Get Back To Marketing Basics

Like that one domino that isn't aligned in place, you can ruin a good marketing plan if one of the "basics" isn't in order. In fact, the research that we just completed with the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth affirms that never before in the history of communications has there been a greater need, and greater opportunity, for companies to take complete control of every aspect of their communications, and in so doing, to hamper the competition.

The study is titled: "Communications in Crisis," aptly named because that was the consensus of CMOs from "best in class" companies.

The recent confluence of events: corporate scandals, a recession bringing rising unemployment rates, the mortgage and business meltdowns ... all have played a part in bringing communications to a standstill. Industries have been transformed and competitive sets have changed by virtue of mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies and divestitures ... all have contributed to changing the business landscape and the competitive business environment.



Some companies have been paralyzed into inertia. Like deer caught in the headlights, they mistakenly believe that no news is good news. This ostrich-like behavior, however, couldn't be more dangerous for their brands. In today's environment, absence makes the brand grow weaker. Silence only means that someone else will speak for you, taking over the share of voice and share of wallet that should have belonged to your brand.

In light of this, never has there been a better time for companies to rethink their brand platforms and plan what steps they will take to emerge from this "communications crisis."

Wise and forward-thinking organizations have a golden opportunity to use this time to rethink their brand's positioning, and in so doing, look to de-position the competition. They may even create a new business paradigm, positioning their brand in such a way that distinguishes it from the pack and encourages stakeholders to think differently about the category at large.

Back in 1971, Federal Express was created. It took advantage of the opportunity to find a better way to ship packages, and it changed the entire overnight delivery industry.

Until that time, it was unheard of to expect a package sent from New York to appear on someone's doorstep in Madrid the following morning. But Federal Express didn't see a problem with that. Its first advertising campaign summed it all up with the line: "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."

It changed the category and de-positioned its competitors.

More recently, Russell Investments launched a new brand campaign at the World Economic Forum. "Conversation Yields Innovation" features people touched by the economic downturn: an HR executive, a university professor, a financial advisor and a small business owner. They discuss their financial concerns and their fears at www. Russell CEO Andrew Doman addresses those concerns and talks about how Russell is committed to listening to conversations such as these, from real investors, in order to find better ways to innovate within the financial industry.

In an industry that has recently been accused of selfishness and arrogance, Russell has initiated a change across the board. The tone is intelligent and reassuring. There is promise here. Financial brands cannot go back to the way things used to be, and Russell is assuring investors that they see things differently. Woe to those investment firms that don't follow suit.

Few times in history create factors, as have occurred in the recent past, that offer organizations an opportunity to emerge from "communications silence" and regain share of wallet and share of voice by retooling the positioning of their brand, and if they are fortunate, creating a category of one.

Now is one of those times.

2 comments about "Get Back To Marketing Basics ".
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  1. Robert Mayer from Just Good Songs Inc., March 31, 2010 at 8:31 a.m.

    Carl, its an interesting article, and well intentioned, but somewhat askew on the facts. I worked on the startup of FedEx, and the first campaign was not "When it absolutely, positively has to be there...". It was a strategically centered campaign that announced "America, You've Got a New Airline"
    The campaign was developed at Carl Ally, home of many great creative breakthroughs. The creative twist of this campaign was, of course, the fact that this airline was for packages only. And it worked. There were lots of nights in those early days when packages were being crammed into falcon jets for the trip to Memphis and sorting.
    Many great creative campaigns followed, including the one you mention in your article.
    My contention is not just the need to emerge from "communications silence", but to do so in unique, human and insightful creative ways. I watched the Super Bowl this year with many members of a younger generation, who themselves are tired of sophomoric, pandering executions that often have little or no connection to the brand.
    There is a crying need to understand change, and to understand real communication. Real communication touches us, educates us, and as you opine in your article, will lead to brand preference. In some ways, "social networking" has a long way to go.

  2. Kevin Windorf from CNBC, March 31, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.

    Insightful and encouraging article! The research study conducted by Doremus & Tuck revealed a number of compelling opportunities to "rethink positioning and de-position the competition." Tuck's Paul Argenti and Doremus' Howard Sherman presented the study at an FCS lunch last month. They discussed the need to rethink the definition as well as the structure of communications. Argenti identified several themes that emerged from the research, including a focus on value & values and the evolution of corporate responsibility. For more info on the lunch, check out: Bottom line is, as Carl states, woe to us marketers if we miss this opportunity.

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