The recently-concluded U.S. presidential campaign—at press time the election had not taken place—roiled on for two years at a cost of more than $1 billion. Had the campaigns been peopled with marketing advisors, rather than the standard political advisors, perhaps it wouldn’t have seemed so endless. Marketers would have advised their candidates to select the target audiences, do deep consumer research on their issues, pick the key themes (strategies), execute them innovatively with clear benefits and competitive advantages, and then stay on message. Of course, you have to respond to competitive threats in the marketplace, but always on message for the target audience.
On the other hand, political advisors read the daily polls, much as the advisors of yore scrambled chicken entrails in search of divine guidance, and then adjusted the message accordingly. But since when do you get leadership through research? Of course, in our modern marketing and advertising campaigns we have the FTC and FDA to keep us on the straight and narrow but no such luck in the spin of our political campaigns. Myriad fact-checkers waving their “eurekas” and “gotchas” did little to offset the errant messages.
Now, suppose that marketing campaign managers were to consider their candidates as products. They’d get to the basics and determine what separates one product (candidate) from another—Image, Innovation, Increased Value, and Impact—the very strategic keys and their components that are essential to brand success noted in our September column (p. 54). Pull it out and consider some of the elements which contribute to “Image”—leadership for one; “Increased Value”—competitive edge, higher benefit satisfaction, permission to believe, trust, and so on; “Innovation”—news value and relevance. Did you see much of any of these in the long-running campaign? A few more marketers in the mix would have made for more focused and brand-building messages. (What do you think? Shall we try our hand in politics?)
If you would like our stand-alone chart of our Four Keys to Branding and Product Success, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org
Research as a Marketing Tool
The official American Marketing Association’s definition of Marketing is: “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” In fact, AMA now holds that marketing is not a function but an educational process.
With that definition and orientation in mind, you can see that there was precious little marketing built into the political process. Neither candidate tried to educate; perhaps managers on both sides recalled the ill-fated campaign of Ross Perrot. But ask anyone what they remember about him, and doubtless you'll hear about his charts and the way he carefully explained what was going on in the economy. Both parties ultimately read the morning polls and adjusted their campaigns accordingly, leaving each to accuse the other of flip-flopping. Woe be the marketer who tries it, but isn’t that what happens when research replaces leadership and entrepreneurial vision? Remember that cartoon of a horse evolving into a camel, with the caption, “A horse becomes a camel when designed by a committee?” It happens in the marketplace, regularly.
Important aside. Consider Leslie Blodgett, founder of Bare Escentuals and literal creator of the astounding mineral makeup category. Can you picture her asking consumers what they think of the mineral makeup idea? She didn’t have to. She knew that “natural” is the driver for makeup—the key benefit for the entire color category. Remember, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Ask any woman if she wants the “natural look” and she’ll answer a definite yes, even if her hair is blue! So, put a new twist on an established product category, loose powder, and presto, you have “natural” in both “look,” and in a good-for-you composition—can’t do better than that. Oh, yes you can. You can have the right vehicle to bring it to the masses (QVC), with an authoritative personality. Now, take another look at our Four Keys to Branding Success chart and see how many checks you will make with this product.
Truly knowledgeable entrepreneurs don’t need and/or usually don’t have the funds for research to propel good marketing ideas. And, why do you think it took about two years for the mass marketers—L’Oréal, Maybelline, Revlon, Cover Girl, Neutrogena, etc.—to introduce minerals after Physician’s Formula was first in mass? You’re right. Research! The major marketers in prestige markets still don’t have it together. Research is probably not the culprit—it’s the embarrassment factor. Mineral makeup represents the third time that prestige missed major markets because they started in mass. Remember, Revlon’s Color Stay Lipstick and Cover Girl’s Outlast Lipstick? Beyond a late trickle, did you ever see them in prestige? No. So they must say, “If it starts in mass, it stays in mass.”
Fits, doesn’t it? Even as we write this column we know of companies, major well-respected marketers, in search of a “system” for innovation—all driven by research. The process seems rather straightforward: start with the philosophers to present the big picture, throw the ideas in the pot, look to (research) other disciplines/industries for solutions that might apply, then research these and select the best. Then refine these ideas, inviting the various divisions of the company to come aboard. Bring in the technology factor. A bit more research, a little more refining, and then broad scale consumer research to finalize.
This reminds us of a client who, many years ago, asked us for our impression of the company after being on board for a few months. Unplanned and unscripted, the impulsive response (after seeing how the company worked from the inside) was, “it seems that you labor like an elephant, but often produce a mouse.” After an astonished pause, everyone laughed at the truth of the matter.
Years of research often results in a long, drawn-out process that ultimately reveals:
1. The market changed,
2. The competition got there first, or
3. Some other player entered the market and changed the basic game.
That’s not the same as taking a good idea and refining it through research. So, entrepreneurs of the world Unite! The future belongs to us.
Wish We Had Done This
We haven’t kept track of how often we wish we had done the Nivea advertising (top), but it seems to be getting to be a habit. Is there a woman in this world who doesn’t (in her heart/fantasies) identify with
The Nivea ad (top) hits home with women on an emotional level.
In contrast, the P&G ad relies on technology.
Now contrast this scientific approach with the emotional approach of Nivea. We predict that within six months every competitive product will be talking about its “new superior moisturizing factor” innovation. Even if Nivea decision-makers go that route, you can bet that they won’t lose the emotional factor. They’ll still want you to be touched.
Do You Have A Trend Box?
A Trend Box (TB) is the equivalent of a Worry Box (WB), but for trends. If you have a worry, write it down and put it in the WB and stop worrying. A week later open the box, if you are still worrying about this item, put it back in the box. But you’ll find that 90% of the worries have gone. If it is still there at the end of a few weeks, it’s time to get serious about it.
The exercise is same with a Trend Box. Write down all the trends that you think will affect your personal life or business in the coming year, put them in the TB and then look at them some months or a year later. Adjust your thinking accordingly. What you’ll find is that some trends didn’t happen at all so, luckily, you didn’t spend any time preparing for these. Some are exactly the same as last year, and everything else that happened to you—good or bad—came out of left field; i.e,.the bailout.
With that preface, we note the “Trends to Watch in 2008” as they appeared in the Dec. 17, 2007 edition of Advertising Age. Let’s see what it offered and how we would handle it, if the trend still prevails.
Marketers Hit a Rough Patch.Put that one back in the box, good for another year—and it's always rough.
Innovation and Creativity Rule.So what else is new? Back in the box, good for at least another year.
Get Serious About Accountability. Appoint a Chief Accountability Officer and throw the paper away. It’s rare that you can point to a single marketing culprit anyway.
Digital, Digital, Digital (and Portable Too).If you’re not there, fire the CMO and throw the paper away.
The Power of Strategic Alignment.If the CMO hasn’t got all forces going in the same direction, throw him/her out. There’s nothing in the box for next year. Just fix it right the first time.
Retired and Working.So what else is new? Throw it out.
We’ll come up with our own trends in the January issue.