Friday, May 31, 2013

Sad news on the brand marketing front

The Wichita higher ed marketing community is reeling over news about Butler County Community College.
In a bold move that reminds me of my early days in non-profit marketing, the college eliminated its brand marketing unit. My friend, Ryan Entz, who served as marketing director, had informed me some time ago that this was in the works, starting immediately after the departure of Butler's president.

While there are all sorts of issues surrounding this decision, one of the key ones was a struggle on that team's part to help administrators understand the connection of brand marketing work to bottom-line measures, like enrollment and revenue growth. There's a hard lesson in this for all of us who work in this craft: You've got to demonstrate bottom-line value! This is true for internal agencies, like the one I lead, just as it is for external ones.

Someday, a CEO, CFO or big client is going to ask, "How does what you're doing grow our business?" You'd better be ready at all times to answer that question.  Better, you should be demonstrating it constantly without being asked.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The reports of traditional media's death are greatly exaggerated

While many marketers are still fixated on the "bright, shiny object" that is social media and mobile technology, here comes yet another study that shows those old fashioned, clunky, traditional media remain very relevant. In research conducted by McKinsey and Company, it turns out that television, newspapers, magazines and radio win out over Web and mobile delivery channels when it comes to news consumption - big time.

Okay, everybody. Go back to being mesmerized by the bright, shiny object.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting beyond the USP

In an excellent article in Marketing News, professor Don Schultz cites economist Daniel Kahneman in questioning the relevance of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Shultz points out the USP concept – that successful advertising must be based on a single, specific advantage – has been drilled into marketers’ heads since the 1960s.

Kahneman, Schultz points out, introduced the idea that people normally don’t make rational purchase decisions. Instead, they base decisions on subconscious emotions and feelings, what Kahneman calls System 1 thinking. System 2 thinking – decision-making that is effortful, logical and conscious – comes into play less frequently than we might think. After all, it’s hard work.

Schultz argues that most marketers assume System 2 thinking when developing marketing and advertising strategies. We conduct research, search for the top three benefits consumers want, then shape our marketing to speak to those benefits, all the while missing the fact that for most consumers, they’re making gut-level decisions NOT based on perceived benefits.

Schultz observes that new media (read, Web and social media) are really System 2 delivery systems while traditional media are largely System 1 environments.  Schultz aptly asks, “How can the two modes of thinking be addressed in one integrated marketing strategy?”

What do you think?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Back to school for J.C. Penney

Retailer J.C. Penney’s marketing team has learned a very basic marketing lesson in an embarrassingly public way:
NEW YORK – J.C. Penney is sorry and it wants your business back.
    That’s the gist of its latest ad, a public “mea culpa” which the mid-priced department store put on its YouTube and Facebook pages.
    The ad, titled “It’s no secret,” shows shots of women working, playing with their children and doing other everyday activities.
    “Recently J.C. Penney changed,” a voice-over states. “Some changes you liked, and some you didn’t. But what matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you.” (Associated Press, May 2, 2013)
 Bull#*@! Let me rewrite that script so that it conveys exactly what J.C. Penney is trying to say:
VISUAL: Show shots of empty J.C. Penney stores; clerks with hands in their pockets.
VO: Recently J.C. Penney changed. Again. It turns out you didn’t like a single thing about the changes we made before. And you left to shop at Kohls and Macys and Target. It’s our fault. We’re boneheads. We learned two valuable lessons: First, we learned that we should consider customers when we fundamentally change our brand. Second, we learned to keep the notes from our freshman Marketing 101 class. It turns out we just might need to refer to them later in our careers.  Bottom line: (whiny voice) Puullleeeeze come back!
In the latest issue of Marketing News, Michael Krauss writes, “How do you make your retail experience truly customer-centric?” You spend as much time as you can listening to your customers.” Doh!

J.C. Penney earns for itself a special place in the brand marketing hall of shame, right next to Coke Classic, Gap and Maker’s Mark.