The marketplace in a recession is volatile requiring many course corrections along the way.

  8. Reduce the gap between thinking or talking about doing something and doing it. Cut through or eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy that can inhibit or delay timely actions.

  9. Put people in charge, not committees.

  10. Fund things that work and stop things that don't.
So, get going.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why A Recession Is A Great Time To Increase Marketing Budgets

With A Smaller Pie, Brands Have To Insure A Bigger Piece Of The Action

By David Miranda

It is generally common practice that when a recession looms, companies have a knee jerk cost-cutting reaction, as is manifested with reduced headcounts and smaller budgets. This process, in itself, negatively affects morale and momentum of the marketing effort. The short term impact will indeed improve the P&L, but at what price? Typically, when the recession subsides, those companies that were fast to cut expenses are also typically slow to increase funding at the onset of a growth cycle.

Of course, it makes perfect sense to bean counters. We all have heard the mantras, "we must live within our means"; "we must be more productive and do more with less"; "we need to do the necessary belt-tightening", etc, etc. etc.

Here are the facts.

In a recession, people (and businesses) still spend, albeit less; creating a smaller demand "pie" to go around. If a company, therefore, wants to maintain or grow revenue; there is no other choice than to aggressively go after a bigger piece of the pie. Simply put, stealing share from others. Those that cut their marketing budgets during a recession are conceding business to more agressive competitors and, by the way, the best time to steal share is in a recession.

Coming out of a recession who would you guess is better positioned in an upturn - the company that cut its marketing ranks and budgets or the company that became more aggressive?

Spending during the boom times? No brainer.

Spending more during a recession? A bigger no brainer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recognition Marketing - Marketing Is Not For Amateurs

Amateurs Spend Money On Marketing, Professionals Invest Money In Marketing

By David Miranda

"I'm not a marketer, but I play one at the office."

For some inexplicable reason, many firms (both large and small) make an major error in judgment regarding marketing. The mistake? Assigning marketing responsibilities to amateurs. Not amateurs in business, but amateurs in marketing.

How and why does this occur?

Simply put, competent individuals in one field of expertise, i.e. operations, finance, sales, general management, etc., are assumed to be competent in other fields, like marketing. This is like sayin that a good nurse will make a good surgeon. Yet this happens in business every day.

There are some things that some of us think we are good at - decorating, singing, personal relationships, telling jokes, driving, Trivial Pursuit, and, yes, marketing.

Unlike the other things we think we are good at, marketing has serious consequences if we don't know what we're doing. It is not a place for amateurs. Amateur marketers SPEND money ON marketing. Professional marketers INVEST resources IN marketing.

Knowing the difference is critical for a firm's or brand's success.

Amateur marketers are like amatuer gamblers. They do not know how to play the odds - when to hold 'em, when to fold'em. They count on luck. Professional marketers are more like scientists - they research, learn and are driven to continually improve on results. For professional marketers, they know and play the odds of success. They know that success is less about luck and more about strategy.

Firms like P&G and Coca-Cola create PHD's in marketing. They would never allow amateurs to manage their consumer brands. Each trains and nurtures its marketing people as a med school trains and nurtures physicians.

Recruit, train and nurture marketing professionals (or seek professional marketing counsel) to be successful.

There is no substitute for marketing professionalism.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Honey, I Screwed The Brand!"

Your Brand Is Not A Commodity So Don't Act Like One In Media Buying

By David Miranda

Disclaimer: The author has no financial interest or affiliation with any of the media properties in this article.

I have a good friend who prides himself in getting anything and everything on the cheap. I met him the other day for lunch. He was quick to tell me that his new haircut cost him only $9; his new suit cost him only $99; and his new cell phone service cost him only $15/month. So as I sat there in the cheap restaurant he proudly recommended looking at his bad haircut wearing his ill-fitting suit trying unsuccessfully to make an out-going call on his new cell phone, it gave me time to think. My friend, by the way, plans and buys media for a "bottom feeder".

There are media people (and companies) out there that pride themselves on getting you "something on the cheap". It's called "bottom feeding" by selling "remnant" inventory. These people (and firms) have little or no vested interest other than selling you anything and have little interest in your brand's best interest. Bean counters love this kind of media buy. They can tout their buying savvy and negotiating skills.

Let's put this into a different perspective.

Let's say you are looking for a surgeon, an auto mechanic, an architect, an electrician or a babysitter for your kids. Would you seek the cheapest provider to operate on you, fix your car, build your house, wire your home, or watch the kids? Chances are, not likely.

Now, let's be clear. Is it good business to get the best value for your dollar? Of course, but it is more likely you will get the best value for the dollar (and your brand) by dealing with media brands that empathize with your marketing objectives rather than just trying to sell you something.

Such is the case with iconic media brands. Time, for example, is such a brand. It understands and communicates integrity, trust, and credibility in the marketplace. An advertser is well served in aligning itself with the Time brand benefitting from the halo effect that Time provides. Is it cheap? No. Does a brand advertising in Time (or Time.com) benefit from the relationship? Yes. Is there a strong price/value return on investment? Yes. The advertisers in Time media properties benefit directly from its iconic brand equity. Time has a long history of working with advertisers and, therefore, understands the implied covenant to its brand advertisers. Advertisers in Time media properties understand that it is a respected media environment.

Although I have used Time in this example, the same case can be made for other media icons such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, National Geographic, Financial Times, etc. Advertising in iconic media properties is not cheap, but it is valuable in building and promoting a brand.

Bottom feeders that sell on the cheap have little empathy for the advertisers they sell to. It is only regarded as a transaction.

In a world of uber-media diversity (with new entrants, literally, coming on the scene every day), I beg you to think about your brand and the "company" it keeps.

My suggestions?

  • work with iconic brands directly. They are professionals and know what the're doing.

  • avoid the cheap. Go with the best price/value in planning and buying media.
  • appreciate the difference between buying "quality" impressions versus "gross" impressions.
In summary, don't let your brand get a "bad haircut" in media buying.

(ME)dia - The Age Of Personalized Media Consumption

Do-It-Yourself, On-Demand Programming Shifts Power To The Consumer

By David Miranda

Today everybody is their own personal media mogul. We are all our own managing editor for our news (myCNN, myYahoo), TV programmers (Tivo), personalized music labels (iPods) and film festivals (YouTube), media distribution channels (MySpace) and commentators (blogs). We can even create our own virtual reality (Second Life).

Media consumption, which used to be time and device specific, is now time and device agnostic, i.e. consume anything, anytime, anywhere, on any device.

It is the age of (ME)dia.

This has made the lives of marketers miserable. How do you market to millions of MEs each with their own personalized media consumption patterns across many channels? The answer is not easily. Like scientists searching for a cure to a major epidemic, experiments on various cures to the problem are many but with mixed results. Each experiment is given its own name, i.e. behavioral targeting, search engine optimization, engagement, one-to-one and integrated marketing, etc., etc.

The findings - promising results, hopeful outcomes, no cure.

Why? Many times in the past, the problem in dealing with the new is trying to solve it with the old. When television was in its infancy, early programming was former radio shows in front of a camera. Why? Radio executives owned the new television networks. TV eventually found the right formula and prospered. There have been some examples in more recent history. AOL missed its chance to dominate the Internet and become eBay, MySpace, YouTube, and Google all wrapped into one. At its zenith, it had over 32 million subscribers.

The age of (ME)dia requires new thinking for new times. Past success is not an indicator of future success. Ask executives at broadcast television networks, local newspapers, yellow page directories, terrestial radio stations, retail books and record stores, etc.

The lesson is this - (ME)dia is here to stay. The consumer of media is in the driver's seat. Find new solutions not retreaded ones. Ambush marketing does not work anymore. More does not work anymore.

What does work? Get to know your target audience from the bottom up - not top down. Find your audience. Observe how they naturally aggregate.

(ME)dia-ize your strategy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Finally! Somebody In Politics That Tells It Like It Is

The Elevator Pitch - "You Talkin' To Me?"

Can Your Oldest Living Relative Understand What You're Pitching?

By David Miranda

In the Martin Scorcese film, Taxi Driver, Robert DeNiro had one of the great lines in cinema, "You talkin' to me?" which he delivered, by the way, in a mirror. He was talking to himself.

I have been the recipient of countless elevator pitches. While listening to the presenters, I often think of that scene from Taxi Driver, repeating the phrase silently to myself. These people might as well be talking to themselves alone in a mirror because most time, I just don't get what they're pitching. Quickly my receptors shut down just like my laptop does when I have too many programs going at the same time.

What happens? The pitch was designed for the presenter and not the audience and the presenter doesn't know his or her audience.

Here is a view from those of us that want to be good audiences:

  • we are busy; we have A.D.D.; we hear lots of pitches - get to the point quickly

  • don't use a lot of jargon only understood by industry insiders

  • eliminate the hyperbole, i.e. the best, the greatest, the next "Google" etc. - no one's gonna buy it. If it is good or great, let your audience, not you, state it.

  • make your pitch a dialogue not a monologue. Encourage your audience to interrupt with questions during the pitch.

  • don't distribute leave-behinds unless people request them and don't distribute them before you begin. They will thumb through it while you are talking which is not a good idea.

  • If you have 15 minutes, make it 15 minutes or, preferably, shorter. If your audience wants to go over the alotted time it means they are interested. If you go over the allotted time, it means you are not prepared.

  • Don't feel compelled to use a powerpoint, unless your audience wants to see it. Offer first.

  • If you do use a powerpoint, try it out on someone first under the same conditions you will present. Can your guinea pigs read the slides? Are there too many bullet points?, too much animation?, too much data?, too many slides?, too many charts?, simply too much "stuff" to comprehend? etc.

  • don't assume your audience is either real smart or real dumb. The best communicators of the most challenging concepts make it palatable for everyone.
Remember that unless you enjoy talking to yourself, it is your audience that you have to convince to buy what your selling. So don't pontificate. Don't complicate. Don't exaggerate. Don't orate. Don't bloviate. Just communicate - like you are speaking to your oldest living relative. Chances are if they get it, so will everyone else.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Corporate "Bulimia" Or "Anorexia" Is No Way To Keep A Company "Lean & Mean"

"Competing" Disorders Can Harm The Business

By David Miranda

In an effort to get or remain thin, some people go to extremes by developing eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. We all know the devastating impact either of these maladies have on the human body. We all know there is no simple way to be thin (and healthy). It takes a regimen of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Such is the case in business. Typically in an economic slowdown, businesses seek to shed "excess fat" in the organization to make the organization "lean and mean". Although this is a commendable (and necessary) effort, too many go about it the wrong way and develop "competing disorders", i.e. corporate bulimia or anorexia.

Corporate bulimia occurs when a firm decides to "purge" internal employees from the org chart in favor of out-sourcing to third parties. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes critical departments are affected, say customer service. This is where reducing costs, unwisely, takes precedent over the health of the organization. In this case, this purging leaves the firm, not stronger, but weaker. Purging customer service is a "bulimic" practice.

Corporate anoxexia is just as problematic. Here companies believe they can do more and more with less and less. They "starve" the company, i.e. "what is the very minimum we need to keep the company going?" A company cannot "starve" themselves to success.

Take a healthy approach to business. Avoid taking short cuts to success. Feed success and exercise your brains in making good decisions our your firm will be "The Biggest Loser."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Marketing - Brand Foreplay For Sales

Before Someone Buys Something, They First Have To Be Romanced

By David Miranda

The field of marketing has many descriptive terms to describe and measure brand success such as awareness, recognition, preference, engagement, and relationship to name of a few. The best way, however, to describe and measure brand success is sales.

This is because before anyone buys anything, they first have to desire it. That is what marketing does. It is the business discipline of seduction.

Simply put, marketing is foreplay for sales.

All too often, brands think that a clever "pick up line" (advertising slogan) is enough or perhaps "offering to buy the pursued a cocktail of their choice" (discounting, coupons, free offers) will win their favor. These may be good techniques for "one-night stands" with consumers; but not for sustainable brand relationships. Brands need to create a conversation with the consumer - get to know them, understand their needs and wants.

In other words, consumers want to be romanced by brands - to be recognized and appreciated. This is what great brands do. This is what great marketing does.

Every sale and every repeat sale is the direct result of brand foreplay. Too often a great deal of effort is placed in acquiring a new customer, but also all too often this newly acquired customer is taken for granted wrongly assuming that an acquired customer will be a repeat customer. In a marketplace where preference is perishable, this is a critical miscalculation.

This is why it is critically important for a brand to understand that, in today's highly competitive marketplace, without brand foreplay-without romancing, competitive suitors are relentlessly seducing your current and future customers.

Don't try to "pick up" customers; romance them instead by employing the foreplay of sales.

It's called marketing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Considering The Mobile Channel? Success Is Spelled With 4R's

Get It Right The First Time

Marketing still has its 4 P's - people, price, promotion, place - first communicated to future marketing gurus in Marketing 101. Marketers have done well by the 4P's which have been easily applied in developing marketing strategy and tactical executions. As the marketing mix has expanded from the "usual suspects" TV, radio, print, direct mail and public relations to the Internet and its unique offspring, marketers have adapted and adopted new solutions into the mix.

Now there is a new kid in town - mobile, with over 220 million users strong just in the U.S. In boardrooms across the country, smart brands are seeking ways to exploit its ubiquity and huge potential. A first critical step is understanding that mobile is a unique channel with unique characteristics and rules of engagement.

Simply stated, mobile has its 4 R's - recognition, relevance, reward, and relationship - the four supporting pillars of mobile success.
  • Recognition refers to the explicit understanding that respects a consumer right to privacy and control of the mobile interaction. Mobile marketing mandates that consumers opt-in to programs.

  • Relevance refers to the need to provide consumers with content that is appropriate to their personal lifestyle and interests. Mobile consumers will quickly opt out of programs that have little or no value.

  • Reward refers to providing incentives for consumer participation which can be in the form of points, discounts, etc.

  • Relationship refers to the notion that if consumers are convinced that the first 3 R's are satisfied, they are more likely to commit to a mobile relationship with the brand.
Recognition, relevance, reward, and relationship - a good platform for successful mobile marketing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Recognition Marketing - 10 Characteristics Of A Great Brand

By David Miranda

Great brands.....

  1. compete with themselves, not others for the hearts, minds, and wallets of customers.

  2. are more curious, better informed, more agile and nimble, and less risk-averse than their competitors.

  3. are customer-centric understanding that customer retention is the engine for customer acquisition.

  4. understand that everything (both the formal and informal) communicates the brand to others.

  5. understand that the status quo is the enemy of innovation.

  6. compete on value not price.

  7. are not "me-too" marketers

  8. have a compelling brand "story" that clearly distinguishes it from all others

  9. recruit and retain great marketing talent

  10. can demand a premium for their products and/or services

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Intelligence vs Wisdom - Knowing The Difference

Understanding The Difference Is Critical In Marketing

By David Miranda

A wise person once asked me if I knew the difference between ignorance and stupidity. After a weak attempt at an answer, he replied, "ignorance means you don't know, stupidity means you'll never know". I haven't been ignorant of the difference since. This is wisdom.

I have recently asked myself a different question, particularly as it applies to the discipline of marketing. The question is "What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?" Often the terms are used interchangeably and without much thought.

When this does happen, it can have dire consequences.

Mark Twain once 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."

The marketing discipline is blessed to have many intelligent people in the field measured by academic credentials and IQ. Intelligence is generally judged by one's ability to solve problems - to find solutions. Intelligence, however, has a dark side - arrogance, i.e. that because the problem was solved or a solution found by an intelligent person using an intelligent process, it must be the best solution available. Not!

Intelligence should be tempered with experience - from you or others. This is called wisdom, as in, "This seems like the right way to go, but conventional wisdom says we should dig a little deeper, think a little harder, kick the tires a little more." Wisdom should not be confused with caution, since the best friend of an intelligent solution is devil's advocacy. A wise decision will generally pass muster with both supporters and critics. Wise decisions stand the tests of time and scrutiny.

All marketers think they make intelligent decisions. The best, however, make wise decisions.

Next time you have to make a key decision, ask yourself this question "Is this wise?"

Wise up!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Retail Is Detail" - A Lesson From Mickey

J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler Shows How Its Done

By David Miranda

In a recent New York Times story by Joe Nocera, "A CEO Sells The Store", J Crew CEO Mickey Drexler was reported doing what he has always done and continues to do - going to his stores, fussing over the merchandise, speaking with managers and, yes, grilling customers on what they like, don't like, where else they shop, etc.

Oh yeah, the article highlights the results on Mr. Drexler's hands-on approach.......

"At a time when most retailers are struggling — with credit tight, and consumers increasingly unwilling to spend — J. Crew stands out. It is growing at a steady, healthy clip; Mr. Jaffe estimates that when it reports its 2007 results in a few weeks, the company will report revenue of $1.3 billion, a 14 percent increase. It is nicely profitable."

One should note that this kind of CEO is a rare bird. Most, as we know, do their "CEO-ing" (or "CMO-ing", "COO-ing", "CFO-ing") in the ivory tower many times removed from the person who makes their large compensation packages possible. No, not the corporate board - the customer.

In another example of the front line CEO, last week, Starbuck's new CEO (former CEO) Howard Shultz took the dramatic step in closing all Starbucks stores for three hours to - get this - re-train and re-energize and remind its thousands of front line "barristas" why they had been so successful in the first place - putting the customer first.

Could Mssrs. Drexler and Shultz be onto something?

Could it be that the front line impacts the top line that, in turn, impacts the bottom line?

By jove, I think they've got it!

If you are a corporate executive, ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time you were at the front lines of your business speaking with front line personnel, managers, customers? (By the way, "royal tours" with a huge entourage do not count.)

  2. Do you solely rely on second or third hand facts and figure to make decisions?

  3. Have you ever been a secret shopper of your own products and services?
In an economic downturn, consumers will gravitate to those brands that get the key basic right - customer recognition.

You can't do that in the ivory tower. Go Mickey! Go Howard!