often think about why there are so many really smart people in business, yet
there seem to be so few really great marketers.
Here are seven actions I have seen define great marketers:
1. Seek Deep Customer Insight
always searching for an insightful data-driven customer fact. At Pepsi, it was
that consumers would consume as much beverage as we could get into the
household inventory. This fact led to our development and marketing focus on
the first 2-liter plastic beverage container. At Apple, the early days in the PC industry
were mostly about empowering people with spreadsheets. Steve Jobs recognized
the opportunity to empower people with a personal publishing system that was
inexpensive and easy to use. This led to the creation of desktop publishing.Today, I'm very focused on an impressive fact that my business associates and I
discovered in a survey we ran last summer: 24% of the US population has visited a walk-in urgent care clinic at
least twice in the past 12 months. That's a big insight about the opportunities
for disruptive retail health services.
2. Seek A Wide Range Of Expertise
most disruptive breakout opportunity requires expertise in more than one
domain. My focus currently is in the three converging domains of the complexity
of health care reform + mobile and cloud technology enabling services + Big Brand consumer marketing. Most very
successful big companies are focused on the domains that made them successful
in the past and are under-skilled in the new domains needed for disruptive
innovation. Steve Jobs had domain expertise in user experience computer design.
He recruited me despite the fact that I had no previous computer background
because I had domain expertise in something Steve wanted badly, Big Brand
consumer marketing. The advantage of having a leadership team with multiple
domains of expertise is that it really helps us as marketers to connect the dots
and develop differentiated strategies from our competitors.
3. Make An Iron-Clad Commitment To The Customer
always about the best possible customer experience. Great marketers are uncompromising
about not saving money at the expense of their customers’ experience. Big
brands are always built around strategies that focus on customer trust and
loyalty. Some of the biggest mistakes are made when companies, for various
reasons, chip away at their products, hoping their customers won't notice.
Customers always find out, eventually, and they don't like it when they do.
William Gibson, speculative fiction writer, has several times
is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.
The truth of this statement lies in the fact that trends are
formed by the adoption of something new that facilitates an unchanging human
motivation: a need, want or desire. For instance, the advent of Facebook and
other social media did not create the desire to share our lives with others,
but they have enabled the ability to share more easily, immediately and widely
than ever before.
So whatever the future holds, its roots are here with us in the
present. The real trick is to predict which thing is going to be the next big
thing, which is why Mark Twain was right when he said:
The art of
prophecy is very difficult, especially with respect to the future.
Here are three mini scenarios for 2020. My question for you is
what will really happen? Do these seem likely or do you envisage an alternative
Scarcity of Time
- People find themselves increasingly short of time, and can no
longer get by with less sleep.
- Lifestyles become less planned, more immediate and
- People become reliant on technology and brands to facilitate
- Consumers expect to be able to get what they want when they want
it, leading to a boom in on demand and delivery services. Product brands seek
to add levels of service and just in time accessibility to their offer.
- People expect
packaged goods, food and drink, to be resupplied automatically. As a result,
brand owners must focus on initial brand adoption rather than encouraging brand
2. Battle for Control
In his 2007 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, CEO Warren
Buffett, describes what type of businesses turn him on as an investor:
A truly great business must have an enduring “moat” that protects excellent returns on
invested capital. The dynamics of capitalism guarantee that competitors will
repeatedly assault any business “castle” that is earning high returns.
Therefore a formidable barrier such as a company being the low cost producer
(GEICO, Costco) or possessing a powerful worldwide brand (Coca-Cola, Gillette,
American Express) is essential for sustained success.
Buffett is credited as being the most successful investor of the
20th Century (a claim that seems pretty credible given that Berkshire
Hathaway’s Compounded Annual Gain between 1965-2011 was 19.8 percent compared
to the S&P 500’s 9.2 percent). So it is worth a few moments to contemplate
the implications of some of his investment practices.
Buffett takes the long view for his investments. He is looking
for a sustainable competitive advantage, not a quick win, and marketers would
do well to do the same. There is no substitute for a meaningful positioning
that the company can own for the long term. All too often I see new brands and
campaigns launched with an eye to making it big quick by tapping into a
transient fad or unsustainable claim. Often as not, it does not work, and when
it does the returns are temporary. As Buffett states:
A moat that must be continuously rebuilt will eventually be no moat at all. (2007)
Buffett understands that markets are dynamic. Gains are made and
then need to be held. A moat is a defensive structure not offensive. One of the
most important, but undervalued, roles of marketing is to help protect a
business, just as a moat protects a castle, by blunting competitive attacks and
encouraging existing buyers to remain loyal. If you can hold share in a growing
market you still make more money in the long run, and a loyal user base
provides a great platform for new sorties of your own.
People who work in brand admire Apple for very good reasons. An
iconic brand that delivers revolutionary, beautifully designed and incredibly
In light of recent events we wonder if we are starting to see weakness in the Apple Brand. Recent
Wall Street iPhone 5 expectations were not met, brand
loyalty is diminishing while Samsung’s
popularity is increasing. The share price is suffering too. Is the brand struggling to retain its status as
the Apple of people’s eye? Consider these points:
▪ Leadership? Steve Jobs was a superb brand marketer, visionary and was core
to Apple’s brand story (starting off in the garage etc). Tim Cook has very big
shoes to step into. Can he really match up to Steve Jobs with regards to vision,
brand strategy and product innovation? A tough act to follow.
▪ Questionable brand personality? Apple was recently ordered to remove a banner
from its site that hid the court ordered apology to Samsung relating to the
recent IP case. Apple has also been in the press with regards to questionable working practices. Will consumers
identify with this type of brand?
▪ Stronger Competitors? Samsung is launching products people are buying.
Similarly, Samsung is starting to poke fun at Apple’s coolness in its recent
campaigns. This indicates growing confidence. More importantly, this
advertising strategy serves a deep psychological and emotional purpose – to get
Apple consumers to question their decision making motives and chip away
at emotions concerning conspicuous consumption.
Insidious? Maybe. Clever. Definitely. Similarly in brand hungry countries like
China Apple’s position is being challenged by increasingly
powerful incumbent brands. Apple’s iPhone 5 is also struggling to get traction in China’s mobile market through
up-channel relationships with key players like China Mobile. Apple needs a
piece of the Chinese mobile market pie but key channels are not playing ball.
This is the third of three
blog posts on the valuable marketing lessons to be learned from the recently-concluded
Presidential election. One and two can be found here and here.
the many lessons the successful Obama campaign taught brand marketers, one has
been largely overlooked. It is this: the
current Big Data ramp-up in marketing database infrastructure needs to be
focused on winning at the margins.
about the campaign’s voter database continue
to dominate post-election coverage of Obama’s victory. These stories are filled with fascinating details
about the fusion of disparate databases, the profiles constructed of individual
voters, the likelihood scores assigned to each individual, the targeted phone
calls made and the frequency of making them, and the experiments conducted to
optimize the framing of Obama’s message to voters. But few of these stories describe, or even
recognize, the most valuable purpose of these efforts, which was to sway and
motivate voters at the margins.
were two such marginal effects the Obama campaign needed to accomplish. The first was to get the Obama constituency
to the polls. Romney’s campaign made a
huge bet that Obama would fail to get the vote out among his strongest
constituencies, and thus the final distribution of actual voters would wind up
in Romney’s favor. As it turns out, this
was a very bad gamble. The Obama
campaign was able to use its data infrastructure to turn out likely Obama voters
at the margins who, otherwise, would probably have not gone to the polls.
second effect was to persuade many of those on the fence to vote for the
President. Again, this was a marginal
effect, one of winning over the next voter, and then the one after that and the
one after that, etc., with each successive voter a little harder to convince
than the one before.