This blog is a dedicated forum for the transmission of
marketing strategies, insights, and opinions that matter.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

'Must Have' Versus 'Nice to Have' Products

I've reflected a lot this weekend on marketing messaging strategies and promotions after going through my snail mail (mainly direct mail), catching a minor amount of TV, and perusing the web. Noticed a lot of poor messaging - usually based upon the indefensible features of a service or product (e.g. speed, price, etc.). Also, noticed multiple instances of poorly selected promotional vehicles, the worst being a 30 second television advertisement for a B2B provider of document management enterprise technology solutions during a consumer-oriented television show.

In thinking about the positioning, messaging/branding, and promotion of products and services, two key principles need to always be considered: audience segmentation/targeting and consideration of 'must have' value versus 'nice to have value.' When considered intelligently, these two tasks will support better decision making for the competitive (= context) positioning, branding, and media and campaign components selected for promotion.

Segmentation is simple. Differentiate your pool of potential prospects and understand the key differences between them and methods for influencing with them.

As for the must-have versus nice-to-have aspect, Maslow's hierarchy of needs diagram is actually pertinent. Think of the must-have products/services owning the bottom rungs of the pyramid, and nice-to-have products/services as owning all rungs above it except for the top one of 'self actualization.' Now to make sense of how to use this distinction in a practical way....

With must have products, the emphasis can often be weighted more towards market and competitor analysis. With nice to have products, you'd better dig as deep as possible to understanding what in your target audience will truly move them to get something they may not need, and make your message simple yet memorable and powerful so that it moves your audience. The creation of new markets or new market segments has historically been built on new technology and new product applications. These, however, ultimately depend on marketing know-how to generate uptake in the market.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The American Marketing Machine

With all the hubbub around the White House and W. lately - the 2,000 American death milestone in Iraq, Miers Supreme Court Nomination withdrawal, and the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby scandal - I felt that a blog posting dedicated to the White House was appropriate.

So, ever wonder which organization typified the prototypical American marketing machine? Well, my friends (all eight of you who've read my blog this week!), I have to say that my I think the White House takes the cake. Forget what the marketing history books teach you about Procter & Gamble (P&G) being the founders of strategic brand management. Ditto for N.W. Ayer & Son, the first American advertising agency. The White House (1776) v. P&G (1837) v. N.W. Ayer & Son (1869). You do the comparisons.

Comparisons aside, there are two points that I'm going to make about the White House being THE American Marketing Machine:

1. Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase "the medium is the message. Well, for too long the medium has been the message and the White House has historically controlled this it with varying levels of success. Regardless of results, they have been a model source for a comprehensive machine that incorporates high-level strategy and finite detailed planning around such aspects as branding, positioning, messaging, communications, and strategic marketing planning. What I wouldn't give to see their internal guides, processes, etc., developed over all these years.

2. Ironically enough, McLuhan also coined the term "global village." Well, the global village is re-focusing the medium from being the message back to the message being itself. Thanks to new community technologies (blogs, wiki, etc.), which are the parent technologies of PR and other subsets. So, as businesses - American and others worldwide - are learning, transparency is required when the message is THE MESSAGE again. Now the White House must re-create itself if it stands a chance to hold its title as the American Marketing Machine of today, rather than that of the past.

(It would be quite interesting to know the inner workings of the White House and how they are educated or stay informed of new technologies. Maybe they should take a page from my last posting and also monitor job postings!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Customer Engagement Campaign Considered

Following a recent co-marketing conference call, I recently e-mailed an engaging marketing campaign concept to a strategic partner of my current company, a major manufacturer of scanners, faxes, and 2-in-1 machines. Their products are of significant importance to libraries, both interlibrary loan centers at academic institutions and R&D support centers at corporations.

I am not sure if the partner will reply, act upon, or evolve the idea, so I hope by sharing it on my 'Two Cents On Marketing' blog, that it may inspire others to think about how they can take traditional businesses online with smart planning and an authentic way to reach out to their target audiences.

The manufacturer's goal is to sell the newest model of its scanner. The challenge here is to identify targets and get them to give a damn, i.e. engage them. This means getting past the traditional '10% off if you act now' promotions which can diminish brand equity in many cases. My idea: to create a campaign micro-site; communicate to target audiences via press releases, listserv postings, email marketing, website postings, newsletter inclusions, etc., offering something of value (compatible software, actual free scanners, etc.), with the requirement to send in a picture of you from the time period of the actual age of your scanner. The older or the wackier the picture, the greater your chances of winning.

So, imagine hundreds of librarians - a close knit commmunity, by the way, where word spreads like wildfire (viral marketing), particularly around freebies - sending in photos of themselves (then and now) and visiting the website to see themselves, their friends, and their colleagues. Oh yeah, and entering a sweepstakes to win one of x number of prizes. The target audience could be reached, engaged, and segmented particularly along the lines of who would be most willing to, next year, and 5 years from now, since you'd know the age of the scanner.

To me, this is a winning idea. Of course, I could be very full of myself since I devised this idea. I think it has legs, but either way it could serve as the start or something even better if the concept is/was embraced.


Keep Your Finger on the Pulse of Marketing

So, you're a proven marketing professional with 20 years of experience and contacts, and maybe even a CMO with a longer than average (>2yrs) stint in your current position. Maybe even considered a fixture at your organization. Great, until you lose touch with how to connect with customers, sales drop, and investors or others in the executive management team force you out. Or...when an up-and-coming marketing hotshot crowds your space.

Alternatively, you may be a little green in the marketing space. Maybe you've learned in the classroom or in an entry-to-mid level position. And maybe you understand the latest technology and marketing buzz, but haven't had a wide range of experiences or had exposure to a wide range of real-world business/operational models.

The solution for each predicament is something you ain't gonna learn in school or won't learn in time by reading it after it has already happened. What you need is a weekly or monthly 10-minute dose of surfing job boards, regardless of whatever your position or title may be. I guarantee you will learn something, whether you are old hand or new one within the marketing club.

As marketers, it is our job to continually learn and to provide vision within our organizations. That being said, I implore you to check out Craigslist and other job websites. Read the business overviews and job descriptions in the postings, and visit the websites. There is no better way to survey the landscape from the ground zero "before it happens" perspective. This should complement the journals, newspapers, e-newsletters, blogs, books, seminars, webcasts, and conferences, that you are hopefully immersing yourself in already.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Testing, Testing....1, 2, 3.

A quick blog posting today.

Jeesh, I cannot believe how passé testing for e-mail blasts has become, particularly from in-house marketing departments. Two case in points:

1) received an email blast on Oct.20, 2005, from a competitor to my current company in the federated search space (def: one search, any public/private data source) and their entire recipient list was available for public viewing. As a competitor, this means that I could see all of their prospect. It also means that each of their prospects’ competitors could see what was happening at the other side of the fence. Not good. Trust was comprised and good will possibly diminished or erased altogether;

2) Received an inadvertent news release to the financial community (e.g. investors, analysts, etc.) from a company and its NYC investment bank – small world, too, as it was the first i-bank that my twin brother worked at when he moved to New York in 1997. The email had to be re-called and another email sent apologizing that this not-meant-for-public-consumption announcement was delivered.

So, the lesson for the day: test, test, and test again. Pre-test and the test...for proper delivery...for proper display....for proper content...and then for effectiveness. When you’re done testing, then measure. Obvious there are more complex procedures within each aspect of testing, but the concept is a simple one to follow and every marketer and their mother should buy in to it, period. Okay, so the word of the day? T-E-S-T.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I'm Lovin' It...Aren't I?

As much I do my best to avoid fast food and vow to give it up along with other items that are supposedly "bad" for me (e.g. cheese, wine/liquor, etc.), I gave in and went to McDonald's today. (Okay, that was my first of my moments of weakness today.) It was really the only thing I had time for while taking care of my daughter today, while my better half was at the local cafe.

I ordered a happy meal at the drive through window. It was for myself, but when asked if it was for a boy or a girl, I pretended that it was for my daughter Sofia and replied "girl." That moment and the moment that I received my happy meal provided me with a marketing 'a-ha' moment. Actually, three.

First, just further confirmation that mass marketing is no longer "mass" as those like me may have been taught through professional experience and formal education in the 1990s and before. In asking me whether the recipient of the happy meal was a boy or a girl, they were able to accomplish two things: 1) profile the fact that the recipient was a girl within their marketing database; and 2) support enhanced brand equity, in this case, it would've been from my daughter.

Second, a reminder for me to share with all - particularly junior marketers - that marketing is all about segmentation. This instance reminded me of an ASP search solution for scientists that I've been marketing for my current employer, Infotrieve. The solution is called the Life Science Research Center (LSRC). For laypersons, think of it as Google on steroids. For R&D professionals, think of it as PubMed on steroids. While we are working on modifying the access model for this, on the B2B side of our business, the sale of the LSRC is very much a matrix sale. It does or can involve information professionals, R&D professionals - management and bench scientists, IT staff, possibly marketers, and others. With such a diverse set of audiences, we have to customize what we present or deliver to each type of audience to get our message across effectively. So, whether the targeted distribution of McDonald's Happy Meals and gifts, or the B2B promotion of high tech products, segementation and data capture are critical for enhanced analysis and targeting in future activities.

The third point is a very specific one. If you can do something to capture mindshare, do it. Everytime a little girl has a happy meal and receives the black tennis girl action figure, they will likely recall McDonald's whenever they see Serena Williams, Venus Williams, or any other black female tennis players. Powerful.

That my two cents for the day. Until next my next blog posting...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's What's Inside the Bag that Counts

I received a mailer today, typical of non-profit/cause marketing organizations. It was, however, timely and creative. It was a brown paper bag with my contact information in the recipient field, a Los Angeles return addresss, and a headline ("There's a complete Thanksgiving dinner in this little bag!) plus supporting body copy on the other side.

First of all, I've never seen a paper bag mailed. Secondly, I've never seen a paper bag used so spite of the fact that by sheer dumb luck, I received a Macy's Brown Bag mailer this week as well, also constructed of paper bag quality paper.

The reason for dedicating this post to this mailer is the fact that as the new age marketing tools gain in popularity, effective promotions will increasingly require a mix of traditional and new media within greater integrated campaigns. In spite of the fact that the USPS is in deep sh*t financially and can be a unruly to deal with in some instances, they are a great resource for effective direct mail programs.

I learned this while operating a business I co-founded in New York City a few years ago - Hydra Worldwide, a real estate business with other business operations, including the partial ownership of the Shanghai Sharks in China (Yao Ming's old team). While promoting a Chinese opera event at the Avery Hall at Lincoln Center (, we had to do a number of creative mailers. We took a class at the USPS and used their consultative arm to ensure our pieces could be handled and in cost-efficient ways.

Within blue-chip organizations or at the higher rungs of a business, you may never need to come this close to the details. To master all aspects of a business and a trade, however, it helps to know all parts of any business inside and outside. I read a famous quote one time that read "to learn the rules, you first must know how to break them." I think this meaning behind this quote is valid in this instance and in the marketing craft in general.

So, I wouldn't ever have thought you could mail a brown paper bag. I was obviously wrong. The moral of the story? The USPS: can't live with them, but visit them when you want to consider truly unique direct mail campaigns.

P.S. In reviewing my mail, I also just received the USPS marketers' demonstrate the trouble they are in, one piece of advice given is to disregard branding/style guide requirements since they can hinder the effectiveness of mailers. Oh-vay!

Monday, October 10, 2005

B2C, Meet B2B

I've worked in a number of very different industries - publishing, real estate, entertainment, and software/technology (current) - and as such, have had quite a bit of exposure to different marketing strategies and techniques. An interesting promotional/communications positioning technique, that I have stumbled across twice recently is giving audiences a 'how to' use scenario.

This is very common is the B2B world through the use of case studies, application notes (for life science software), etc. But, for the B2C world, I think it is one of the next evolutions for brands once they have established themselves initially and then outline growth strategies (note: of course, smaller niche competitors that pop-up often start in exactly the reverse fashion).

The two examples are both from the (packaged) food & beverage world:

1. A recent Tully's campaign titled 3:21, which my friend who is a Director of Marketing has kept me up to speed about as the campaign has rolled live. Essentially, trying to stand out versus the competition via promotional positioning and own a share of customers'/consumers' mind when they think 'Its 3 o'clock...damn, I'm tired and have at least 3 to 4 more hours'.

2. Lipton Cup-a-Soup...."Beat the 3pm slump." Again, makes perfect sense. You're at the grocery store and are perusing the soup isle, and seeing the packaging and messaging make you think....or at least made me think!...."I always get a little slower around 3pm. Lemme try this one."

Just an interesting observation, since the B2B and B2C worlds are always adopting strategies and tactics from each other. Often, these have greater success on the crossover.

One final note, I just started reading "Strategic Database Marketing." So far, an excellent read. I'll be posting a review soon on this book, which I am certain is available on, Barnes & Noble, and other online retail sites that sell marketing books.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Search Marketing - Just Add Water

A short post today, since its been a while since my last post. A 'how to' recipe for search marketing success:

1. Optimize your site for the technical requirements of search engine recognition. There are resources on the web and tips on sites such as Google.

2. Conduct search engine optimization (SEO) PR activities - to ensure coverage in the 2nd layer of the web - mentions, links, etc. This covers the content to influence target audiences plus the quantitative link-to requirements. Hiring an affordable guru in this area should definitely be considered. (I know one for anyone who needs a reference).

3. Pay for spider-linking technology. Essentially, hosting your site's page files on a 3rd party server, then automatically indexing your site to auto-optimize each individual page. Preliminary work requires developing keywords, key phrases, and lists of competitors. Hiring a linguistical genius is recommended here for the keyword and key phrase portion. (Again, I know someone, available for a few hundred dollars who is from

4. Paid search advertising. You should know this routine by now. Though, know that images are now accepted on sites like Google, etc., and that they extend to blogs and other sites (including blogs) that you can hand select which sites to have your ads appear on.

5. Doing all this is just the groundwork. Your #1 most important task = ensure your site is visitor friendly, well-designed, has interesting + valuable content (per each targeted audience segment), and can be easily navigated. Importantly, this requires org. buy-in and the ability to move an organization where it's best interests reside - usually the most difficult task, particularly if you don't call the final shots.

Happy marketing.....