The Marketing Sage - Marketing Consulting

My goal is to help grow your sales.

The Marketing Sage Consultancy offers imaginative marketing advice, counsel, and services. I support small to mid-sized businesses, whose products and services need fresh insights, creative inspiration, and a proven process to reach the right audience. Strategy always comes first, before tactical execution. 

Hire me as a fractional CMO/VP marketing a few days per month when you don’t need a full-time marketing executive.  Other services include marketing audits, brand naming projects, marketing strategy, digital lead generation, facilitate brainstorming sessions and creating targeted brand awareness campaigns.  

Work with a successful entrepreneur and senior global marketing executive who built and sold what INC MAGAZINE recognized as one of America’s fastest growing company. Put more than thirty years of marketing expertise to work for your business.

I sell seasoned advice.

Contact me at 919 720 0995 or 

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The Marketing Sage

The Marketing Sage Blog

~Marketing Insights to Help You Grow Your Business~

What Community Do You Serve?

Often the first question I ask new clients is to describe the community they serve? Simply put, who is your target audience?

I get a mix of reactions that include:

  • Everyone in the world
  • Women
  • Everyone in our category
  • People in business
  • Everyone with cash

It isn’t easy marketing a product and then searching for someone to sell it to.

This is backward and requires a deeper look at your approach.

When you understand a very targeted audience like new moms with twins, you can create your product to fit their needs. The product won’t be the same as a target audience based on new moms with one child. How can your product solve a distinct problem for a community if you don’t have a narrow view of who you want to reach? Focus on a thin, narrow, sliver of a target.

Find a Community, then Develop a Product

There are so many examples of companies that started with a very specific community in mind before they created their first product. My daughter Fanny told me about one that resonated with her in Wilmington, NC. It hasn’t opened yet because they have a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. But the idea is a great example of starting with a community first before you create a product, service or store.

The Scratching Post Cat Café – What is a cat cafe?

For people who love cats, this is a safe, clean, happy and cage-free environment for kitties of all shapes and sizes. It’s a place where you can curl up with a book in your hand and kitty in your lap! Cat cafes offer a unique experience for both cats and humans! Cats will be able to live in the cafe free of cages and spoiled by customers and staff.

They also provide an opportunity for some stress relief! Cuddling and petting cats is scientifically proven to lower your heart rate! The concept began in Asia and quickly spread to the UK and now the United States. Often these cafes have adjoining coffee shops that are separated by a door, from the cat cafe. That way, you can bring your latte to a different, adjoining space and play with kittens while you sip your coffee.

This café isn’t for everyone, like people who don’t like cats or who prefer dogs. But it is narrowly designed for a specific community. It provides stress release for people who love cats. Who is this cafe targeted to reach? People like Fanny, are their target market. people who love cats, love stress release and enjoy coffee and want all three things at the same time.

Here is a link to their Kickstarter campaign if you’d like to contribute.

A few more examples:

  • Untuckit The community is young, professional men who don’t want a casual shirt that looks great and doesn’t have to be tucked in.  So, not just men, but young men 18-39 who like the casual look of an untucked shirt that doesn’t look weird because the shirt was designed to be tucked in. This is a narrow target and not for everyone.
  • Lefty’s A website for the 15% of the population who are left-handed and need kitchen, office and gardening tools. Why not sell both types of scissors and spatulas for left-handed and right-handed folks? If Lefty’s did that, they wouldn’t be serving THEIR community of left-handed people who enjoy cooking and gardening.
  • Blanc de Bleu CuveeA sparkling blue wine for weddings. (Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Bleu) In this example, this sparkling wine is occasion specific, serving a distinct occurrence that ties in with the essence (blue color) of the brand. Sparkling wine (and champagne) are consumed at weddings more than any other occasion. So, a slightly blue-tinged sparkling wine serves a unique community during a specific event.

Marketing is so much easier when you start with a community in mind that you will serve. It gives you a clarity when you can say that my product is designed for people who are members of this community.

One more quick illustration of this strategic approach to product development.

Imagine you have a brewery that makes craft beer.

Think how different the product, package, and image would be if you were making it for Harley Davidson Motorcycle fans versus beer for ballerinas.

Start with a community. Then create a product just for them.

What community do you serve? Are you making beer for ballerinas or boys on bikes?

Need help with a new product launch designed with the marketing in mind? Let’s talk. I serve businesses who need help growing sales through strategic and well-targeted marketing. 919 720 0995 or

Photo credit: Scratching Cat Cafe/Wilmington, NC.




Podcast Advertising

I am an avid listener to podcasts. They are wonderful company when I’m out walking and trying to make my 10,000 step goal for the day. Whether it is about politics, marketing or mindfulness, podcasts are a great way to listen, learn and laugh.

An interesting observation I realized this week is that in several of the podcasts I listen to, I look forward to hearing the commercials. I don’t like advertising in general like most consumers. It is an interruption.

But on podcasts, ads are typically read by the host. And in one specific case, they are taking on a new and unexpected form.

Friend of the Podcast Advertising

One of my favorite political podcasts comes from Crooked Media, a newly formed media company from some progressive, former Obama speechwriters and staff, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. The podcast is called, POD SAVE AMERICA and is a candid look at the current political state. They call it a place to talk about politics like real human beings.

I enjoy their analysis but it is the ads that surprised me.

Each advertiser gives them a script for their 30-second spot and two of them riff. It is funny, improvisational in nature and not all that serious. Sometimes they make fun of the sponsor or take the message in an odd direction. But I am listening and it feels very authentic. The image of the advertisers is enhanced, in my view, not harmed.

What’s Going On?

We are so used to canned, slick advertising that to hear ads in a more casual and light-hearted way, allows the message to come through in an entertaining fashion. Favreau and Lovett are funny guys but it isn’t the only podcast who has ads that I enjoy.

My friend Mark Schaefer and his buddy Tom Webster have a great podcast called The Marketing Companion. They too have an informal and entertaining approach to reading their sponsor’s message. It doesn’t feel like an interruption, but a natural part of the show.

Lessons for Advertisers

Interruptive marketing is history, but when advertising feels like it is part of the flow, I’m listening. I wonder if this idea could work in other mediums. Public radio and TV have often used this approach for their sponsored content messages, but usually, it isn’t the host reading the spot.

If you have a product that serves the same audience as a podcast, you might want to consider how this form of advertising might effective raise awareness for your brand and drive potential customers to ask for more information.

Advertising has to entertain and not feel like an interruption, to gain eyes or ears. Can you make your marketing more conversational, light-hearted and human?

Thinking about advertising to reach your audience? Need help with planning or media buying? Let’s talk. I can help. Text me at 919 720 0995 or email me at

This blog brought to you by Reinette’s Children’s Clothing Store in Springfield, New Jersey although I think they went out of business in 1970. (That’s me and my Dad, he was my little league coach).

Photo credit: Pod Save America/Crooked Media/and George Washington





Even Rice Pudding Can Have a Personality

In my Instagram stream, I noticed some sponsored ads by Kozy Shack, a brand of rice pudding.

If I had to guess, I last bought packaged rice pudding never. It isn’t in my consciousness of things to buy for dessert. And, if I wanted rice pudding, I’d make it myself.

But their marketing knocked my happy socks off my feet.

Funny. Silly. Irreverent.

The first ad I noticed involved a woman taking the lid off the rice pudding and putting it on her arm, like a nicotine patch. No words. No music. Just a clever, unexpected reminder that rice pudding can be addictive and yummy.

With one clever ad, Kozy has brought their rice pudding into my consciousness. And 2.5 million people viewed their Instagram post.

I even picked it up off the shelf and almost bought some, but decided that I’d rather make it from scratch. That’s just me and probably not the behavior of most folks. But how many others bought it and replaced applesauce, fruit cup, jello, ice cream, yogurt or other cupped snacks.


Three Kozy Marketing Lessons


  • Can you introduce something to your category that connects emotionally, not functionally?

No one is addicted to rice pudding, which is why this creative idea is a brilliant emotional execution that answers the question – how can we connect with consumer’s addictive tendencies. A nicotine patch metaphor is genius.

  • Can you bring a fresh pair of eyes to your brand through a new creative team that hasn’t been thinking about your category forever?

A fresh approach is powerful if guided by a well-crafted marketing brief that explains key consumer emotional triggers that you want to release. The marketing brief might have asked, how can we illustrate that even rice pudding can be addictive? And, by placing this ad on Instagram, it gave it instant relevance to a new audience of consumers. When Kozy Shack rice pudding meets Instagram, it gives it an element of being hip by virtue of where the ad was placed.

  • Can you find ways to make rice pudding relevant again?

Since the category doesn’t have a big player advertising and promoting it, awareness is low. Rice pudding isn’t top of mind.

But if every week, I see a fresh and funny take on how Kozy Shack rice pudding can fit with various snacking occasions, it can make rice pudding something I’m thinking about – even if it is just for a moment.

I love it when a marketing team goes beyond the obvious cozy approach and surprises me with a rice idea.


Do you need a fresh, creative look at how you are marketing your product or services? Text me at 919 720 0995 if you’d like to connect. Or send me a case of Kozy Rice Pudding with your phone number on it and I’ll call you.

Photo credit: Screen grab from Kozy Shack, all rights reserved




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