The Market Shouldn't Drive How You Do Things

It's easy in a tough market to hunker down, curl up into a ball and protect the few things you have control over. It's easy to cut costs, become conservative and squash creative and entrepreneurial thinking. In these times, the actions you take can either enrich your organization and spawn creativity beyond where it is today -- or it can paralyze creative thinking and create silos in your organization.

The theme of our Razorfish client summit this past week in Las Vegas was "The Art of the Idea." Not surprising for an interactive agency to lead with a creative mind-set as a theme, but it was about more than just becoming creative in your thinking.

Porter Gale, vice president of marketing for Virgin America, which is a really cool brand in itself, led a presentation showcasing the many toys the company has used in marketing and positioning itself in the airline space. Virgin is cutting-edge in many respects, engaging bloggers and social media stars to embrace it. And it is more creative and nimble than many companies I see today. Virgin strives to create a niche airline positioning that is about the flying experience and the customer. But what sparked my interest was the guerrilla marketing efforts its strategists deployed -- how much they listened to, and more important, engaged their customers. They didn't need a huge marketing budget or team. They have creative energy and a very solid understanding of what customer relationship marketing is. They understand emerging social media connections and how to use technology to reach and enable the experience, and they understand how to use partnerships and their customers' energy to enhance this evolution.



They are also doing this at a very turbulent time in the market. Rather than complaining about cutting back on marketing budget, they practically bragged about how much money they don't have and how creative they are in their efforts.

There are some things we need to take away from this story, regardless of the marketing department you work for and the part of the customer experience you are responsible for.

First: It doesn't take budget to be creative! OK, it does take budget to implement your ideas in mass media in many cases. But you'd be amazed the reach we have today through social media and email, and what creative things you can do with this combination. As email marketers, we can't limit ourselves to our medium ---we need to think outside our world and evolve ideas. Another presenter, Matt Weiner (the creator and executive producer of "Mad Men"), said about the importance of capturing ideas: "Even the faintest of ink is better than your best memory."

Second: Retention is where companies hide when they have run out of ideas. Don't get me wrong, retention is vital to our business, but many organizations cut back so heavily they don't realize that the activities surrounding acquisition, awareness and retention marketing aren't the same as they were 10 years ago. It used to be when times were tough, we'd focus on keeping our existing customers rather than acquiring new ones. Reality is, much of our effort around acquisition marketing is remarketing to our existing customers anyway, so what you are really doing by cutting back is limiting your exposure to existing customers. But with budgets tight, think of optimizing the experience as choosing the most valuable points of exposure. Look at my first point, above, and reevaluate where you should cut. It may be that your programs and efforts were misguided in the first place.

Third: Touch points aren't about the channel! You'd think a touch point is in and about the channel in which it happens, right? Wrong, a touch point is an experience that varies so greatly by type of customer that the channel in many cases can skew how you view the value of that touch point. Touch point analysis is an expression of the customer experience in terms of cost to manage, value to the consumer, value to the sales cycle and the organization's ability to improve this experience -- not just that someone received an email.

Lastly, I loved this quote from Weiner as he spoke of the inspiration and intricacies of designing a scene on the show: "My job is to hide the brushstrokes."

As marketers, we try to make the complex, simple. We try to be "in and of the moment" and we make do with the situation, resources and limitations we face. From a small not-for-profit that is a one-person show, to a 50-person matrixed marketing organization, we should remember that great marketing isn't only about budget and isn't impacted by a recessionary market. It's about being creative when others aren't. And that means removing the restrictions and borders we've created in our thinking and approach.

2 comments about "The Market Shouldn't Drive How You Do Things".
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  1. Joanne Rusch from Multi Edge Media, April 27, 2009 at 11:42 a.m.

    Great article! Would love to know more about the Virgin presentation.

  2. david Baker from RedPill, April 27, 2009 at 12:54 p.m.

    It was a very cool presentation.. they showcased the customer experience, everything focused on the new alrlines experience, and they are innovators in social media .... they used artists, entertainers, super stars and a myriad of bloggers to create buzz around the airline. But it was their creative thinking and lack of budget that forced them into these "guerilla" marketing tactics... again, this is only one part of the customer experience and how they'll manage their customer retention over time, but was a pretty compeling story and approach to a great brand..

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