Marketing Strategy

    Category Experience Can Be Bull Shite.

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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.

     

    Control Your Marketing

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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!

    Don’t Market To The Middle.

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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!    

     

    Proof In Advertising.

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    Advertising isn’t ineffective because it’s a dying medium, it’s ineffective because it’s ineffective. Good branding is about “Claim and Proof.” Advertising, an important, controllable means of branding, needs to follow the same “Claim and Proof” dictum.

    Toyota, a company playing defense peppered with catch-up promotions, ran an ad in The New York Times paper paper today – a perfect example of badvertising.  All claim, no proof. Here’s the copy:

    No matter who you are or what you drive, everyone deserves to be safe. Which is why the Star Safety SystemTM is standard on all our new vehicles – no matter what model or trim level.  It’s a combination of five advanced safety features that help keep you in control and out of harm’s way.  Toyota is the first full-line manufacturer to make the features of the Star Safety SystemTM standard on all vehicles.  Because at Toyota, we realizes nothing is more important to you than your safety.

    I forgot the headline and I only read it 10 seconds ago. The call to action, where one might actually find the proof, is prominently displayed below the copy — Toyota.com/safety. This ad is one expensive call to action and a lot less.  Fail!

    Who is at Fault?

    I’m not sure who is responsible for this $20,000 piece of “we’re here” advertising but everyone is to blame. The creative person who said “People don’t read long copy.” The strategist who approved it, the client who agreed and paid for it. Frankly, The New York Times should be ashamed. Isn’t someone over there watching this stuff?

    This business is easy: Find a great claim and support it with compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Peace!

    Bing Likes Likes.

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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!

    The Diffusion of Advertising

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    Advertising ain’t what is used to was (a little Southernism I made up). Creation of big selling ideas by highly paid creatives and marketing people, broadcast to millions via TV, radio and print was the ad business.  Today, thanks to technology, the ad business is undergoing a diffusion like never before. Digital agencies, though not yet offered a seat at the big table, are new and important players.  Google is the most profitable advertising agency in the world and Facebook is hot on their trail.  And when I say “mobile advertising” does any one company come to mind?  That one is going to be huge…but it’s still to play out.

    Buy or Build?

    Big traditional ad agencies clearly see the need to offer digital, social and mobile but are asking themselves “Do we buy or build?” Right now they’re doing both: hiring someone smart in each discipline and using them to select cottage industry players who are truly immersed.  Better than last year, which was all “Go out and get me a subservient chicken.”  Or “Find me those nerds who built the US Weekly Facebook poll.”

    I’ve long thought that mid-size agencies were poised to win in this diffuse advertising world, but now I’m not so sure. True, they can more quickly parlay a powerful branding idea into a market-moving integrated campaign but the model may not be extensible.

    Bud Cadell is right when he says the old ad agency model is broken. It will take open minds, forward thinking, experience, software, an understanding of brand building, and lots of money to fix the process. I’m of the mind that the successful model is more likely to come out of MDC Partners than WPP.  It will be fun to watch though. Peace!

    The things we produce

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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.

    A $1,000 Pill?

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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.

    Marketing Silos vs. Community.

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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!

    Silo vs. Integrated

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    In the advertising and marketing business, digital is its own channel.  Rare is the vendor that provides a truly integrated single source worldview of a brand. A really smart person once said to an important client “campaigns are overrated” which stuck me with a ferocity that shook my world, but he was right.  A campaign, when well-defined and well-equipped is a powerful selling mechanism.  It’s what people talk about. But translating campaigns across silos is not easy.  Heck, anyone who has ever worked at an ad agency knows campaigns don’t always transfer across media.  A great design-driven print campaign may not work well in radio or a murderously effective TV campaign may not work as out of home.  It’s tah-woooh.  And those silos are under one roof.    

    Competing Market Forces

    A bunch of hearty souls are trying to bring online and offline selling under one roof.  Yet a greater number of very skilled entrepreneurs are out there selling against the one roof approach — creating even greater and greater specialization.  A friend at CatalystSF told me that there are over 200 social media agencies in the New York area alone.  So what do you do about these two competing forces — the shops who want more pie and are trying to integrate and the shops selling best of breed, stand alone digital marketing specialties?  Well the planner in me usually starts problem solving by “following the money.”  In the case of integrated vs. stand alone I say “follow the strategy.”  

    If you find a potential partner with a sense of business strategy that transcends tactical discussions, listen. Business strategy first. Marketing strategy second. Message strategy third and tactical fourth.  I don’t care if its RGA or TBWA. Peace it up!