For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some general thoughts that I’d like to convey to marketers – let’s call this section ‘Just Thoughts,’ and thanks for indulging me.
Unless you have unlimited resources, lots of time and a penchant for failure, do not fight your marketplace. Figuratively speaking, marketers should always try to avoid using “karate”- that is, fighting force with force. Instead, they should use “judo”- finding the momentum that already exists in the marketplace and using it to their advantage.
How do you practice marketing judo? Fit what you want the customer to think and feel into what the customer already thinks and feels. Anything is better than trying to “convince” a customer to change his or her mind.
Here are a few examples to illustrate my point:
-For years, Kellogg’s spent its marketing dollars on core brands like Corn Flakes. But when the high-fiber craze erupted, money was shifted into All Bran and Raisin Bran. Business went through the roof.
-A few years back, Toyota saw high gas prices in our future. Prius effectively “owns” the hybrid idea because Toyota shifted with the broader “green” shift in customer attitudes just as that wave hit. Meanwhile, many competitors were still trying to push gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks.
Remember that radical new concepts may stimulate the marketer’s imagination, but if they don’t track for the consumer, they won’t track for the business.
For example, TiVo wasted a huge amount of money and time trying to convince us that we wanted some form of media revolution. All we wanted was a simple-to-use digital recorder.
Of course, if judo marketing was easy, everyone would be doing it. In fact, this technique requires that you really know your prospects, what they think and feel, and how they are reacting to the waves flowing through the marketplace. It requires that you know what those waves are and, most important, how to translate them into ideas that can drive your business forward. This takes a real commitment to market research- but research in the field, because it’s hard to spot shifts in the zeitgeist by hanging out at corporate headquarters.
Know your marketplace, know your audience, and know where the momentum lies. Then make your move… before somebody else does.
Austin McGhie is head of Sterling strategy