Myths and Legends and Marketing Mistakes
By Tom Dougherty
What does the Ptolemaic theory have to do with the aggressive advertising that is created with the purpose of stealing market share? As it turns out, a great deal. Ptolemy created the first working model of the universe.
Based on his brilliant model, the ancient Greeks were able to predict with amazing accuracy the precise dates and times of both solar and lunar eclipses, map the heavens, and predict the locations of constellations.
This was highly advanced for ancient Greece. His model of the universe remained a cornerstone in astronomy for thousands of years.
When the retrograde orbit of Mars was noted (a planet that is retrograde appears to move backwards in the sky), a small modification to the theory predicted the movement quite well. However, we will get back to Ptolemy in a moment.
Success Leaves Clues. Ask a Market Expert
Advertisers have realized for years that success leaves marketing clues. When something works, it makes great sense to look at it and learn from it — to look for the clues and use them to predict our own success. When something works — for example, two back-to-back 15-second commercials — well, suddenly the airwaves are filled with them. When 3-D billboards with a bunch of cows ask us to “Eat More Chikin’,” we see all sorts of creatures suddenly appearing on the side of our highways. However, are we learning the correct lessons?
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. When we ask our creative executions to parrot something that has already been done, it is quite possible that it worked because of its freshness. There is a simple rule of thumb in marketing: If you have seen it before, it has been done already.
The power may well have been in the innovation. Sun-Tzu tells us that the advantage belongs to the force that gets there the fastest with the most power. Can Procter & Gamble afford to be cautious and get to the party a bit late? You bet. There is nothing like $100M budgets that can make up for lack of speed (Sun-Tzu: “If you arrive late, arrive with greater power”) (Read about Sun-Tzu on marketing here). For those of us who make a reputation of stealing share with more modest budgets: LEARN from success, do not simply parrot it.
The Marketing Universe. Was Copernicus a Marketing Expert?
What would Ptolemy think? He would think we were splitting hairs. Thankfully, Copernicus, our marketing hero, took a harder look. Ptolemaic theory had the Earth as the center of the universe with the sun, planets, and constellations revolving all around us. It worked, but Copernicus saw it as too complex. He believed that the physical world had to be a simple, more elegant place.
From his search for simplicity, we received a real model of the solar system and universe. The strategic basis of all share-stealing advertising is equally simple and elegant. It begins, not with your product or service, but with your brand development. And it is not about your brand’s reputation or promise as much as it is about the person who is best suited to use it. We know for absolute certainty that customers and consumers purchase products and services that “feel” as though they fit their lifestyles.
The marketplace has long since passed the old school of unique selling proposition. USP was a huge marketing mistake in a crowded market.
Today, while consumers might feel there are slight product advantages, they believe that all the soap powders on the shelf will clean their clothes.
They expect efficacy and believe the market delivers it, but they clearly choose for entirely different reasons. They choose because the brand helps them feel a certain way about themselves — it is a promise to the customer all right, but it is a promise that they are important and have a right to be here.
Tell the customer who they are if they use your brand, and if it is believable and memorable, they will covet it. They will literally feel incomplete without it. This self-identification will overcome deficiencies in frequency and help overcome problems in distribution. Why? Because we are willing to seek out those things that fulfill us. We will go the extra mile and make the extra trip to the market.
What You Need to Know to Avoid Mistakes in Marketing
This type of connection with your target audience is not going to be found in any media report. Usage and attitude research will only tell you how they use it and how they feel about it. If you want to steal market share, you need to know what they believe to be true about themselves. Not simply what motivates them, but why they are motivated to begin with.