Marketing Strategy

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I can count on 10,000 fingers the number of times I’ve come across hiring scenarios where people are looking for category experience. Steeped, repetitive, ingrained category experience is drawing the life out of innovation. That’s why the web and app-based tech sector is so vibrant. It’s only a few years old.

I have a really smart friend with lots of marketing muscle who owns a consulting business. She is employing a team of business development “hunters” to grow business by targeting certain categories: healthcare, tech, automotive, etc.

But what if she took a different tack? What if she looked at the business problem from the perspective of prospects? What if the hunters were organized not by business category, but by growth category? For instance, companies growing by 100% a year, companies growing by double digits, companies growing by single digits. Or how about companies holding at zero growth, or losing revenue by double digits?

Then allow the hunters to devise strategies tailored to these segments. The marketing tactics for the high growth companies are immensely different than those of no growth companies. The strategies for single-digit growers differ broadly for single digit losers.

The fact that a company is in a category presents neither a problem or an opportunity, so why do marketing consultants roll that way? Revenue growth and the speed of revenue growth are what companies need to learn about and affect. Freshies.

 

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I read today about a hepatitis C drug that costs $1,000 per pill. It’s called Sovaldi. Don’t get me started on the paucity of pharma names – it seems they are all used up. Marketing consists of 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion — so I have a question for the marketing director of Sovaldi. Is this a niche product for the very rich? The rich who, by the way, don’t index high for Hep C?

There are three parties involved in this little health care rubric: the drug company, the patient and the insurance company. The drug company (Gilead) is giddy with its 1st quarter earnings. Record earnings. The patients are happy, I suppose, with a drug that presumably is better than what currently exists. And the insurance companies? They must be clearly wondering how this drug got through the FDA.

The pharma marketing director who set the price of Sovaldi must have used a formula to cover R&D, physician detailing, marketing etc., but s/he knew that insurance companies would foot the bill. Very few people can pay $1,000 for a pill.

So who is to blame for approving this non-viable, specialty product? Not to seem cold but someone along the chain must have known this drug price would be a little out of hand. They must also have known insurance companies would pay for it. In what marketing scenario does one price a product so high that nobody but a very few can afford it?  Entire families are going without healthcare in the ACA Age because of the price of one of these pills. Something is broken. And someone from the insurance industry needs to step up and fix it. Peace.

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sears

“All Spanish all the time” is the business strategy I have recommended to Sears in this blog a number of times. Once again, quarterly earnings are out for the Sears Holding Company (owner of Kmart) showing it is hemorrhaging money. You can’t continue to lose a billion plus a year and stay a viable business (listening Blackberry?).

Think about the country. Think about the state of retailing…with more and more sales conducted online and delivered via the mail and package carriers. Where does this leave Sears? And all retailers, for that matter.  In need of bold moves. All Spanish speaking today, is a first-mover strategy. And frankly a no-brainer. If it doesn’t happen in 2014 it will happen at some point. If not Sears or Kmart, someone. The purchasing power of Spanish speaking Americans is too great. The growth rate of this segment of the pop. too great. 

Sure stores will have to close. But the idea is solid. The market is solid and the move will have unexpected positive impact not only on the expense side of the ledge, but also the growth side…with new opportunities for other services hitting this massive part of the economy.

Edward S. Lampert, CEO, pull that Band Aid off right now. I smell a Fortune (cover) in it for you. Peace.   

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.What have you produced for me lately?  That’s the question that should be asked by senior marketers of their teams, agencies, vendors and selves. What have you produced?

The extravaganza that was the Super Bowl saw lots of things produced. Ads were produced, certainly. Actors were coached, editing suites rented, musicians composed, craft trucks rolled. Millions spent. And now bills will be paid (and unpaid) for months to come – all because things were produced.  At some point, probably around budgeting time for next year’s Super Bowl, someone will ask “What sales were produced?”

Let’s list the people who might answer that question with “Not my job.” The list will be pretty lengthy. It wasn’t long ago that the average tenure of a CMO was 18 months. Why is that?  Because it is the CMO’s job to produce sales. The CMO and the CEO.

The marketing business today produces lots of things – at the hands of many, many people. Isn’t it time CMOs asked and answered the question “Do the things we produce, produce sales?” Peace.

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Adaptive learning is an educational practice that tailors lessons to the learning level of each pupil. It is the opposite of the all too common pedagogical practice of “teach to the middle of the class ” where lessons are created for average, middle of the class students, not the highest or lowest performing. (Talk about no child left behind?) Adaptive learning is really individualized learning. As a term it has been taken over by technologists who employ computer software to identify a student’s learning level, via a battery of questions, and then create a learning scheme that best fits each student. It’s good pedagogy.  

Responsive design is the new “big thing” in web development. It creates a valuable, though often singular, web experience for users regardless of the device they’re using. And we know there are lots of devices and operating systems out there. There’s big money in responsive design today.

When we apply the tenets of adaptive learning and responsive design to digital marketing we recognize there is a long way to go before we’re not marketing to the middle of the class. Data people and ad serving jockeys will tell you they can serve up a special pieces of creative based upon user behavior or website visits, but this does not tell you where the customer is along the continuum of a sale (awareness, interest, desire, action and loyalty).  In offline and online we are still profoundly marketing to the middle of the class.

Brand love and brand loyalty will ebb through boredom. Through repetition. Marketers who treat their most loyal customers like babies are forgiven…up to a point. (America knows that “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your car insurance.”)  So what’s the 21st Century Challenge for marketers?  Adapt to your target. Be responsive to time and place.  And stimulate them with brand positive messages and deeds. But most importantly, do it in support of a brand strategy — an organizing principle that marries what you do well with what customers want.

Peace!    

 

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Today there will be lots of stories written about Leo Apotheker’s plight at Hewlett-Packard. And of the HP board, and potential replacements for Mr. Apotheker. One lens I like to look through when doing strategic planning is the “history” lens.  When viewed over time – a long time – will the company, product or leader have made a historic contribution?  Typically, that means looking at strategy rather than tactics.

In Mr. Apotheker’s case, it is clear to me that his PR handlers were at fault.  His moves to purchase Autonomy, shed the PC and tablet business, and stop investing in WebOS were historic moves — looking well beyond the dashboard.  One might say, and say accurately, that when you put a software person in charge of a mixed media multinational, the road to the future is paved with software.  Mr. Apotheker saw deteriorating PC sales, reduced profitability in services (the cloud is getting not only bigger, but smarter), and device manufacturing (especially sans Steve Jobs) under enormous cost pressures. Think device kudzu.  Rather than stay and fight for integration of solutions hard and soft around his OS — which code-wise may not have been ready for primetime and perhaps at risk from new OS pushes by Microsoft and Apple — he decided to retrench with eye toward the future. Very ballsy.

The cloud is the future. Device complexity will reduce over time and when it does, the cloud, run by software, will become the electricity of business. And that is where Mr. Apotheker was going. Sadly, he had a lapse in judgment and bad guidance and announced it at the wrong time and inelegantly.  Como se billions in lost shareholder value?  Some strategies (read historic) are better left unannounced. Is that not so, Mr. Jobs? Peace.    

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Pop quiz.  You are thinking of buying a new car.  A Volkswagen Beetle is among your choices. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say you are 25 years old.  Here’s a marketing multiple choice:

A.     You’re invited to a special free concert with the black Eyed Peas performing. There are Volkswagen Beetles positioned at the entry points to the concert.  There is mad signage and car pictures projected on screen throughout the concert but the performers never mention the words Beetle or Volkswagen.

B.     You like the Black Eyed Peas and buy a ticket to their concert. At the show there are no physical cars on display, but there are large display ads tastefully arrayed around the concert space showing car, brand and promise.

C.     Fergie, in workout clothes, is photographed leaving the gym of her personal trainer. She looks particularly aglow and has a hand darting around her bag looking keys — about to get into her new black Volkswagen Beetle.

I can tell you what an event marketing company would pick. And charge. I can suggest what a typical social media company would select (all three, they rarely care.) And I can tell you what a PR company would prefer. Heavy on one, but all three would generate fees.  There is only one true answer here. And that answer is fundamental to marketing. And you all know which one it is. Marketing is hard. Peace!

PS. Answer “A” actually happened… and it’s not correct.

 

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Loss of Control is one of marketing’s 6 most motivating selling strategies. (I haven’t locked down on the other 5, though “save money” and “better service” have to be included.)

I wrote a brief once for a home healthcare service catering to well-heeled, upscale individuals who didn’t need to rely on Medicare for payment. I called the target “Captains of the Castle,” a mixed metaphor indicating that not only were these people heads of household from a financial standpoint, they were one-time captains of industry.

Let’s just say, back in the day these individuals were powerful, proud and in control.  Now in their 70 and 80s, Captains of the Castle are still proud, but in failing health and no longer powerful or running the show. (You’ve seen this black and white movie, no?)

Most healthcare marketing in the home care category targets the caregiver. This brief was aimed not at the caregiver but at the care recipients — the Captains. The promise or offer was a specialized homecare program that gave them control back.  Control in their own homes.   (In fact, the brief generated a new product idea.) 

As you are writing briefs and segmenting your targets, don’t forget to ask yourself about the loss of control as a motivator.  And, as you are selecting your media, message and proof, don’t cede control to the consumer.  Media Socialists think that’s the haps and they are largely wrong. Peace!

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Charlene Li has a great post today about Bing and its product alliance with Facebook — one she feels will help Microsoft cut into Google’s search share.  She is quite right. Bing, number 3 in search, announced it will integrate Facebook’s social graph information (“Likes’) into search results, as an option.  If you use Bing to search a particular topic you will have the ability to check results based upon how your Facebook friends affect those results as determined by their “Likes.”   

This is smart logic on Microsoft’s part…jumping on the bandwagon of the world’s most populous social network.  It’s smart for Facebook, backing up the truck to the Microsoft bank. And it’s good across-the-board logic, allowing search to be viewed based upon the likes of friends, followers and communities.  

When Facebook changed “Fan” to “Like” it struck me as a bit odd, though. Call me paranoid, but I now smell the backroom deal. The timing was about right.

Personally I am not a big “Liker.”  I don’t really click on “Liked” things, yet many do and it has become a popular pastime and app.  As more marketers encourage Facebook users to Like things – and shill for their brands – the behavior will become tired, forced and die down.  As permissions and privacy interests grow Likes will also die down.  Facebook will still be Facebook, finding new ways to grow and monetize, and Bing will have won some serious market share points with this new tactic. That said, Bing will still be innovating OPS (other people’s stuff). Peace!

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Where do key marketing insights come from? Where does creative inspiration come from? Where do sales come from? Nice questions, no?

Key market insights come from people (consumers or business buyers) and market data. Market data, however, is just an aggregation of consumer activity and the patterns they throw off. 

Creative inspiration, in this machine that is the marketing and agency business, comes from the creative brief. Where on the brief?  Many would like think it jumps from the boiled down “selling idea,” “key thought,” or “engagement trigger” — whatever it’s called these days. But realistically it comes from anywhere on the brief.  Inspiring creative people can’t be mapped, it just happens. People are complicated.

And sales? Sales come from stores, catalogs and websites but really from the hands and minds of people.  

So duh, the common denominator in this serial journey to a sale is people.  The most effective marketing teams are those who make all three legs of this stool work together.

This is your silo issue, not revenue by agency type or department.  It’s not about break though work. It’s not about sales spikes. Or the most powerful media tactic or database.  It’s about getting people to see patterns, inspire others, and learn what sells in a specific category – then forming a community around the brand that fosters those activities. Agencies come and go. Campaigns come and go. Communities (unless you’re the Aztecs) not so much. Peace!

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