Marketing Strategy

    Control Your Marketing


    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!

    Bing Likes Likes.


    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!

    Cashiers, Conversationalists and CMOs.


    There are two factions in online marketing these days: Cashiers and Conversationalists. 


    Cashiers care about the sale. They have the small dashboard that tracks click-to-sale and spits out an ROI calculations. Cashiers can’t wait to wake up in the morning to see the new numbers. They are in to usability testing, shopping cart abandonment, media optimization and other measures but their interest and energy pretty much stops at the sale. The buck stops there.


    Conversationalists are a daintier.  They immerse themselves in the process.  They want to make friends.  (Like the kid with the runny nose in grade school, sometimes they just walk right up to you and ask “Do you want be my friend?”)  In my world, conversationalists are actually more likely to find truths and insights about their products and win in the long term.  All the pop marketing gurus today are into the conversation. They are not technologists, thank God, so they are easy to listen to and learn from but their failing is that they’re a little too caught up in the sausage making, not the sausage tasting.


    For a CMO it’s great to have both types of people on staff.  A Yin and Yang thing. Cashiers are imperative for sales now. Conversationalists care about future sales, and loyalty and sale predisposition. But it’s hard to take predisposition to the bank. Good CMOs have a brand plan in place that gives direction to the factions.  A brand plan is informed by the work and findings of both factions, but it drives them.  A brand plan helps Cashiers and Conversationalist organize “claim and proof” in a way that creates Return on Strategy near and long term. Peace!

    Category Experience Can Be Bull Shite.


    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.


    Leo’s Brilliant, Mistimed, Cloudy Future.


    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.    

    Sears Spanish Inquisition



    “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.   

    Data and Product Recalls.


    Every product purchased in a store using price scanners creates a record. More often than not that record is tied to a credit or debit card.  Consumer products befouled in manufacturing, like liquid children’s medicines from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, or collapsing baby strollers, bad tomatoes, sticky brake pedals, etc., also create purchase records.  Why not use these records to alert purchasers to recalls. I’m no analytics nerd but this seems like a no-brainer.  

    The way recalls are handled today is messy.  And, dare I say, not particularly transparent (sorry for the markobabble).  The ability exists for marketers to do one-on-one contact with purchasers of faulty or dangerous products.  No longer is there a need to scare everybody. No longer the need to make us check our cabinets and refrigerators for lot numbers. No more hiding recall information on website FAQs pages. No more expensive newspaper ads filled with obfuscation. 

    Let’s use data collection for good, not just for cross-selling, up-selling and McPestering.  Good data.  Good boy.  Roll over.  Peace!