Friday, November 13, 2009

In A Soft Market - Fill Up The Marketing "Tank" To Succeed

It's Not Just Good Times When Competitors Are Plotting Your Demise

By David Miranda

When the market softens, it is hard to believe that some brands' knee jerk reaction is to reduce marketing budgets. Just the contrary, in a soft economy it is paramount to relentlessly give people new reasons to prefer you over the competition.

Let's be clear. Potential and existing competition are relentlessly up to no good. In fact, they are constantly plotting your demise - looking for exploitable opportunities with consumers and customers. In a slow market, this challenge is exacerbated.

Today, brand preference is perishable. Consumers and customers enjoy a competitive marketplace of hyper-choice. A brand, therefore, must relentlessy communicate why it matters that they buy your stuff versus the other guy's, especially in soft times. Marketing is the branding guidance and navigation that leads consumers and customers to prefer your "stuff" and you need the budget to do it.

Starbucks convinced consumers that great coffee did not come from a jar or bag from a supermarket or from a fast food outlet. Great coffee came from Starbucks, according to Starbucks, and it was worth the premium and the wait in line to enjoy it. A softer economy and strong competition in the forms of McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, and others gave people new reasons to buy competitors' coffee. Starbucks found itself challenged. The result, they brought back its founder, closed unprofitable locations, reengineered its offerings, and even closed all stores for a day for retraining. One might conclude that became a little to complacent.

How about Apple and Steve Jobs? They did not invent the MP3 player or the mobile phone. As a matter of fact they came late to the game in each category. Few could argue the success of the iPod/iTunes or the iPhone. Steve Jobs continues to plot the demise of his competition. Apple's ad campaign (PC vs MAC) has caused untold aggravation for Microsoft who has now responded with their "I am a PC" campaign.

Reduce marketing in a slowdown is like deciding not to fill up your tank to go on a car trip to reduce travel expenses. In a down market, competitors do not go into hibernation. They become more aggressive and daring. A brand vulnerable with a reduced marketing budget, will sooner of later be "parked on the side of the road to success" while competitors speed by.

Keep your marketing "tank" full.