Marketing Must Be Reinvented!

A recent article of ours dealt with the importance of Elmer Wheeler’s famous advice: “Don’t sell the steak – sell the sizzle.”  What Wheeler meant by “sizzle,” of course, was identifying the benefit that has primary appeal to your prospect.  In other words, that aspect of your product or service that grabs your prospects’ imagination and gets them excited.  It represents the benefit that is most closely linked to the prospect’s interests or motivations, and leads to the “best selling arguments” we can come up with — factors that have a real gut-level appeal to the buyer.   
But Wheeler also went on to say that while the sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever has, the cow is mighty important. This time we’ll talk about the cow.

The recurrent theme at a recent Association of National Advertisers Brand Innovation Forum was that marketing must be reinvented. A marketing-accountability study cited suggested that long-term brand factors effect up to 80% of a brand’s current-year’s sales.  Furthermore, an intangible long-term asset such as brand equity contributes approximately 40% to a company’s overall value.

Guiding Philosophy

Innovation is the aspect of brand health that keeps a brand relevant for years to come despite shifting consumer needs and wants. The argument is that marketing must be reinvented to reflect its importance. In fact, it must be continually reinvented.  Reinvention should be a guiding philosophy in all brand building.

So first of all, what are the signs of a deteriorating brand? What do you look for? When customer conversion or repeat sales slips; when the percent of consumers rating your brand as “excellent” slips; when factors rated highly by customers differ from your company’s goals; when your company sells more on promotion or price reduction than it does at premium; or when your brand’s net promoter score slips (a net promoter score, remember, is a widely used efficient marketing metric that’s determined by subtracting the number of brand detractors from the number of consumers who say they would recommend your brand to someone else).

How to Combat Deterioration

According to the survey, the best actions to combat brand deterioration are product innovation, refocusing marketing efforts on growth areas, exploring new targets, analyzing all possible causes of the deterioration, and completing a qualitative study on all brand issues.

“Sizzle” alone won’t do it – – you have to have a great steak as well.  So hiring a new ad agency is not recommended as one of the first solutions at hand regardless of what has been the practice recently. In fact, great advertising simply makes a lousy product fail faster. Or, as we like to say, it simply puts a spotlight on a problem. More often failure is due to wandering away from core values.

Getting back to basic core values, in fact, was crucial in helping JetBlue recover from a public-relations nightmare after a two-day ice storm in February left passengers stranded on a tarmac.  Its return to the company’s basic mission – – bringing humanity back to air travel – – helped the airline save face, and possibly even escape, long-term brand damage. And, in this case, failure to respond to a plain old operations and procedural breakdown impacted (or threatened) their brand more than any marketing or advertising campaign could ever fix.

The Foundation of a Strong Brand
Strong brands start off with a clear, crisp idea that is different and, most important, articulates why that difference is relevant and meaningful to your prospect or customer.  The key is in constantly asking, “Why?” For example, Timberland came from the shoe maker’s founder stepping in a puddle and asking himself why it’s so hard to find a truly waterproof shoe. It can be as simple as that.

The answer is in an ongoing “co-creativity,” where everyone feels responsible for creative ideas that can be translated into business and marketing strategies. That plus constantly challenging one another and co-brainstorming always leads to a strengthened brand promise as more people embrace and add value to the brand from different perspectives. And that makes for a great cow, great steaks, and ultimately great sizzle!
Your Next Steps:
Evaluate your current situation and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you have clear, actionable long-term brand strategy?

2. Do you have a way to measure your brand’s effectiveness?

3. What processes do you have in place to ensure your brand stays alive and relevant?

4. Do you have top performance in one area of your company, while allowing suboptimal performance in other areas – – all of which are impacting your customer?

5. Do you maintain a 360 degree view of your customer?

6. Are you getting the returns you would expect on your marketing and sales investment?

7. What percent of your leads are you closing, and over what time frame?

8. Are you achieving a 90% or greater customer retention rate?

Look for integrated, adaptable business management solutions that impact all business, marketing, sales, and customer-interfacing operational areas to create a strong, everlasting brand.  Do this by providing the right expertise, processes, tools, technology, and training to ensure brand integrity that truly increases the profits and value of your company.

Posted by John Harden  February 23rd, 2009

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