John Wooden was the best marketer

Marketers, heed John Wooden’s words 

John Wooden, the famed UCLA basketball coach, was famous for warning that “If you always do what you have always done you will always end up where you have always been.” Heed these words, marketers. Taking customers from your competitor’s coffers involves a change in behavior from those customers.

John Wooden

That, according to John Wooden, dictates that you cannot continue with business as usual. You must change. It does not matter if your product or service is direct to consumer, business to business or a mixture of both. Think differently to steal market share from a formidable competitor. The traditional marketing changes and adjustments that everyone employs simply do not work very well.

John Wooden’s marketing expertise has much to teach marketers who want to win. He understood human nature. Wooden knew how to change behaviors. He squeezed every ounce of benefit out of the hand he was dealt. Without the benefit of freshman eligibility, Coach Wooden led UCLA to ten national championships in 12 years. His record of success won’t be equaled in any team sport.

Marketing basics are overlooked

The Stealing Share processOn his first day of practice, John Wooden would spend the entire day teaching his highly touted recruits how to properly put on their socks and sneakers. The likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton watched patiently as Wooden demonstrated the proper way to put on athletic socks and tie shoes.

It seems silly and frivolous. But John Wooden was teaching his team to pay attention to the minute details that form the foundation of their preparation. He showed them that neither a world-class vertical jump nor a seven-foot frame was immune to failure if your shoes became untied or if the socks bunched up. He told his players that the greatness of their game was subject to the very foundation of their preparation.

As you make your marketing plans, your brand permission forms the same foundation. Brand work is responsible for the ultimate success or failure of your best plans. Coach once said, “The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move.” (Read more about our process here.)

John Wooden and goals

So, what is your goal? Stealing market share? Business as usual says to increase the advertising budget, launch a new ad campaign, hire a new agency, conduct more focus groups, or find a new unique selling proposition (USP). Think differently because those old tactics just do not work. “Never confuse activity with accomplishment,” warned the Wizard of Westwood, and neither should you.

Marketing GeniusHaving the right brand message is your only opportunity for success. Also, it’s your competitors’ Achilles heel. Your competition employs the same tactics as everyone else. They have mistakenly believed their brand meaning just says that they have a rightful claim to play in a specific category. (Convenience and friendliness, if you are a bank. Low prices, or selection if you are a supermarket. Great returns, if you are a mutual fund. Better sandwiches if you are a food service etc.).

Your brand must do a great deal more than just that. It provides your marketing with an advantage over your competitors. It makes every advertising message or marketing communication more effective. Brand makes all of your messages more persuasive and therefore more cost efficient. It provides greater ROI.

Marketing often says brand is a bad word

Unfortunately, most marketers overlook brand. Most misunderstand it. Many relegate it to a trite phrase that most of us assume we understand exactly what it is and how it can help us. We are mostly wrong. Brand is not your logo, your category, your promise, your consistency, nor your look and feel. Brand is who customers believes THEY are when they buy it.

McDonaldsDespite millions of dollars in advertising, McDonalds was unable to sell adults the Arch Deluxe hamburger. Its brand (a customer’s belief in who they were when they ate there) did not have permission to sell “great adult food.” The McDonalds brand has permission for something else.

No amount of advertising money changed that. How your customer perceives your brand sets the stage for how they respond to your advertising. Not the other way around. If they see themselves as hip and cool for having purchased your brand (like iPod, for example), the brand does not have permission to sell serious business equipment.

Set the stage to increase your market share

Truly setting the stage to steal share means starting at the very beginning, looking at your brand for meaning beyond the category table stakes. The FedEx brand is not about next day delivery, convenience, reliability, or price. Those attributes are descriptors of the next day delivery category in general. A brand cannot own a category benefit, even if you invented it.

A brand gets noticed, despite the din of market clutter, if it is built on the precepts of the customer. It cannot be ignored because it is about them, the customer, and not simply about a product or service. It carries more weight, is more memorable, and can change a loyalty behavior. In this case, customers are choosing themselves.

John Wooden and finding the preceptive essence

John WoodenIf you do not infuse your brand with this customer essence, two bad things happen. Customers will never assign a real brand meaning to your product. In which case, you have no other meaning beyond USP or category benefit. Or they will fill the void with their own belief in which you have 100,000 brands, not one, single-minded brand.

In both cases, changing their behavior and asking them to choose differently becomes almost impossible. That is, unless you lower the price point, which emphatically says, “This is a commodity and we are the cheapest.” Ask yourself this before launching a new ad campaign, hiring a new ad agency, or commissioning a new research study. Does it not make sense to fix your brand? To make sure your socks are put on properly and your sneakers are securely tied? John Wooden said, “Ability is a poor man’s wealth.” He could have just as easily said, “Brand is the outspent company’s ace in the hole.” (Read more about the wisdom of marketing by surprising persons.)

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