Change Your Ways

A lot of research is pointing to Q4, 2009 as the time for a lot of the bad things we're seeing in the economy to finally bottom out. I'll believe it when I see it.

I'm a religious man, but not the kind that waits around for divine intervention to occur. Especially when it involves my business or pretty much everything else.

Since last year and through St. Patrick's Day, not one holiday has driven positive sales to the retail industry.

So, take your future in your hands and revisit your holiday marketing plans to make them stronger!

I don't know you or your business, but I'd bet a good buck that your holiday marketing plans (and your marketing plan for the days in between) are weak!

Change now or else!


Be a Brand Not a Company

How about the bottled water business!

According to Wikipedia, The U.S. is the largest consumer market for bottled water in the world, followed by Mexico, China, and Brazil.[1] In 2008, U.S. bottled water sales topped 8.6 billion gallons for 28.9% of the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage market, exceeding sales of all other beverages except carbonated soft drinks, followed by fruit juices and sports drinks… About 25% of U.S. bottled water sold is purified municipal water according to a four-year study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Both Aquafina from PepsiCo and Dasani from The Coca-Cola Company originate from municipal water systems.

And in the United States, bottled water costs between $0.25 and $2 per bottle while tap water costs less than a penny. According to, about 90% of manufacturer's costs is from making the bottle, label, and cap!


For those of you who think you're in a commodity business, you're not working hard enough to figure out how to differentiate your brand and make more money.

Heck, Dasani and Aquafina is pretty much tap water marked up a couple thousand percent!

Work harder to craft and build a consistent and meaningful brand image, design, USP, packaging, promotion materials, talent pool etc.,

If they can do it with water, I'm certain you can do it with the kool-aid they're selling at your firm!



What’s Your Story

It's true that many of the best things in life are free.

It's also true in marketing.

Your brand story is free, but is it any good?

If my dry cleaner knows my name, genuinely smiles when he sees me, has my clothes ready when they promise and fixes any missing buttons without any direction from me or takes my clothes back and cleans them for free if they happen to make a mistake is that a great story?

Uh,…maybe, but it's quite remarkable enough to me to create a story about it – it's the basic greens fee of doing business with me.

If however, they surprise and delight me…well then, that's another story and one that bears repeating over and over.

Work on your story.  Make it a great one.

Don't simply tell a story chronologically, but work on a story of your success due to how well you look for ways to surprise and delight people and how you've done it for many years!


Improve Your Holiday Marketing Now

OK, sales were down last Christmas and sales were down for every other holiday to date (Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day).

Now consumers are planning to cut back for Easter so says The National Retail Federation.


For those of you who depend on the retail sales lifts from traditional holidays, you better take a hard look at your plans for every upcoming holiday starting with Mother's Day.

You better be more brilliant, be more daring, be more different!

If you're not, the holidays won't be a time for you to celebrate!


Death By Random Acts of Marketing

A few weeks back, I caught this CMO Council article, Global Marketing is Today's Most Complex and Challenges Business Operational Unit and told my small to medium sized clients to not worry so much because the big boys and girls have many of the same marketing issues they are facing.

CMOs are being pulled in so many directions that they are simply doing random acts of marketing that will kill them in the end.

How can you succeed while others continue to fail?  Here are a seven ideas.

  1. Get top management support of your plan
  2. Get clear, reasonable and meaningful KPI goals from management
  3. Gain ownership or at least more influence over your P&L
  4. Do the basics better (e.g., competitive benchmarking, customer service, customer segmentation etc.)
  5. Do less things better.  Focus only one things that help you gain and keep profitable customers
  6. Automate as many processes as you can
  7. Build integrated customer information systems

Work to control your controllables and you'll have more time for creative thinking and planning which leads to breakthrough innovation!


Cause Marketing at P&G

I’ve always believed that you can be good by doing good works for others.

However, to be REALLY GOOD or GREAT, doing good for others for free or nearly free can accelerate the process.

I’ve always been heavily involved in donating to and raising money for non profits such as Ronald McDonald House, Team in Training, the March of Dimes, Easter Seals, the American Cancer Society and many more.

This year as part of my marketing plan, I’ve baked in some non-profit work and am targeting 10% of my firms hours to it. I’m a big believer in you reap what you sow and in leaving the world a better place.

I’m seeing more brands such as Procter & Gamble get involved in cause marketing and so should you.

P&G rep Glenn Williams said, “It goes without saying that reframing the value equation is of tremendous importance to nearly all businesses these days,” he said. BrandSaver, in particular, “enables the consumer to do something good, something right, in these difficult times, and we think there’s real value in that.”

Brainstorm ways to reframe your definition of value and you’ll find that leveraging cause related marketing efforts can help you to do it.

Price and quality being equal, consumers will choose brands that are associated with a cause.

Note: Boston-based brand strategy firm Cone surveyed 1,071 U.S. adults last year
and found that 75% of consumers were more likely to buy a product when a portion of sales go toward a specific cause. And, 52% of those surveyed said corporations should still maintain their commitment to giving in tough times.


Traditional Branding is Broken

My clients and I didn't need to read this research to know that traditional branding is broken.

It's been broken for some time.

Marketing ROI scrutiny has been around for years, but it has truly come under a microscope during these tough economic times.

Instead of retrenching, you simply need to work a bit more harder and smarter and:

  1. Get management agreement on KPIs, then build your plan to achieve them
  2. Continue to innovate, look for profitable ways to improve sales through unique designs
  3. Create a consistent brand story telling approach across all channels
  4. Create a cohesive brand experience throughout across all of your channels
  5. Aggressively cut waste
  6. Build better offerings which will lead to building better USPs
  7. Integrate all channels and marketing efforts
  8. Think, create and do systems and synergize

3 Keys to Success

Get greater returns by doing a few things well!

In 2009, my whole personal marketing mantra has been, "Do less but better!"

In a rash of recent new business discussions with potential clients, I've noticed a great deal of poor or no marketing planning and in some instances no marketing plan at all.

Going forward, my personal plan and my plan for all my clients is more focus and discipline on doing those few things (20% of activities – which should move to a bulk of activities) that will drive the majority (80%) of my/their business.

Helping me help convince my clients is this research, "Breakout Growth: Practical Lessons from Brands that Consistently Outperform Competitors," from the Marketing Leadership Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board. See PDF here.

Their research states that, placing disciplined focus on three key business-to-consumer marketing initiatives and executing them properly helps top brands achieve "category killing" performance and can make a difference in market-share growth of up to 30%!

The three most important initiatives are:

  1. Future-Needs Based Investing
  2. Aggressive Segmentation Focus (treat different people differently)
  3. Marketing Talent Focus

Strongly consider these initiatives in Q2 and beyond, create a segmented marketing plan and execute it with quality people.