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Innovative at Heart
To follow in the footsteps of the sales and marketing companies that are currently setting the standards in the industry, a healthy dose of innovation is a must. Marketing guru Karl Gustafson has boiled down the idiosyncrasies of many a successful product marketing company, only to find five common denominators:
- Business thinking
- Inquisitiveness (internal and external)
What hides behind these terms that sets apart trend-setting business marketers from those that seem to consistently limp behind the pack?
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1. Business Thinking
Marketing a product by thinking as a business leader -- rather than a marketer -- is a recipe for success. Case in point is the grudge match between Hertz and Avis. Both are rental car companies that have maintained their competitive edge over decades; Avis succeeds in doing so by appealing to the consumer’s business sense.
Even though the Avis slogan “We try harder” is catchy and dominated the 1960s, it was the message behind the catchphrase that resonated with the consumer. The company enumerated what was in it for the customer; there was little flash and limited imagery. Instead, Avis mentioned the clean cars, the nicely topped off tank and the new windshield wipers. While it doesn’t make for riveting ad copy, these product attributes show solid business thinking, which translates into revenues.
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A marketer who trained for a marketing degree and has never set foot outside the marketing department of any company is a one-trick-pony. Put a number of them into a department, and the result is a one-dimensional approach to selling a product. Conversely, staff a marketing department with seasoned sales managers, marketers, advertisers and also individuals holding business as well as psychology degrees, and you have a multi-faceted team approach to the product. Better yet, ensure that the team members come from a variety of corporate backgrounds for a maximum “breadth of experience."
A perfect example is the wealth of innovative and multi-faceted advertising campaigns that have raged between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. There were taste tests, loyalty rewards, tchotchkes and now a social media firestorm. This extent of marketing tricks and gimmicks would be impossible to pull off -- were it not for the well-selected members of the companies’ marketing teams.
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3. Internal and External Inquisitiveness
If you look back on yesterday’s marketing campaign and doggedly resolve to repeat what worked, you are missing the boat. Just like the market place has evolved, the consumer’s wants and needs most likely also moved on. Being unafraid to stand yesterday’s marketing concepts on their heads -- and also studying new ways of approaching a consumer -- are the hallmarks of a successful marketing company.
Burger King, in its epic grudge match against McDonald’s, offers an example of one such marketing campaign that was extremely innovative but perhaps not executed to its fullest potential. Attempting to capitalize on its former taste testing successes, the company worked up a “Whopper Virgins” challenge, which fell completely flat with audiences. Let this be a cautionary tale that warns your company away from redoing the same campaign with a twist!
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Is your marketing team willing to take calculated risks? If so, what is the team’s willingness to gamble? Leadership is not a safe bet and while there is little value to striking out without suitable data mining and evaluation, there is also no value to sitting back and limping behind the innovation of others. Whether you favor niche advertising or guerilla marketing strategies, bold leadership is essential.
Gamers will remember the epic battle between Genesis and Nintendo, which raged on until Genesis landed a heavy blow with its “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” line. The risk paid off and suddenly Nintendo had to fight not only Genesis gaming systems but also an impression that its consoles were primarily kids’ models. Aiming for the competitor in this manner took a good bit of boldness.
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In the world of business marketing, focus is a dual undertaking: there is the short-term campaign that appeals to the consumer today. Then there is the long-term marketing setup that positions the product in the market place. Both campaigns run concurrently but require a different touch and approaches. Unless your marketers can focus on both aspects of the effort, you will miss out on a dimension of profitability.
Consider the rivalry between BMW and Audi. Both companies have outdone themselves in directing the consumer to the merits of individual car makes and models. It was in the long term positioning battle that they exemplify their focusing abilities. Both companies have run parallel marketing campaigns that sought to elevate the brands in the minds of buyers -- even to the extent of playing off the competitor’s ads.
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It is clear that the top five 5 successful traits of marketing companies point to a well-rounded staff and an innovative spirit. In addition, there must be a mandate to try the untried, even if it runs the risk of becoming a marketing flop. Consumers will gladly forgive a marketing mistake; they will not remember an uninspired campaign. So go ahead, set up a marketing budget and get innovative!
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- Gustafson, Karl. “Taming the Short- and Long-Term Marketing Challenge,” http://www.cmo.com/leadership/taming-short-long-term-marketing-challenge
- Gustafson, Karl. “The CMO Toolkit: Traits Of Successful Marketing Leaders,” http://www.cmo.com/leadership/cmo-toolkit-traits-successful-marketing-leaders%20
- Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/epic-marketing-wars-2011-6